I Ate At The Harry Potter Pasta Restaurant & It Wasn't All That Magical

For most of my life, I have bemoaned the fact that I don't live in the Wizarding World. I was born a muggle and was therefore never able to attend Hogwarts as an ambitious Slytherin, buy Chocolate Frogs at Honeydukes, or enjoy a meal at the Leaky Cauldron. When I reached adulthood and was unable to move to a flat in Diagon Alley, I instead moved to Brooklyn, which I guess seemed like the next best thing. It turned out I may have been onto something when, last week, a Harry Potter-esque restaurant opened its doors just a mile away from my apartment in Williamsburg. Pasta Wiz, which promises fast, fresh, organic pasta dishes, has been the topic on every Potter fan's lips and news feeds for the past week because of it's supposed Harry Potter-inspired atmosphere, and I was able to experience all the magic firsthand.

On Sunday evening, I walked through the wooden doors of the restaurant hungry and eager for dinner and was immediately met with a line made up of moms and dads with their excited kids and fellow adult HP fanatics wrapped in Gryffindor scarves and other Hogwarts regalia. To my surprise, when I made it to the front of the line, I wasn't met by a barkeep dressed in wizard's robe but instead I found an iPad mounted on a stand ready to take my order. Since wizard folk have no need for technology, I felt like this was a little off-theme but decided the computers were all part of the restaurant's mission for fast service.

The create-your-own pasta menu offered four base pasta options: spaghetti, fettuccine, fusilli, and radiatori. There are also gluten-free and vegan options and a number of vegetables, proteins, and signature sauces to add in the mix. I chose spaghetti with shrimp, mushrooms, and the creamy tomato sauce and added a Caesar Salad and the Pasta Wiz crêpe for dessert. I then scooted down the line to watch my pasta being made.

The ambiance, at this point, had me feeling more like I was standing at the pasta station in a college cafeteria and less like I was feasting in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, and I was taken even more out of Harry's world by the three people beside me complaining to the chefs about their incorrect orders. Fortunately, I was pulled back in when I heard my name being called. Just as Harry followed the Basilisk's hisses in the Chamber of Secrets, I followed the voice and found a man — not Tom Riddle, don't worry — standing in the dining area holding my hot crêpe. I took it and found a table among crystal balls, suits of armor, and other artifacts that might have been found at Hogwarts but weren't specific references to the series.
Photo: Courtesy of Olivia Harrison.
When I finally got my pasta, I asked where to find my salad and was directed to the salad/juice bar. There was officially too much happening and too many hoops to jump through to get all my food. By now, I was starving so I decided to enjoy what parts of the meal I had and just eat the salad whenever it was ready. The pasta was fine. I truly believe it was "healthy" as advertised on the restaurant's website because it wasn't the most delicious thing I've ever put in my mouth. The crêpe, which I also gobbled up while waiting for my salad, was more like a pancake, but let's be honest, there are worst things in this world.

After finishing my second and third courses, I went to stand by the salad bar only to find that I was still fifth in line to get my order. I stood behind two good-natured Brooklyn dads who started talking to me about how unorganized the place was, but they didn't seem to be angry and their kids, who sat at their own table nearby, still seemed to be having a ball. When I finally reached the front of the gathering around the salad bar, I found myself face to face with the Sorting Hat, the one clear allusion to my favorite fantasy series. I smiled and started to think maybe the brand new restaurant was simply still working on getting all the kinks worked out.

As a Harry Potter purist, I'm tempted to feel shortchanged by this place that all the buzz led me to believe would have an HP theme. Did the owners liken the boy wizard's name to their restaurant simply to get publicity? They didn't serve butterbeer — or alcohol of any kind — and none of the workers were dressed as characters from the series, so it didn't quite make sense that everyone had been talking about this Harry Potter restaurant all week. Still, it's hard out there for new restaurants, so I understand the desire to stand out. With Harry's many devoted fans, selling yourself as a Harry Potter-anything is one sure-fire way to do that.

In the restaurant's defense, its website doesn't seem to explicitly state that it's Harry Potter-themed. Instead, it says, "While the interior of the Pasta Wiz flagship resembles a wizard’s enchanted lair, the real magic shines through in the prep time of their dishes: approximately 3 minutes." In a recent interview with Gothamist, Pasta Wiz's owner, Alex Dimitrov, explained, "We decided Pasta Wiz, it's like a wizard magical place, so we've made it Harry Potter-style. We decorated in a Harry Potter-style." Perhaps the owner was just using Harry Potter, our generation's most iconic story of wizardry, as a means to communicate the aesthetic he was going for and the internet, as per usual, just sort of ran with it.

Really, what the restaurant achieved by associating itself — inadvertently or not — with the series was to make me absolutely determined to enjoy myself and hope desperately that it has some success and sticks around long enough to smooth out the bumps. After everything, having even a feeble escape into the Wizarding World just around the corner from my muggle dwelling is still a dream come true.
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