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Wiley's World Pasta Shoppe & Eatery

In lean times, pasta is a staple. It's inexpensive, filling and can be dressed up in dozens of different ways.

Even though I don't have an Italian grandmother who rolled out sheets of pasta and simmered sauces, I think it's true comfort food.

Actually, I don't even need an Italian grandmother to satisfy this carb-craving and neither do you. We've got Wiley's World Pasta Shoppe & Eatery at 1606 Ashland St.

This Ashland kitchen has quietly cranked out fresh pasta and sauces for 15 years, serving them up along with salads and home-made desserts.

A steady stream of regulars and tourists keep the 10 tables in the dining room busy at lunch and dinner. Take-out is also available, or pick up refrigerated pasta and sauces to cook up at home in minutes anytime.

My husband and I recently visited Wiley's for lunch.

Organic pasta — your choice of angel hair, spaghetti, fettucine or linguini — provides a canvas for an array of creative sauces also featuring organic, fresh and local ingredients. Most have a Mediterranean flair, but a few options are Asian inspired.

And then there's the ravioli — five kinds — spinach and cheese, roasted garlic and gorgonzola, Italian sausage and cheese, butternut squash and walnut, and smoked salmon. Or maybe spinach lasagna.

Oh, the choices!

A special featuring tri-tip beef, chantrelles, garlic, green onion, rosemary and blue cheese sounded so good, but I always love ravioli. A roasted olive toss or Julie's toss, named for one of the owners, included some of my favorite flavors: olives, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, but maybe I should stick to the classics — really make sure that marinara hits the mark.

Fortunately our waitress was patient and pleasant.

I finally decided on smoked salmon ravioli, smothered in basil cream sauce for $11.95. It was rich and flavorful. So rich and flavorful, in fact, that a smaller portion, available for $1.25 less, might have been a better idea. Besides, then I would have had room for dessert — cheesecake or maybe a brownie with home-made ice cream.

My husband quickly settled on a Hunan sauce featuring tamari, garlic, ginger, red pepper and veggies over angel hair pasta. Like most of the sauces, it was priced at $9.95, but he added bay shrimp for an extra $2.50. Diners can choose to add chicken, tofu, meatballs, smoked salmon, vegetables or marinated artichoke hearts, too, for prices ranging between $2 and $3.

The lightly spicy sauce seemed like it might have matched better with a more Asian-style noodle, but it was still tasty.

Each meal comes with a salad and bread, all served together in a homey style. The salad featured a nice mix of fresh greens, accented with shredded carrots and diced red peppers. It was accompanied by a red onion and poppy seed dressing. The thick, rather shockingly pink dressing is made at the restaurant and was surprisingly tasty.

The bread, also made in-house, was tender and loaded with savory herbs.

Prices are the same at lunch and dinner, so what might feel a little steep at midday seems like a bargain on the Ashland dinner scene.

And with all those choices, there's reason to come back regularly.

— Anita Burke