Round Rock – In the middle of downtown Round Rock, just a stone’s throw away from the town’s namesake, you’ll find the Palermo Pasta House. An elegant, yet down home Italian restaurant that has Argentinian roots.
“We’re really aiming at the pasta side of Argentine culture,” said owner Tony Giner. Tony grew up way south of here, in the South American country known for their Italian lineage. “In Argentina, half the people are of Italian descent. Even if I don’t have an Italian surname, there was always an Italian in the family. We grew up with Italian food as not Italian food, we just call it food. For us it’s normal. Doesn’t everyone’s grandma make ravioli on Sunday? That’s what’s expected,” explained Tony.
While he’s not a grandma, Tony does make all his own pastas and sauces by hand. “I do not describe myself as an Italian American eatery because it’s not exactly what I propose and what I aim for. I try to keep it more Italian with some of the influences of Argentina too,” stated Tony.
Tony has also mastered the art of making his own pasta. “It’s a different flavor and texture than dried pasta. There’s perfectly good, dried pasta, but making it fresh, it’s a different flavor, different texture. This is part of the Argentine thing that I imbue into what I do,” explained Tony.
Once you’ve picked your pasta, the next task is trying to figure out which of the 28 different types of sauces you want to try. “Kind of mind boggling because you read on through and then I got to go back to the beginning and see what I missed,” said customer Sue Gleisner.
“We start with red and white. Basically, you start with tomato basil and cream sauce. Cream, Parmesan, and butter. Then we start adding things. It’s like music. This is a chord and you add different layers to it,” explained Tony.
“It’s fascinating, even to see them and the distinction between all the sauces as well, the distinct flavors, the distinct looks, we’ve tried multiple different flavors of the sauces they’re all good,” said customer David Steward.
One does not simply order pasta here without a plethora of questions, so we let Tony put together his own tour of Italy. Ramon the kitchen manager got things started.
“Now he’s going to be making the mushroom Marsala. That’s our mushroom base. It’s already been cooked with garlic and butter and seasonings. Now he’s going to caramelize them,” explained Tony. After that, cream and parmesan cheese complete the assemble while linguine warmed up and put in for pasta.
Next up in the pink mushroom sauce. Mushrooms are added once again but this time the tomato basil and cream sauce gets blended together while fusilli pasta is added.
Last but not least is the Puttanesca. The Puttanesca starts with capers, chopped kalamata olives and not butter, but garlic. Tomato basil sauce is added with a spicy topper.
With three distant dishes to try, I got my gaucho on and saddled up for wild ride of Argentinian/Italian cuisine. I dig into the mushroom Marsala with a fettuccine pasta first. The sauce smells buttery, and garlicky, and delicious. I must be telepathic because I knew that before I even tasted it!
“The food is fantastic,” said Sue.
“I love this place. It’s my favorite Italian place. It really is,” said customer Emilee Garner.
Next I moved on to the pink mushroom sauce with a fusilli pasta, kind of like a spiral pasta with a nice little mixture of tomato basil and cream. The tomato basil really comes out in that pasta, but it’s not super heavy. It’s very delicious. The fusilli pasta definitely gives this dish a little more oomph, a little more heaviness, but the sauce is amazing.
“It’s thicker. It’s better. It’s buttery. You can tell it’s fresh and it’s not frozen. That’s just the difference. You can really taste it,” said Emilee.
“Authentic, the flavor, everything is fresh, everything is great,” stated David.
Onto the Puttanesca. This has got a tomato basil with those capers and of course the Kalamata olives. Big bold flavors with a fancy tagliarini pasta. This is just a big bowl of deliciousness!
“It’s so much better than anywhere else. I just can’t get anything else like I get here,” said Emilee.
“It’s pretty close. I’ve been to Italy,” stated Sue.
Well, if you’re looking for the perfect pasta dish or if calzones and pizza are more your speed come into the Palermo Pasta House in Round Rock, Texas. It is truly well worth the stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“You can’t go wrong. That’s what’s crazy. It’s like oh maybe this one won’t taste so good. You get it. You’re like, no, that tastes pretty good,” said David.
“It is a little bit different than what people are used to, but that’s what we’ve carved our niche, making fresh pasta and fresh sauces. Everything’s made in the house. Not everyone does that,” expressed Tony.