‘Creative casual cuisine’ in the heart of downtown Melbourne

Nearly a decade ago, Michael and Tracy Melhado noticed a “for sale” sign in a small restaurant window located across the street from the old Phoenix Theatre in downtown Melbourne. During that time, dining options were limited in the district, but the couple believed in the energy and potential of the area, so they took a leap of faith and purchased the space to open Island Pasta Co., an intimate restaurant grounded on simple, creative and fun food, prepared with fresh ingredients.

Today, the restaurant has grown into one of the most popular dining destinations, not only in bustling downtown Melbourne, but in all of Brevard County.

“We described the food as ‘creative casual cuisine’ influenced by the islands,” says Michael. “The restaurant’s atmosphere is colorful and lively with a fun and relaxed energy.”

Island Pasta Co.’s menu is, as its name implies, chock full of flavorful pastas – some including unexpected ingredients.  For example, a dish that piques the interest  (and taste buds) of many patrons is the Trenchtown Tortellini, which consists of a full helping of cheese-filled tortellini, served in a light alfredo sauce paired with grapes and banana slices. Another popular, albeit more traditional pasta choice, is the Rasta Pasta prepared with jerk chicken, tomato and fresh basil over penne noodles. And on Wednesday nights, the restaurant serves homemade spaghetti and meatballs from an old family recipe of “Mama D,” a friend of the Melhados.

“Many of our non-pasta dishes, such as our pork tostones, also have become popular,” Michael adds.

Perhaps one reason why Island Pasta Co. has thrived is the owners’ openness to adding to and evolving their menu. Over the years the Melhados have incorporated many ideas from their travels, friends and staff members. “Our empanadas and Puerto Rican flan came from one of our first employees, Tamara Muniz-Velez, who still works with us today,” Michael explains.

The restaurant’s original cocktail creations also have become a major draw, and Island Pasta Co. was the first to bring Brazilian Caipirinhas, made with sugar cane rum, to the area. “We are known for our mango and cucumber basil martinis, but a new favorite (the Ring of Fire) incorporates tequila, fresh red pepper and cilantro,” explains Michael.

Since the community’s embrace of Island Pasta Co., the Melhados opened River Rocks Restaurant and The Dock Bar, which are situated next to the Indian River Lagoon in Rockledge, in 2009. And earlier this year they expanded their downtown Melbourne presence, opening Florida Keys Piano Bar next door to Island Pasta Co. While the offerings of these newer hospitality venues may vary, the Melhados ensure each endeavor carries the energy and enthusiasm of Island Pasta Co. – the little restaurant that started it all.

Island Pasta Co.

Address: 903 E. New Haven Avenue, Historic Downtown Melbourne
Phone: (321) 723-1584
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; Noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
Other: Daily specials, including fresh fish on weekends; drink specials; catering available; private banquet room for up to 60 people