Everybody loves getting special treatment. Like when your barista has your coffee ready at the counter before you even order, or when you become the ruler of France because your uncle is Napoleon. You’ll experience this kind of special treatment if you sit at the chef’s counter at Le Messe, a fresh pasta spot in Eastlake.
Along with the opportunity to watch chefs swirling pasta as you swirl your glass of wine, a counter seat at Le Messe gets you dishes you wouldn’t be able to eat in the rest of the restaurant. The counter menu has both a la carte and prix fixe options that rotate nightly, and we’ve eaten specials here ranging from seared hamachi belly to a New York steak to cacio e pepe. The experience is like sitting at your friend’s kitchen island while they cook you dinner, except you won’t have to stir the pot while they walk the dog. At some point, the person who just sauteed and served your agnolotti will ask how it tastes (it’s excellent), and in this moment you will feel like part of the Royal Order Of Pasta.
Even though it’s tempting to order solely from the counter specials, you shouldn’t ignore the regular menu. The crudo, smoked fish crostini, and roasted beets with ricotta are particularly tasty. But the pasta section is where you want to live. There’s an incredible rigatoni with braised pork shank, and a simply seasoned squid ink spaghetti we can’t stop thinking about. You can skip the tagliatelle with lemon, celery, and crab that tastes like a re-imagination of a New England seafood roll we never asked for. But that’s forgivable once you eat the bolognese, which is as comforting as lighting a bergamot candle and watching the episode of Frasier when Niles and Daphne finally get together.
As great as all of the food is here, the experience isn’t quite as special if you don’t sit at the counter. The rest of the interior is a dark, minimalist space that feels a little void of personality and warmth. That means you probably shouldn’t come here with your entire social circle for a birthday, but it’s the perfect spot when you want the kind of restorative experience that doesn’t involve putting cucumbers on your face. We’d much rather be hand-delivered bucatini hot off the stove by a chef who just slid the plate in our direction. But maybe that’s just us.
Le Messe makes some lovable crudo. While the type of fish and toppings change, the flavors are always well-balanced and range from ahi with melon and cucumber to hamachi with grapes and a fresno pepper puree.
This is our go-to appetizer here. The smokiness of the fish is cut with some lemon aioli, olive oil, and pickled onions on top of grilled bread. It’s essentially the party appetizer you wish you could pull off in your own kitchen.
The cavatelli here is really good. The bolognese has a nice creaminess from some mascarpone, and we like the fact that there’s mint in there for a pop of something different. Eat this on a rainy night using the serving spoon as your personal utensil.
Ricotta, olive oil, hazelnuts, some slightly pickled beets, and grilled bread. We could eat this all day.
This is a recent special at the chef’s counter, and while it’s a first course, it could easily act as an entree if you’re trying to eat a lighter meal. The skin on the fish is extremely crisp, the limey avocado puree is excellent, and there is also a pile of pickled vegetables that taste way more exciting than pickled vegetables have a right to be.
This is another special that you’ll see at the chef’s counter, and it’s unreal. It’s a hot bowl of perfectly al dente Rigatoni, big pieces of cracked peppercorns, and a silky, cheesy sauce. This is the pasta that should make Il Corvo watch its back.
The black spaghetti here is seasoned simply with silky butter, garlic, some marjoram, and a bit of spicy heat. If you ever thought, “I’ll never eat ink pasta ever in my life, at all ever,” shut up and eat this.
When there’s a pasta on the menu with braised pork shank, you want it.
The long noodles are already hanging out in a peppery parmesan broth, but when you mix the egg yolk around it turns into an addictive carbonara scenario. Do this.
Something about the combination of crab, celery, lemon, creme fraiche, and not much else makes us feel like we’re eating the bland pasta version of a New England-style seafood roll.