The Apollo 8 moon mission, early computers and public phone booths have nothing in common with Italian food. That is unless you were at The Great Impasta in Brunswick on June 8 — and you happened to be me.

Dining solo is something I’ve gotten used to with this job, and I’ve found I meet some interesting people when I don’t have company to distract me. After the short drive to the restaurant’s Maine Street location, I was offered booth or window seating in a small, cozy dining area. Knowing that rain was forecast for the next several days, window seating was most appealing on this sunny day. One other patron seemed to feel much the same, and quickly struck up a conversation with me shortly after I was seated. 

Lunchtime traffic went by the open windows as I looked over the menu. Everything looked great, and I wasn’t sure what I should order. The special of the day was not a regular item on the menu, so I decided against it. My fellow lone-diner ordered haddock pomodori, something he says he orders each time he eats there. 

“It’s simple, but very good,” said the man.

Haddock baked with balsamic marinated tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic ($7.75) did sound delicious, but I chose linguine pescatore ($8.75); crab, Maine shrimp, clams and mussels in a ricotta, Romano and tomato cream sauce. Whether due to kitchen efficiency or our interesting conversation, our food was served in what seem to be no time at all. It was hot and absolutely delicious. I’m a fan of ricotta cheese and seafood of almost any kind, so this dish was perfect for me. My dining partner seemed to thoroughly enjoy his lunch, too.

Our waitress checked on us periodically, as he told me about his former job with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and how he had worked on the first computers that took Apollo 8 to and from the moon, and his work on the second space shuttle simulation program. The fascinating discussion included how someone had alerted Massachusetts State Police to his and his colleagues’ strange activity in a public phone booth behind a tavern in Boston. He told me they were using the phone and an early model portable modem and a computer running on a gas generator to run tests of some kind — honestly, I got a bit lost at this point. But he was talking about the days before internal modems. I’m still having difficulty fathoming that the first moon mission, according to my dining companion, was completed with a computer that had a fixed memory of 38,000, 15-bit words. Computers with no modems seems like the dark ages and hard to comprehend. Thankfully, appreciating the food I was eating was easy and natural. 

Italian music played in the background and I wondered about the brass placards throughout the room, which turned out to be more or less table markers for regular patrons. Unique entrees of pasta, seafood, poultry and vegetables are available, and they even offer a build-your-own-pasta option with a choice of five sauces. I found the atmosphere quite comfortable and paired with the food, I plan on going back soon, this time with a friend or two — just in case my fascinating friend isn’t there.

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Tasty tidbits

What: The Great Impasta

Where: 42 Maine St., Brunswick; 729-5858 and www.thegreatimpasta.com

When: Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner 4 to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Atmosphere: Cozy, warm and relaxing. I especially enjoy the view of Maine Street and the painted murals on the dining room walls.

Prices: Quite reasonable, lunch, dinner and gluten-free menus are available.


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