Zuppa is the Italian word for soup, and this popular lunch place serves up some great, made-in-house soups. But that's not the reason I go there.

Zuppa is the Italian word for soup, and this popular lunch place serves up some great, made-in-house soups. But that's not the reason I go there.

I go there because it's the best place on the Downtown, sandwich-centric lunch scene to find pasta.

When you think of all the things that can go terribly wrong with a pasta dish - limp and watery noodles, sauces that are either too sweet, too salty or completely tasteless - it's amazing you can find anything above frozen-dinner-penne quality at pack-'em-in-move-'em-out places like this.

And to be honest, you usually can't. Somehow, though, Zuppa figured out the trick to flavorful, perfectly cooked, travels-well pasta.

Located in the lobby of the Continental Plaza building at the corner of Broad and Fourth, Zuppa is open and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the Downtown bustle.

Plenty of tables and chairs fill the space, most taken up around noontime (the restaurant's slogan is "feed the flock"). Adding to the experience: As you wait after ordering your food, you can watch the chef hard at work in an open kitchen, whipping up made-to-order dishes over an open flame.

Patrons come for those soups and pastas (the Pasta Chicken is a top seller), as well as sandwiches, salads and ciabatta pizzas. Another popular pick is the ZMB, a meatball sub weighing in at over a pound.

Zuppa serves Stauf's coffees and a long list of specialty coffee drinks during the hours it's open, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pasta Angel, $6.95

When I called to ask Zuppa's owner about taking a photo of the Pasta Angel, he told me it was one of their least-ordered dishes. And that's a shame, because it's delicious and deserves more attention - the kind of slightly splurging weekday lunch that's well worth it on a frigid January day.

On top of a heap of angel hair pasta, you get lots of torn pieces of prosciutto that've been sauteed with flavorful sliced portobellas and a decent bit of grated Romano cheese. Everything's liberally coated in a garlic butter sauce that's heavy on the butter - which is perfectly OK in my book.

It's nicely salty in the way anything with significant amounts of ham and butter is, but not too rich.

Along with the hefty helping of pasta, this lunch deal comes with a small side salad of lettuce, chopped vegetables and cooked pasta tubes, plus a soft ciabatta roll. And the roll comes with a small plastic cup of whipped butter.

Yes, more butter - you'll be forgiven if you opt not to indulge, but you should.

Pasta Angel: $6.95

Tax & Tip: $1.50

Total: $8.45