Best Pastas in the Country
Carbs may no longer be considered one of the four food groups anymore, but pasta is still one of the best comfort foods in the world. From Italian-American red sauce to Roman carbonara and cacio e pepe, here are the 98 best pastas in the United States.
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Lasagna for Two at Don Angie (New York City)
Inspired by cinnamon buns baked in a casserole dish, husband-and-wife wonder duo Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli decided to roll up some lasagna and bake it the same way. Don Angie’s resulting large-format dish is made with fresh house-made pasta, rolled into rosettes, filled with layers of sweet Italian sausage, Bolognese sauce and besciamella (essentially an Italian version of roux), then layered with mozzarella and 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano. Each rosette is baked in a bright San Marzano tomato sauce with dollops of fresh robiola cheese, then finished with chopped parsley and a side of garlic focaccia. Every single bite is the like perfect corner piece with an ideal textural contrast of delicate pasta and crispy top. And it’s easy enough to share that you might stand of a chance of keeping some of that delicious red sauce off your shirt.
Tomato & Basil Spaghetti at Scarpetta by Scott Conant (Miami Beach, Florida)
Celeb chef Scott Conant’s tomato sauce recipe is one of the most-famous and beloved in the United States. The secret to his simple yet stunning sauce is gently peeling and seeding perfectly ripe tomatoes and slowly cooking them in olive oil with garlic, crushed red pepper and basil until the flavors fuse together like an orchestra. The sauce is like a flowing medley of instruments, but the homemade pasta is the conductor, cooked in well-salted water until it’s just shy of al dente, finished in the simmering gravy so the starch combines with the tomato in perfect harmony. At his Fontainebleau Miami Beach restaurant, the Food Network star finishes the show with a sprinkling of basil, parmesan cheese, virgin olive oil and butter.
Lasagna at Nightshade (Los Angeles)
Opened by Top Chef winner Mei Lin in late 2018, Nightshade is still one of the most coveted tables to score in Los Angeles’ oversaturated restaurant scene. Lin has the Midas touch with every dish on the menu—her Nantucket Bay scallops in spicy coconut vinaigrette make a strong impression on even the most jaded diners—but the Mapo tofu lasagna is one of the top-sellers, for good reason. Slices of egg noodles are delicately layered between an incomparable Sichuan pepper pork ragu with strings of tofu cream and a hearty dose of parmesan sprinkled on the top. Hands down, it’s one of the most genre-bending pasta dishes we’ve ever seen.
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe at Felix (Venice, California)
Felix chef Evan Funke is a pasta virtuoso. He understands pasta shapes and how particular sauces cling to them, so that they marry from two separate components into one cohesive unit. The restaurant has been one of the hottest tickets in Los Angeles since opening, with pastas broken out by region of origin within Italy. While every pasta on the menu is worthy of sampling, the one that stands out the most and gets the most press is the tonnarelli cacio e pepe. The fresh, squared spaghetti is blended with just black pepper and Pecorino Romano somehow ends up delicate and light, but with so much nuance and depth, you’ll wonder what kind of magic went into it.
Caramelle at Juniper (Austin, Texas)
Made in the shape of a candy with the high-dose sweetness of sun gold tomatoes, this gorgeous pasta is a celebration of summer’s bounty. Every component uses those little rounds of sun-ripened fruit. There are sun golds in the sauce, dotting on top and inside the caramelle pasta (a shape that hails from the Lombardy region of Northern Italy) along with some smoked ricotta to add some cream and Texas-style smoke. To root the Italian dish in the Lone Star State, Juniper chef de cuisine Zach Riddle peps it up with some Tex-Mex flavors including serrano chiles, lime zest and oregano, which he says, "are much-beloved, familiar and nostalgic to the people of Austin."
Sheep’s Milk Agnolotti at Lilia (Brooklyn)
Chef Missy Robbins has some of the deftest pasta-making hands in the United States. Fans — including megafans the Obamas — were crushed when she left A Voce in 2013. But she set up shop across the East River at Lilia luring diners to North Brooklyn for her now-iconic sheep’s milk agnolotti. Supple dough serves as a vibrant yellow case for pillowy sheep’s milk ricotta and feta cheese. Each one is rolled in melted butter with honey and saffron threads, offering a subtle perfume that is perfectly contrasted by bright sun-dried tomatoes. As wonderful as that dish is — it’s a mandatory order if you go — Robbins’ other pastas are equally delicious and deserving of a carb bonanza.
Pappardelle al Ragu d’Anatra at Ristorante Bartolotta (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Since 1993, Ristorante Bartolotta has specialized in impeccably prepared rustic Italian cuisine, including pasta like Pappardelle al Ragu d’Anatra. The dish sums up restaurant’s homey style, with wide ribbons that seem to absorb slow-braised duck ragu and Grana Padano. Like the restaurant itself — set in a historic brewery building in downtown Wauwatosa — it’s unpretentious and appealing.
Mandilli al Vero Pesto Genovese at Solo Italiano (Portland, Maine)
If you want to try the best pesto in the United States, plan a trip to Maine. Genoa-born Paolo Laboa, executive chef of Solo Italiano, is a world pesto champion. That’s not an exaggeration: He actually won gold in 2008 at the prestigious Genova World Pesto championship, a competition of 100 chefs in the city’s old town, for his mandilli di seta (handkerchief pasta). It’s on the menu at his Portland restaurant. Using his own family recipe, the sauce combines Genovese basil, imported pine nuts, Ligurian olive oil and a blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Fiore Sardo, a salty and slightly smoky Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese, which is paired with luxurious, paper-thin sheets of handkerchief pasta.
Chili Spaghetti at Skyline Chili (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Nicholas Lambrinides, born in Greece, started Skyline Chili in 1949 in Cincinnati, relying on a secret blend of Mediterranean spices to bolster classic American chili. Basic chili, called a "3-way," comes on a bed of spaghetti, topped with grated cheese. Diners can keep adding toppings, choosing beans or onions or both, to reach a "4-way" or "5-way."
Fusilli at Marea (New York City)
It wouldn’t be surprising if there were love songs dedicated to Chef Michael White’s famous fusilli with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow at Marea. The dish, a totally American creation, is essentially a tribute to surf and turf combined with Italian-American Sunday gravy. Baby Octopus from Spain is braised in a mix of Sangiovese wine, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and basil to create the sauce. When an order comes through, it gets reheated with seasoned, sauteed bone marrow, which thickens the lot and helps the sauce bind to both the octopus and the rope-like strands of the homemade fusilli. A toasted breadcrumb topping adds a satisfying crunch to the al dente dish.
Casarecce Pasta at Openaire (Los Angeles)
Renowned Michelin-starred chef Josiah Citrin took over the greenhouse poolside restaurant at the LINE Hotel in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, bringing with him a menu of shareable dishes with an array of different cultural influences. Openaire’s menu spans cultures, continents and styles, but the pastas and grains epitomize the seasonally driven California fare with bold ingredients and flavor combinations that aren’t found in many other restaurants, such as the beloved casarecce. Sicilian-style short twists of pasta that are paired with Brussels sprouts, burst tomatoes and a peppery, creamy arugula-cashew pesto.
Spaghetti al Tartufo Nero at Potente’s (Houston, Texas)
Owned by Jim Crane, the owner of the Houston Astros, this contemporary Italian restaurant is crisp, romantic and swanky. So, it should come as no surprise that the signature dish at Potente is covered in something as decadent as fresh truffles. Executive chef Danny Trace’s spaghetti al tartufo nero is a lesson in decadendence, featuring simple housemade spaghetti cacio e pepe presented Burgundy black truffles shaved atop right at the table.
Mezzi Rigatoni at The Red Hen (Washington, D.C.)
This hip and homey Bloomingdale restaurant manages to serve a lot of pleasing things to a lot of different palates, but the pastas are the dish that keep locals clamoring for a table. Chef and co-owner Mike Friedman’s Italian-leaning menu changes with the seasons, but a mainstay is the rigatoni with brawny fennel-sausage ragu that could inspire fork wars between even the most starry-eyed lovers. Blissfully al dente, the noodles ooze sauce from their pockets with each blissful, Parm-speckled bite.
Nana’s Sunday Gravy & Rigatoni at Rosa Rosa (Portland, Oregon)
James Beard Award-winner Vitaly Paley serves upscale New York-style Italian with the help of Long Island native Kenny Giambalvo in the back room of his fourth restaurant, Rosa Rosa. (The front room focuses on more pan Mediterranean-style fare.) It’s not the trendiest or flashiest dish on the menu, but Nana’s Sunday Gravy and Rigatoni is one of the standouts. Fresh rigatoni is soft and supple, coated in a richly layered combination of four savory meats in sweet tomato sauce that tastes like it came straight from an Italian nonna’s kitchen.
Torchio With Braised Rabbit, Creme Fraiche, and Artichokes at Monello (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
This Italy-meets-Minnesota-inspired dish starts with white wine-braised rabbit leg, with mirepoix (celery, carrot and onion), garlic, herbs and seasoning, tenderizing and flavoring the meat, nad leaving savory liquid for the base of the sauce, which gets a generous dose of butter to smooth it out. To add even more layers and nuance, chef Mike DeCamp also throws in some Roman-style artichokes (cooked in olive oil, white wine, thyme and garlic) along with braised Swiss chard and poached chard stems, cooked just like the 'chokes. All of those elements are mixed together, then topped with a few fried artichokes, a drizzle of 12-year-old balsamic vinegar and a few dots of herbed mascarpone for this top Monello dish, basically a fancypants version of stroganoff.
Housemade Farfalle at Lucia (Dallas, Texas)
Set in a former 1920s home in the cool Bishop Arts District, this chef-owned Italian restaurant by five-time James Beard Semifinalist David Uygur has quickly become a regional favorite and mainstay on best-of lists. It’s not just hype — the food and the vibe make Lucia an ideal date-night spot. All of the breads and pastas are made by hand daily for a menu that changes regularly with the seasons or according to what’s inspiring Uygur. In spring, he’s all about the farfalle with fava beans, asparagus, lemon, toasted breadcrumbs and housemade ricotta. It’s light and refreshing — and that delicious and delicate fresh cheese just puts the whole thing over the top.
Gnocchi Alla Romana at Tavolàta (Seattle, Washington)
Between nominations and semifinalist slots, Ethan Stowell has nearly a dozen James Beard nods under his belt. The Seattle-based chef and restaurateur is basically the godfather of Italian cuisine in the city, possibly the entire Pacific Northwest. In spite of the freshly extruded rigatoni, linguine and other shapes, the hand-formed Gnocchi Alla Romana is still the fan favorite at pasta-centric Tavolàta. Forgoing the traditional potato, these Roman-style dumplings are made from mostly Semolina wheat, formed into a flat biscuit-like form. Here, those rounds are layered with mozzarella and tomato sauce and cooked until the top is crisp and bubbly in a casserole dish.
Baked Ziti at Parm (New York City)
Baked ziti is a staple at nearly every Italian-American family gathering. It’s incredibly easy to make and always delicious — a real oldie but goodie. There’s nothing over-the-top that makes Parm’s version one of the best in the world. It’s the same basic combination of ziti, tomato sauce and cheese that Nonna used to make, if you had a nonna. But for whatever the reason (maybe the classically trained chefs making it?), Parm’s version is superlative. The pasta is coated in sweet tomato sauce, laid out in a baking dish, covered in fresh mozzarella and parmesan, then baked. Here’s the trick: Once it comes out, the ziti is cut into squares and fried in the pan, so every slice is like the perfect corner piece.
Panzotti di Zuca at Vespaio Ristorante (Austin, Texas)
Well before South Congress became one of Austin’s hottest shopping and dining districts, Vespaio was there, churning out handmade, locally sourced Italian fare. It could be said that the constantly busy place had a little something to do with the neighborhood’s transformation. One of its greatest hits is the pansotti di zucca, half-moon-shaped pasta filled with butternut squash, crunchy crumbles of amaretti biscuits and sage, drenched in a sweet and savory sage-brown butter sauce with walnuts, crisp fried sage and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Don’t be surprised if you see an order heading to every table.
Spaghetti Polpettine at Trattoria La Sorrentina (North Bergen, New Jersey)
Trattoria La Sorrentina owner Giacomo Vanacore’s family has been making spaghetti polpettine since the late 1800’s when they first immigrated to the United States from Italy. When the clan moved back to Italy after World War I, they brought the dish, essentially spaghetti with small meatballs, back with them. "Growing up in Italy, my mother would cook spaghetti with meatballs and all my friends wanted to come over to eat since the other families did not cook this dish," says Vanacore. It’s now the best seller at his North Bergen trattoria, where about a dozen or so of the tiny beef rounds are served atop spaghetti and onion- and garlic-scented San Marzano tomato sauce.
Bread Gnocchi at City House (Nashville, Tennessee)
James Beard-winning chef Tandy Wilson’s City House has created its own category of cuisine. The Italian-inspired Southern restaurant sources all of its ingredients from local farms, aiming to be as sustainable as possible and while wasting as little as they can. His gnocchi is made from the same recipe as the pizza dough (which is a must-try if you go) with the addition of milk and egg. The result is light and airy, but what sets it apart from other versions is the crisp crust that develops when it’s pan-seared. Those chewy rounds are finishes in the rabbit sugo, rabbit braised in a fennel-scented sofrito and house brodo (bone broth of pork, and chicken), and topped off with fresh parsley and Grana Padano, so it’s rich, crisp and packed full of flavor.
Hand-Cut Farro Tagliatelle at Grato (West Palm Beach, Florida)
Four-time James Beard Award semi-finalist Clay Conley is one of the most-respected chefs in all of Palm Beach County. So, it should be no surprise that his casually elegant Italian restaurant, Grato, has earned a spot as one of the best pasta purveyors in the region. Most of the pastas on the menu are made in-house, and all are good — the Sunday gravy and bucatini carbonara are perennial crowd-pleasers — but the hand-cut farro tagliatelle is hard to replicate. Made from farro, an Italian grain that’s low in gluten, high in nuttiness and sweetness, the long, flat ribbons of pasta have a unique, rich flavor that makes a great base for its brown-butter sauce. The savory strands are topped with pistachio, lemon and a hearty sprinkling of parmesan.
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe at Via Carota (New York City)
Jody Williams and Rita Sodi are two of the most-talented chefs making pasta in the entire United States, so you can bet that the cacio e pepe at their Via Carota is a worthy rendition. It’s simple and stays true to what the dish is supposed to be: a silky blend of butter, freshly ground black pepper, some starchy pasta water (they make a lot of pasta here, so their pasta water is extra starchy), sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano and dried tonnarelli (a.k.a. spaghetti alla chitarra), an egg-based long pasta that’s similar but chewier than spaghetti. It seems like it should be easy to replicate, but these pros take it it a level home cooks only wish they could emulate.
Tagliolini at Trattoria Lucca (Charleston, South Carolina)
Set in a historic building on a quiet corner in Charleston’s Cannonborough/Elliotborough neighborhood, chef Ken Vedrinski’s remarkable restaurant blends modern Tuscan-style fare with a bit of Lowcountry flair. Start with the warm cauliflower sformatino before slurping up the taglioni. Like all of the pasta on Trattoria Lucca’s menu, the thin strands of long noodles are made in-house with organic semolina flour from Central Mill in Logan, Utah, and Molino Spadoni in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Epitomizing the Charleston-Italian fusion (for lack of a better term), the tagliolini is combined with sweet blue crab, bread crumbs, an anchovy-heavy Italian-style fish sauce called colatura di alici and a bright burst of lemon.
Pistachio Ravioli at Pastaria (St Louis, Missouri)
James Beard Award winner Gerard Craft really knows how to showcase pasta at his casual Italian concept, Pastaria. Guests can actually watch the chefs extruding pasta and hand-rolling ravioli in the kitchen through a glass window. The dishes exceed the show. Pastaria’s Italian classics like Bucatini all’ Amatriciana excel, but they’re surpassed by Craft’s more personal, creative interpretations. The pistachio ravioli is one of the best things on the menu. The "happy accident" as it’s called, came about as Craft was working on a dish for his former fine dining concept. The chef made a pistachio filling that didn’t work out, but he kept it in mind until Pastaria opened, combining the creamy and nutty mix with mint, lemon brown butter and Grana Padano.
Chicken Riggies at Pastabilities (Syracuse, New York)
Pasta has long been a staple in New York. One of America’s most-influential restaurants, Mamma Leone’s, was the first Italian restaurant to gain a serious following when it opened around the turn of the century. The ties between the Empire State and red sauce run deep. Up in Utica, the usual spaghetti and meatballs gives way to a unique regional specialty, chicken riggies. Rigatoni (i.e. riggies) are mixed with chicken and hot or sweet peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce. The dish is so popular and so beloved that it has its own festival, Riggie Fest. Many locals have a favorite, but when Guy came to town on Triple D, he dove into the Wicky-Wicky Chicken Riggies at Pastabilities, under scallions and freshly grated cheese.
Tagliarini at Bar Dough (Denver, Colorado)
There are a lot of carb-centric hits on the Bar Dough menu, but many fans look only to the colorful tagliarini squid ink pasta. The tangled dish is just as flavorful as it is beautiful with meaty pieces of purple and white squid, hunks orange and tawny mussels plucked from the shells, spicy greens and vibrant flecks of red Calabrian chile, orange zest and parsley. It’s like a rainbow of coastal Mediterranean flavors high in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Saffron Spaghetti at Cal Mare Springfield (Springfield, Massachusetts)
Chefs Michael Mina and Adam Sobel have been expanding their footprint of coastal Italian cuisine across the United States with locations of Cal Mare on both coasts. At the MGM Springfield, the duo blends Italian technique and inspiration with New England seafood. You’d be right to assume there’s an excellent lobster pasta on the menu. Modeled off a dish that could easily be found in Positano and the Amalfi, saffron spaghetti with lobster is bright and vibrant with lots of spice and basil. It features a combination of fresh and fried (not dried) pasta, offering an interesting textural contrast between the crunchy golden strands and the regular boiled al dente spaghetti with flavors that burst in your mouth.
Estrella Pasta at Upland (New York City)
Upland chef Justin Smillie has become a national star for his work with pasta dough. The most famous of all his remarkable dishes is the Estrella, star shaped tubes of pasta with chicken liver that is so well prepared, even the most diehard offal haters can get behind it. Smillie came up with a technique that gives the liver a meaty texture rather than the powdery finish that can be off-putting for many. The organ’s earthy flavor melds together with shallots, rosemary and sage as its broken into small pieces that resemble the meat in Bolognese. The pan is deglazed with sherry to cut the richness and filled out with chicken stock, then the chewy pasta is thrown in.
Ravioli Cacio e Pepe at Trifecta Tavern + Bakery (Portland, Oregon)
Even if you haven’t heard of chef Chris DiMinno or Trifecta Tavern + Bakery, there are a couple of clues that the restaurant is bound to be good. DiMinno spent time working in the kitchens of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Telepan in New York City, and Trifecta is owned by James Beard Award-winning author Ken Forkish. That enough? Since taking helm of the wood-fired stoves, DiMinno has added a slate of house-made pastas to the menu that have been racking up the praise such as his ridiculously delicious spin on traditional cacio e pepe stuffed inside ravioli. Robiola and Grana Padano are added to the mix, adding some mild creaminess and a hint of nuttiness to the popular peppery dish.
Beet Mezzaluna at Macchialina (Miami Beach, Florida)
Before training under Food Network star Scott Conant at Scarpetta, pasta-lover Michael Pirolo spent years traveling around Italy, working his way through Michelin-starred kitchens. He’s learned a thing or two about making dough through all his studies, which is why his food at Macchialina is so darn good. Fans clamor for the restaurant’s beet mezzaluna pasta in hazelnut brown butter, a vegetarian option that blends earthy, nutty flavors to fabulous result.
Pici at Centrolina (Washington, D.C.)
Chef-Owner Amy Brandwein of Centrolina is a pasta scion, infusing her dishes with a depth of flavor that transports diners from CityCenter in the heart of D.C. to a sun-dappled Italian patio beside a nonna's kitchen. Each pasta on the frequently updated menu is exceptional, but the hand-pulled pici have been a hit from the earliest days. Brandwein sauces the tangle of noodles with cacio pepe, ragu or a white Bolognese with sage and Parmesan.
Spaghetti Rustichella at Bestia (Los Angeles)
When husband-and-wife duo Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis opened Bestia in LA’s Arts District in 2012, they created one of the most in-demand restaraurant experiences in the city. Much of that has to do with the Spaghetti Rustichella, an uni-pasta combination that spawned countless imitators. The original version featured a shallot- and Calabrian chile-scented white wine, lobster stock and vegetable broth reduction with bright orange tongues of local sea urchin on top. These days, the uni has been swapped out for less esoteric Dungeness crab, citrus, Thai basil and onion seed, so it’s a bit more accessible for the uninitiated uni fans, though still extremely delicious.
Fusilli at Morandi (New York City)
The Fusilli Integrali di Barbabietole con Salsiccia was inspired by the ubiquitous beet and goat cheese salad combination. To bring it together, Morandi’s Gabriele Carpentieri roasts beets to intensify the flavor, purees them, mixes the liquid with whole wheat flour and passes it through the extruder into a corkscrew shape. When an order comes through, the team sautés a bit of spicy sausage and broccoli rabe in white wine. The pasta goes into the sauce and its finished with some grated sheep’s milk-based Pecorino Romano cheese, which Carpentieri says, "Has a very sharp flavor similar to goat cheese."
Creste Rigate Pasta at Il Villaggio Osteria (Teton Village, Wyoming)
This upscale Italian concept at the base of the Grand Teton, a short drive from downtown Jackson Hole, is inspired by the laid-back, family-friendly restaurants of Italy. The warm and inviting indoor-outdoor space features a menu of rustic Italian fare prepared through a Rocky Mountain lens. One of the dishes that best exemplifies the idea is the creste rigate pasta. A constant best-seller, the black garlic pasta is combined with mushrooms sourced from around the region with white wine sauce and chives. Those 'shrooms change throughout the season, according to what’s available at the time, so you may find combinations like shiitake, black trumpet and chanterelle mushrooms or other equally delicious and interesting selections of fungi.
Pappardelle Lamb Ragu at Italia Trattoria (Spokane, Washington)
James Beard-nominee Anna Vogel serves an excellent menu of regional Italian fare at her lively Spokane restaurant. Pasta only makes up a short portion of Italia Trattoria’s menu, but the options are all impressive, including pappardelle lamb ragu that is the house specialty. Inspired by the rustic Italian style of roasting meat on the bone, then braising it low and slow until fork tender, red wine-braised lamb ragu is the base of this bold dish. The garlic- and rosemary-infused sauce is served atop housemade semolina pappardelle pasta, finished with grated pecorino romano cheese and fresh mint.
Squid Ink Campanelle at Tagliata (Baltimore, Maryland)
When chef Julian Marucci of Tagliata designed this dark and broody dish, he merely wanted to create a pasta that combined some of his most-favorite things, including uni, local blue crab meat, Calabrian chile and squid ink pasta for an oceanic dish. The sea urchin cream sauce gives it a smooth briny flavor and the chile lends spicy zest. It’s been such a hit among guests, who love watching the chefs hand-roll it, it’s been a mainstay since the restaurant’s opening in July 2017. The bold dish is best washed down by a glass of wine from the restaurant’s list, the largest in Baltimore.
Colorado Lamb Bolognese at Oak at Fourteenth (Boulder, Colorado)
The creatively prepared food and cocktails at Oak at Fourteenth keeps the restaurant among Boulder’s most-popular spots. The contemporary dining room is constantly buzzing with folks noshing on New American dishes like crispy pork shoulder with pineapple fried rice paired with drinks made from small-batch spirits, house-barreled tequilas and other thoughtful libations. Pasta is not necessarily the specialty, but partners Bryan Dayton (beverage director) and chef Steven Redzikowski met while working together down the street at Italian specialist Frasca Food and Wine. So, yes, the pastas that are on the menu are incredible such as the locally inspired Colorado lamb Bolognese with mascarpone cheese, mint and rosemary crumb mixed with fluffy gnocchi.
Cavatelli at Whitebird (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Chef Kevin Korman’s new Progressive Appalachian restaurant in The Edwin Hotel reimagines traditional Southern cuisine in elevated dishes that honor the indigenous bounty of the Tennessee River Valley. It may sound like it doesn’t fit, but new cavatelli with smoked goat, spring vegetables, pistachio and farmers’ cheese is a prime example of what he’s trying to do. Using one of the most well-known cooking techniques in the region, barbecue, Korman smokes the goat ("The most-consumed red meat in the world," he says.) until tender and pulls it, lightening it up with butter-emulsified vegetable stock, lots of fresh herbs and vegetables like asparagus, spring peas and mushrooms. It’s all tossed together with the pasta shells and garnished with crushed pistachio and the fresh farmers’ cheese.
Cacio e Pepe at Rose’s Luxury (Washington, D.C.)
Cacio e pepe, the simple Roman dish of cheese, cracked pepper and al dente pasta, appears on restaurant menus all around the United States. It’s not actually on the menu at this long standing Washington D.C. hotspot anymore, but chef/owner Aaron Silverman’s version is still one of the best around. The simple dish is made to somewhat exacting specifications: water salted just right, noodles undercooked enough so the starch properly binds to the butter, coarsely ground Tellicherry peppercorns that are big enough to offer spicy pops of flavor. Most importantly, Silverman instructs his chefs to grind at least 50 grinds of pepper atop each dish. Go early or go late and ask nicely if the chefs will send one out.
Tagliatelle Bolognese at Isa Bistro (Portland, Maine)
Tucked into Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood, Isa Bistro is an urban oasis of sorts, co-owned by husband-and-wife team Isaul Perez and Suzie St. Pierre. St. Pierre brings with her not only extensive front-of-house experience but also an impressive background in wine, while Perez impeccably combines training in French and Italian cookery with dishes inspired by his Mexican heritage. This means dishes like tagliatelle Bolognese, lobster tostada and their shaved-fennel salad with grapefruit, pecorino and mint.
Corn and Shrimp Tagliatelle at Coltivare (Houston, Texas)
Nodding to Houston’s gulf-adjacent location and Texas’ corn-fed heritage, chef Ryan Pera makes a fantastic mash-up at Coltivare with corn and shrimp tagliatelle. Made with sweet corn from the restaurant’s own garden, local Gulf shrimp, squash blossoms, chiles, herbs and housemade tagliatelle, it’s basically a taste of Houston summer on one delicious — and beautiful — plate.
Maine Kelp Fettuccine at Piccolo (Portland, Maine)
This Portland restaurant, by long-time fine-dining chefs Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Jean Lopez, serves rustic, seasonal fare inspired by the humble and flavorful cuisines of Southern and Central Italy with a focus on Calabria and Abruzzi and ingredients that fuse local bounty with imports from the motherland. One of the house specialties is the truly unique Maine kelp fettuccine, a briny seaweed-infused pasta, reminiscent of classic linguine with clam sauce, with mild Manila clams, fennel, onion and garlic in a vibrant dish that pairs Maine’s local bounty with coastal Italian cooking techniques.
Crab Bigoli at Pizzeria Stella (Philadelphia)
Pizzeria Stella’s Shane Solomon first came across this seafood pasta while eating his way around Venice, Italy, on the island of Burano. There, seafood is pulled straight out of the lagoon and mixed and mingled with long noodles made from buckwheat flour and duck eggs. The combination was exactly what the chef was looking for on his trip, hoping to find a dish that could tie old world Italian traditions with contemporary American ingredients, he says, "My feeling is, this pasta is the perfect counterpart for a twist on South Philly spaghetti and crabs." So, he brought it to the restaurant, extruding the freshly made strands of pasta in-house and dressing it with a sugo made from Maryland blue crab shells and tomato puree in lump crab meat.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Compère Lapin (New Orleans)
Before Nina Compton opened her Creole-, Caribbean- and European-influenced Compère Lapin in New Orleans, she spent years training under Scott Conant at Scarpetta in Miami and making plenty of pasta. That long-studied skill is evident in her signature dish, curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi and cashews. The acclaimed pasta is like an edible story of Compton’s life and culinary experiences combined together on a plate, blending her St. Lucia upbringing (and the goat, fresh turmeric, ginger, Scotch bonnet peppers and coconut milk that are common on the island) with her fine-dining cooking techniques and deft pasta-making skills.
Scampi alla Livornese at Jasper’s Restaurant (Kansas City, Missouri)
Second-generation-chef-owner (and second-generation Jasper) Jasper Mirabile Jr. now oversees the restaurant his parents opened in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood in 1954. He also oversees the neighboring market and cafe that opened 30-years later. While Jasper’s Restaurant now draws some influences from Jasper Jr.’s frequent trips to the Tuscany and Piedmont regions in Italy, it has long been an homage to the family’s Sicilian heritage. One of the highlights, Scampi alla Livornese, has been on the menu since the beginning. Inspired by a pasta dish Jasper Sr. had four nights in a row at a restaurant in Italy, the dish — angel hair pasta with shrimp and a touch of garlic in a white wine-cream sauce — has been a closely guarded family secret — not to mention local favorite — since day one.
Spaghetti Carbonara at Crossroads Kitchen (Los Angeles)
Look closely at this picture. That egg yolk is not an egg yolk. Crossroads Kitchen chef Tal Ronnen has broken ground in the world of plant-based cuisine. The Los Angeles-based chef transformed a style of eating that was once understood as just salad and tofu into a satiating and delicious form of dining that foregoes any of the ethical concerns associated with consuming animal products. A prime example of his haute technique is his spaghetti carbonara, featuring homemade pasta with mushroom "bacon," topped with a vibrant "egg yolk" made of a yellow tomato béarnaise sauce held together in the shape of an orb with seaweed. It looks so similar to the real thing, you might just wonder if he’s cheating at the whole vegan thing. He’s not.
King Crab Tagliatelle at Giant (Chicago)
This small, consistently packed Logan Square restaurant isn’t about a scene or showcasing any sort of trends, Giant just serves simple, flawless fare. Award-winning chef-partner Jason Vincent churns out a menu of small and medium plates that pack in the flavor. It’s all good, but the pasta really showcases his ability to layer ingredients with force. The best example is the king crab tagliatelle. Eating it feels like consuming a bright summer day, regardless of the actual weather the Windy City weather has in store. Al dente strands of long pasta twirl around a flavorful mix of saffron, king crab and chile butter in a perfect pile of aromas that merge the floral, honeyed notes of saffron with sweet and delicate crab and a bit of fat and heat from the compound butter. Just like the 44-seat restaurant itself, it’s pretty darn special.
Campo de Funghi at Tavernetta (Denver, Colorado)
Colorado restaurant royalty Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, the team behind Frasca Food and Wine, have branched out since opening their original fine-dining concept with a more casual, less expensive pizzeria, Tavernetta, with a menu showing just as much reverence to Italian culture and culinary tradition. Since its opening in 2017, one of the most-popular menu items has been the Campo Di Funghi, large sheets of pasta stretched thin from house-ground wheat, filled with creamy stracciatella cheese, mushroom and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s a stark departure from the red sauce version that is common in restaurants throughout the states, but that’s exactly what’s made it an absolute must.
Swiss Chard Gnocchi at Vetri Cucina (Philadelphia)
When James Beard Award winner Marc Vetri was eating around Italy in the mid-1990s, he noticed an abundance of vegetable-based gnocchi — carrot gnocchi, beet gnocchi, squash gnocchi, essentially an entire rainbow of hand-rolled dumplings. So, when he came back to the US and opened Vetri Cucina that was one of the first dishes on the menu. Though it’s changed in size (they used to be the size of a meatball) and, occasionally, ingredients (spinach has been the most regular), it’s still on the menu decades later. These days, it features Swiss chard, pureed and mixed with grated Grana Padano cheese, egg, bread crumbs and seasoning to make the dough. Those verdant orbs are cooked, then served with brown butter and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and shaved ricotta salata.
Rigatoni Bolognese at Dante (Omaha, Nebraska)
Omaha doesn’t have the same Italian-American cred as places like New York, Boston and New Jersey. But the city has long been home to generations of Italian-Americans who have opened restaurants and exposed locals to their tomato- and meat-infused pasta specialties like Bolognese. The classic meat sauce is beloved in the city and is found all over the place. The best version, however, comes from Dante, the city’s only restaurant that specializes in wood-fired Neapolitan pies and rustic Italian cuisine. Chef-owner Nick Strawhecker’s version of the sauce features a rich blend of beef and pork ragu mixed with perfectly al dente rigatoni and a thick sprinkling of Grana Padano cheese.
Short Rib Agnolotti at St. Cecilia (Atlanta)
It seems that Texas native Ford Fry can do just about anything he puts his mind to. He updated Southern fare at his first restaurant, JCT Kitchen & Bar, on Atlanta’s Westside, and has taken on assorted cuisines, to great acclaim, ever since. At St. Cecilia, Ford excels at Mediterranean dishes, including pasta. His short list hits on a bunch of coastal classics, but it's the agnolotti that really stands out. The savory yet still delicate dish features red wine-braised beef stuffed inside the light pockets of pasta with a rich Parmigiano crema and some woodsy sage.
Pollo alla Rustica at Dahl & Di Luca (Sedona, Arizona)
Chef Lisa Dahl is a bit of an anomaly in crunchy Sedona, more likely to be in towering heels than hiking boots. The former fashion industry insider helped to pioneer the desert town’s fine dining scene with her on-trend restaurants like Pisa Lisa, Mariposa and Cucina Rustica. At her namesake Dahl & Di Luca, she combines the city’s local and organic ethos with haute Italian — don’t be surprised if you catch her donning Cavalli or Dolce & Gabbana in the kitchen. The Tuscan villa-inspired space offers a wide range of personalized riffs on traditional dishes like the perennial favorite, pollo alla rustica. The bold dish combines house-made fettuccine with grilled lemon chicken, baby spinach and sauteed mushrooms in a lightly scented white truffle cream sauce.
Pappardelle with Veal at Bottega Restaurant (Birmingham, Alabama)
Inspired by the wine bars and trattorias of Italy, Bottega looks and feels like the Motherland. The 30-plus-year-old restaurant is housed in a historic Beaux-Arts building that takes cues from classic Greco-Roman styling. Owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Frank Stitt, that creative reinterpretation of classic Italy extends to the food, too, with dishes made with both Southern and Italian ingredients. Guests swear by the pappardelle with veal. Veal tenderloin is sautéed with garlic, bulb onions, sweet peas and asparagus and then it’s deglazed with dry vermouth, a touch of cream, lemon and lots of fresh mint. That savory sauce is tossed with thick, handmade pappardelle noodles that are made in-house.
Ricotta Gnocchi at Liana’s Trattoria (Fairfield, Connecticut)
Serving classic Italian cooking with a deference for well-sourced ingredients, Liana’s Trattoria is a cozy hidden Italian gem. Liana DeMeglio is a warm matriarchal presence in her restaurant, making dinner often feel like a meal in her own home. If there is one Italian dish revered in this part of Connecticut, it is her airy housemade gnocchi, offered with a choice of three sauces: sage butter, Bolognese and creamy Gorgonzola. Beginning with local ricotta cheese and finished in the hands of DeMeglio, these gnocchi forever change expectations.
Mushroom Ravioli at La Strada (Reno, Nevada)
Mention mushroom ravioli to any Reno resident, and you’re likely to get the one-word response, "Eldorado." Drawing from their Northern Italian heritage, members of the Carano family serve their signature pasta at La Strada, the flagship restaurant inside the Eldorado Resort Casino, adjacent to the famous Reno Arch. The celebrated dish features a rich filling made from dried porcini mushrooms imported from Italy nestled inside pillowy housemade ravioli, all drenched in a velvety porcini cream sauce.
Pastichio in Primavera at Frasca Food & Wine (Boulder, Colorado)
If one is raising the subject of Italian cuisine in America, Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder is a near-mandatory part of the conversation. The multi-award-winning restaurant by master sommelier Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson is one of the U.S. leaders of regional Italian cuisine, specifically that of northern Friuli-Venezia Giuli. The Pastichio in Primavera was actually developed in Italy by executive chefs Eduardo Valle Lobo and Kelly Jeun while traveling. Layered like a lasagna — but nothing like the lasagna common in the States — it combines alternating bands of braised rabbit and Harbison Cheese from Jasper Hill Farm with black truffle and black trumpet mushrooms. It’s great on its own, but it’s best enjoyed with a wine from the restaurant’s collection of 200 varieties.
Cincinnati Chili at Camp Washington (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Skyline Chili may have started the spiced meat sauce over spaghetti movement that swept through parts of the South and Midwest, but this James Beard America’s Classic has been a favorite among Cincy’s stockyard workers since the 1940s. Open 24-hours a day, six days a week, Camp Washington has been a go-to for locals looking to get a taste of their two-, three-, four- and five-way plates. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, it starts with plain pasta and chili, moving up to beans (two-way) all the way to a heaping platter of spaghetti smothered in chili, red kidney beans, white onions and shredded Wisconsin Cheddar cheese for the five. Got it? Now add it to your list.
Bucatini with Cockles, Smoked Bacon and Ramp Pesto at Coppa (Boston, Massachusetts)
When spring comes around and ramps are abundant, the chefs at Coppa can’t contain their excitement. They use every last wild leek they can get their hands on. The oniony bottoms get sauteed with smoked bacon, shallots and Fresno peppers, then doused with white wine to create a flavorful steam bath for the cockles (small clams). Once the clams open, they add in fresh-made semolina bucatini, butter, ramp pesto made from the green tops, parsley, lemon juice and crushed red pepper until the sauce sets and melds together into one briny, smoky unit. The verdant dish is a really springed-up version of a clam pasta — one bite and you’ll sure be glad winter is (hopefully) over.
Chicken and Spaghetti at The Venesian Inn (Tontitown, Arkansas)
When Italian immigrants arrived in the United States, they brought pasta and flavorful tomato sauce along wherever they went, blending it along with local proteins, like meatballs, that were unaffordable in the old country. They did pretty much the same thing when they ended up in Arkansas, matching the tangy red sauce with local fried chicken. Up in the northwest of the state, Tontitown's 70-year-old The Venesian Inn pairs Italian pasta and sauce with the crisp and juicy bird, a soaked salad and trifold rolls with butter.
Pasta Alla Piastra at Viale dei Romani (West Hollywood, California)
The self-proclaimed world’s best Bolognese at Viale dei Romani is made via an elaborate, labor-intensive three-day process. It starts with an eight-hour simmer of milk- and tomato-braised veal with pork, which goes straight into the 100-layer lasagna, made in the traditional Emilia-Romagna style, with 50 sheets of pasta and 50 layers of Bolognese before it’s baked. To finish it off, Chef Casey Lane uses a piastra (a hot sheet of metal) to sear the lasagna sheet so it’s caramelized and crispy on top and then serves the lasagna over a very simple tomato jus.
Plin at Osteria Langhe (Chicago)
Osteria Langhe partners Aldo Zaninotto and chef Cameron Grant celebrate the flavors of Italy, specifically Piedmont, at this warm and welcoming Logan Square restaurant. The region is well-known for its love of carbs — its classic risottos and pastas are among some of the best in Italy. Unlike its southern counterparts, there’s no red sauce in sight. Dishes instead showcase the cheeses and meat, like rabbit and veal, that are common in the area. Grant honors regional traditions with from-scratch, slow-food-style primi like his infamous plin. While the delicate pasta can be stuffed with ingredients ranging from rabbit to artichokes in Piedmont, Grant fills his handmade squares with La Tur cheese before tossing it with butter, thyme and stock.
Potato Gnocchi at The Painted Lady (Newberg, Oregon)
Working out of a renovated 1890s Victorian home, respected chefs Allen Routt and Jessica Bagley highlight their vast culinary and travel experiences in their seasonally changing set menus with optional wine pairings. (Word to the wise: Get the wine pairing.) The Painted Lady serves a potato gnocchi, which changes according to availability, but is always incredible and has never been taken off the constantly evolving menu. The fluffy dumplings could be accented with black truffles, braised rabbit and carrots or quail sourced locally from Pacific Coast Farms, trumpet mushrooms, perigord truffles, and Parmesan.
Crawfish Monica at Kajun Kettle Foods (New Orleans, Louisiana)
New Orleans has plenty of culinary temptations, but Jazz Fest regulars know that the best thing to eat while festin’ is Kajun Kettle Foods Crawfish Monica. Essentially a seafood alfredo on Cajun steroids, this creamy, rich dish combines corkscrew rotini pasta along with lump crawfish meat and loads of butter, heavy cream and spices that has such a following, the line is longer than the queue for the ladies room.
Farfalle With Smoked Salmon and Caviar at Sapori Trattoria Italiana (Collingswood, New Jersey)
A Sicilian native who immigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s, Franco Lombardo intimately understands the intricacies of Italian cuisine — which means he definitely knows a lot about pasta. The chef worked at well-known Philadelphia trattoria La Locanda del Ghiottone, before opening his own restaurant in New Jersey in 2003. Translating to "flavors" in Italian, Sapori aims to offer guests (many of whom are regulars) a taste of the full span of Italian fare, from the north to the tip of the boot. The printed menu is great, offering satiating primi like fettuccine al porcini with a white wine-cream sauce, and gnocchi with veal, pork, beef and tomato ragu. But the specials really are special, including the decadent farfalle with smoked salmon and red caviar.
Spicy King Crab Spaghetti at RPM Italian (Chicago and Washington, D.C.)
This Chicago Italian restaurant — with a second location in Washington, D.C. — is backed by Giuliana and Bill Rancic, but RPM Italian doesn’t rely on celebrity associations and its dining room packed with beautiful people — each is a destination-worthy restaurant. The food, especially the pasta, is really darn good even without the reality star endorsement. Chef-partner Doug Psaltis serves dozens of fresh pastas, made in-house every day, including really great homestyle Bolognese and pomodoro, but the one that stands out most in flavor — and aesthetic — is the spicy king crab with jet black squid ink spaghetti and vibrant Fresno chile.
Raviolo with Farm Egg and Brown Butter at Cotogna (San Francisco)
As Oscar Wilde once said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..." Chef Michael Tusk has certainly had his share of imitators for this innovative raviolo. (Many of those imitators like chef Nancy Silverton are pretty darn great on their own.) Originally on the menu at Quince but brought over to more casual Cotogna when it opened and evolved over time, the single piece of stuffed pasta is a must-order. These days, a delicate egg yolk pasta shell is filled with fresh ricotta and an egg yolk and poached until the exterior dough cooks and the yolk hits the perfect runny consistency. Drizzled with brown butter, the yolk- and dairy-based sauce comes together like a slowly oozing volcano when your fork releases the egg onto the plate.
Cappellacci at Hippo (Los Angeles)
Located in Highland Park on Los Angeles’ ever-evolving eastside, this pasta restaurant by Nancy Silverton mentee Matt Molina — who won a James Beard Award while cooking at Silverton’s Osteria Mozza — has been popular since its opening day, in summer 2018. And one of the most-popular dishes on Hippo’s menu has been the seasonally rotating cappellacci. The hat-shaped pasta was first stuffed with sweet summer corn in the summer, before transforming into an autumnal blend of sweet winter squash, amaretti, browned butter and crisp sage. Whatever it is when you visit, make sure to try it.
Fettuccine with Marcella's No.3 Tomato Butter Sauce at Nostrana (Portland, Oregon)
One of greatest culinary influences on Nostrana chef-owner Cathy Whims was Italian-born chef and author Marcella Hazan, who invited Whims to study at her Venice home. Whims pays homage to her mentor by featuring Hazan’s most-famous sauce almost daily on the menu at her Portland restaurant. The dish perfectly simple with handmade farm-fresh egg fettuccine that soaks up the mix of butter, San Marzano tomatoes and onions, fully absorbing all the flavor. As opposed to oil-based sauces that are slick over the noodles, butter sauce absorbs into handmade egg pasta like lotion, says Whims. "...This sauce is totally non-aggressive, delicious, pure and sweet. We then top it with the best Parmigiano Reggiano we can get, and it's magic."
Tagliatelle Carbonara at Mani Osteria (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
This family-friendly tavern focuses on the Italian tradition of highlighting local ingredients and boutique wines with warm and friendly hospitality. Somehow, the folks here managed to make already decadent carbonara even richer and more indulgent than the traditional preparation. House-made tagliatelle pasta is tossed with locally sourced sauteed bacon, roasted cremini and shiitake mushrooms and an egg- and Pecorino-Romano-based sauce. It’s creamy, smoky, salty and earthy, but what really takes Mani Osteria’s version up a notch is the addition of a poached egg, which oozes its silky yolk into the mix when pierced, adding another rich, flavorful layer to the beautifully mingled dish.
Baked Pasta at Al Forno (Providence, Rhode Island)
Al Forno has broken ground on many fronts. It reinvigorated the Providence dining scene when it opened its doors in 1980, and was the birthplace of now ubiquitous grilled pizza. And chefs Johanne Killeen and George German have been wood-firing much of their menu since well before it became cool everywhere else. The pasta menu is just as renowned as the pies and flame-kissed entrees, and the baked pasta is legendary. Seasonal variations are cycled in and out according to what’s available, meaning thinly sliced asparagus with cream in spring, or pumpkin and pancetta come fall. Order one of those and the never-changing baked pasta with tomato, cream and five cheeses. The mainstay combines fresh cream, tomatoes and a blend of fontina, Pecorino-Romano, gorgonzola, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano that bakes until the tips are perfectly chewy and charred.
Kobe Ravioli at Tredici North (Purchase, New York)
New York City often sucks the air out of the food scenes of its neighboring towns and cities. It’s not that there aren’t great chefs and restaurants nearby, there are just so many big names in the Big Apple, it takes a lot for those right outside the five boroughs to get noticed. Executive chef Giuseppe Fanelli of Tredici North, spent time working in NYC’s top Italian kitchens, from Felidia’s to Rao’s, before taking over the stove at this award-winning Westchester place. He offers a selection of creative spins on Italian classics such as the decadent Kobe beef ravioli, house-made ravioli filled with braised Kobe beef, caramelized onions, black truffle and Fontina di Val’Dosta cheese in browned butter and thyme, with natural reduction.
Raviolone Aperto at Terramia Ristorante (Boston, Massachusetts)
Set in Boston’s Italian enclave, the North End, this special-occasion status spot has been serving elevated Italian fare since 1993. Terramia’s diverse menu offers innovative versions of seasonal classics that are certainly worth exploring, though many of its regulars just can’t pass up the signature raviolone aperto. The giant open-faced ravioli serves as a delicate bed for scallops, shrimp and zucchini blanketed with a sweet and creamy lobster-mascarpone reduction. The candlelit restaurant is small and its tables are still very coveted after all these years, so it's best to make a reservation if you want to taste this iconic dish.
Chestnut Gargati at Che Fico (San Francisco)
Che Fico specializes in Italian and Jewish-Italian-by-way-of-California cuisine. Its plates are great and so are the pizzas — the pineapple pizza has certainly converted more than a few detractors — but the Cucina Ebraica, the traditional Jewish fare of Italy, is truly special. The chestnut gargati was inspired by one of those dishes from Venice. Forgoing the traditional pork, the dish features braised Rossotti Ranch veal and green garlic with carrots, onion and celery, all common ingredients that have been incorporated into the vast cuisines of the Jewish diaspora, and really stand out.
Tumminia at Bella Gioia (Brooklyn, New York)
In the Castelvetrano region of Sicily, locals make a burnt wheat dough from an ancient grain known as tumminia. The grain has nutty flavor, grainy texture, less gluten than most wheat that’s currently used for pasta. Sauces really cling to it. At Bella Gioia in Brooklyn, chef Nico Daniele handrolls strands of tumminia into busiate (it looks like an old telephone cord) and pairs it with pesto alla trapanese, a blend of cherry tomatoes, almonds, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Sicilian olive oil. The pasta and sauce is combined with more poached cherry tomatoes, toasted almonds and caciocavallo cheese, adding even more flavor and interesting texture. Daniele finishes it off with micro basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
Ricotta and Egg Raviolo at Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)
There’s a reason this dish was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Many of the culinary insiders who’ve tried chef Nancy Silverton’s ricotta and egg ravioli agree it is, in fact, one of the best dishes they’ve ever had. Not to sound redundant, but Silverton herself first tried it at Michael Tusk’s Quince in San Francisco and thought to herself it was for sure the single best pasta dish she had ever come across. So, she made her own version at Osteria Mozza. Hers features one big, square raviolo filled with ricotta and a raw egg yolk drenched in brown butter. When it arrives, servers let their guests know the best way to dig in is to cut the giant mound from the center, so the golden yolk spills onto the plate and thickens the browned butter.
Bone Marrow Bolognese at June’s All Day (Austin, Texas)
Inspired by Spanish tapas bars, Parisian cafes and New York City’s hipster wine bars, this laid-back SoCo All Day cafe serves a fun and sophisticated selection of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner paired with a world class wine list by Master Sommelier June Rodil. That constantly rotating list is highlighted in cute 'zines that change according to whatever region or style is being featured. Given that wine is such a focus, the food is meant to be consumed alongside it. Grab a kicky red to sip with bone marrow Bolognese. The sumptuous, buttery, meaty, savory sauce coats thin handkerchief-style pasta, with a bit of kale sprinkled in.
Fettuccine al Pomodoro at Patrizi’s (Austin, Texas)
Set outside Butterfly Bar on Manor Road — an ideal post-happy hour dinner — this little Italian trailer serves a variety of meatballs, bruschettas and housemade pastas crafted using family recipes that date back to the 1940’s. One of owner Nicholas Patrizi’s favorites is the fettucine al pomodoro, a pasta made with semolina and local egg with a hint of nutmeg, twirled into a classic tomato sauce made with local tomatoes and a whole lot of butter (basically half butter, half tomato). All the fat in the sauce helps it to cling to the chewy, rich noodles, which are garnished with farm cheese, basil and lemon zest, creating a rich, textural dish with a bright and aromatic finish.
Spaghetti and Meatballs at Di Pasquale's (Baltimore, Maryland)
For well over a century, Di Pasquale’s has served some of the best spaghetti and meatballs in the entire United States. That’s a big statement for the nation where the dish was brought to life, but this one truly stands out. It starts with the marinara sauce, a secret recipe inspired by old-world traditions that have been perfected and passed down by generations of Italian-Americans. It evenly coats the spaghetti, piled into a round and crowned with two absolutely fabulous 100-percent beef rounds. Make a lunch date, as door shut promptly at 6 p.m.
Spring Pea and Ramp Agnolotti at SPQR (San Francisco)
Michelin-rated SPQR doesn’t bill itself as an Italian restaurant. It aims to be a Northern California restaurant inspired by Italy. And it makes sense — its home city, San Francisco, lies in a Mediterranean climate not dissimilar to Italy’s, and a substantial portion of its population descended from Italian immigrants. A perfect summation of the concept is the spring pea and ramp agnolotti with ricotta salata. The playful and colorful dish looks like a striped pillowcase with alternating stripes of ramp top-infused pasta dough and plain old wheat dough encasing a blend of peas and ricotta cheese. Those gorgeous little puffs are topped with grated ricotta salata, adding a hint of salt and a nice milky flavor.
Lasagna Verde at Tredici Enoteca (Philadelphia)
Converting what is normally a heavy and not-very-nutrient-rich dish into a lighter but equally delicious riff on layered pasta, the Tredici Enoteca team created lasagna verde. It’s become an icon for the restaurant. The pasta is made with 100% fresh spinach that’s blanched and pureed to produce the individual sheets. Unlike regular lasagna that’s assembled into a casserole dish and cooked all at once, this creative interpretation is built in individual layers that get cooked separately, so the edges crisp up and maintains a chewy texture throughout. Once those pieces come out of the oven, they’re stacked atop of one another with house-made pork bolognese and bechamel, then finished off with some fine herbs and grated Parmesan.
Mac and Cheese Carbonara at Buddy V’s Ristorante (Las Vegas)
Baker and Cake Boss Buddy Valastro Jr. shows off his Italian heritage and savory-cooking cred at his Grand Canal Shoppes restaurant at The Venetian Palazzo. The upscale Italian-by-way-of-Jersey restaurant showcases Valastro’s spin on classics. There are meatballs, chicken parm, and linguine and white clam sauce on the menu, but he also offers some of his own fun twists on pasta. A prime example is the mac and cheese carbonara. The baked pasta features a mix of cavatelli pasta, pancetta, heavy cream, peas and cheese, combined together with a crust of parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs cooked in a skillet until the top is toasted with a nice crisp crunch that complements the creamy base.
Peas in Their Pod at Quince (San Francisco)
There aren’t many chefs who deserve two spots on a single pasta list. Michael Tusk certainly does. The San Francisco-based chef is renowned internationally for his work with dough at his three-star Michelin restaurant, Quince. It’s not cheap (or even affordable), but it is a worthy special-occasion destination for its nightly tasting menu. Shortly after the Champagne cart leaves guests with their bubbly, they get to dig into contemporary dishes like Peas in Their Pod. Resembling snap peas, this playful dish boasts a green pasta exterior folded into the shape of a pod, decorated with swooshes of goat yogurt, pea shoots and flowers.
Lobster Spaghetti at Eastside Eat + Drink (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Eastside Eat + Drink’s new American menu features dishes and drinks with a range of international influences like whole wood-roasted duck served on a lazy susan with different mustards, scallion pancakes, braised savoy cabbage and a French-style four spice mix. Malone also offers some great pasta on the menu with similar multicultural appeal. The lobster spaghetti is divine, mixed with cognac cream and roasted butternut squash, slightly sweet, fully creamy and 100 percent sophisticated.
Squid Ink Pasta Bites at The Sea Fire Grille (New York City)
The one problem with ordering pasta in a restaurant is that it can be so filling, it’s hard to try multiple versions. That’s not an issue at The Sea Fire Grille in Midtown Manhattan, where chef Jesus Nunez serves two-in-one squid ink pasta bites. The two bites have different preparations, so you can sample multiple squid ink pasta presentations on a single plate. One is a tuna bolognese in which the traditional beef is swapped out in favor of small chunks of tuna in the hearty tomato sauce, finished with a piece of tuna prosciutto on top. The other features a pistachio and fava bean pesto nestled around the strands with slice of octopus on top. It’s definitely great for Instagram and it’s a lovely couple of bites while sipping a glass of wine at the bar.
Truffle Gnocchi at Gianni’s (Miami, Florida)
Miami Beach is known for its architecture, yet no single building is as iconic as the former Versace Mansion. Named after the world-famous designer, the home’s most-exalted resident, Gianni’s features vibrant Mediterranean cuisine heavily influenced by the simplicity of honest, Italian cooking. Executive chef Valter Mancini offers a pasta selection that’s just as opulent as the luxurious location. One of the richest, most-decadent options is the Truffle Gnocchi. Homemade potato gnocchi is coated in a creamy white truffle sauce, topped with Pecorino Romano and a crown of freshly shaved truffle.
Cacio e Pepe at Osteria Leana (Oyster Bay, Long Island)
There’s a reason many of the locals who frequent Osteria Leana say its cacio e pepe is better than what they’ve had in Rome — chef Peter Van Der Mije practically subsisted on this classic dish alone when he was living in Italy, and has spent years perfecting it. Made with bucatini and Turkish peppercorns that are toasted to enhance their fragrance and flavor, this cacio e pepe rendition is the result of an adult life of trying to recreate a memory and learning how to cook really, really well. Before opening his own spot in a small Long Island town 30 minutes outside the Big Apple, Van Der Mije spent years working under the best NYC chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson, Jean-Georges, and Dan Kluger.
Morel Pasta at Driftless Cafe (Viroqua, Wisconsin)
In late spring, many Wisconsin families head out to the wooded hills and river-filled valleys in the southwestern corner of the state in search of morel mushrooms, one of the most-elusive and -coveted of 'shrooms in the United States. Those who don’t want to want to muddy themselves in the woods, head to local farm stands and grocery stores to stock up. Or they just go to Driftless Cafe in Viroqua. At the local-foods-obsessed restaurant, the chefs celebrate the bount of morel season with an assortment of dishes including a perfect morel-laden pasta that is certainly worth planning a trip around.
Spaghetti and Meatballs at Muriale’s Italian Kitchen (Fairmont, West Virginia)
North-central West Virginia’s large Italian population supports a dozen or more authentic Italian "ristorantes" that garner rave reviews for their real-deal Italian cuisine. But Muriale’s Restaurant sits at the top of that list. Fans flock to this family-owned (and family-friendly) Fairmont spot for traditional specialties like spaghetti, lasagna and more. Can’t choose? Don’t have to! The "Taste of Italy" platter offers a sampling of homemade lasagna, hot-sausage rigatoni, ravioli and a giant meatball.
Cavatelli Bolognese at Giovanni’s Ristorante (Beachwood, Ohio)
Set in a nondescript office building on a busy intersection, Giovanni’s Ristorante is easy to miss. But the Italian stalwart, which has been considered a special-occasion destination for Clevelanders since 1976, is still one of the best in the city, rivaling all the fresh, new spots that pop up. It’s received a number of awards and accolades from national outfits for its attentive service, outstanding wine list and excellently prepared high-end cuisine. The pasta stands out on the menu, namely the Cavatelli Bolognese with light handmade ricotta cavatelli and mildly sweet, classic Bolognese sauce that come together in seamless harmony.
Cavatelli and Braciole at Consiglio’s (New Haven, Connecticut)
Located in pizza-loving New Haven, Connecticut, Consiglio's has been serving cavatelli and braciole to locals since 1938. Annunziata Consiglio featured the dish on the menu at her first restaurant with her husband, Salvatore, The Big Apple, before the couple were forced to relocate in the 1960’s, when they changed the name to the current Consiglio’s. Just like Annunziata learned in her hometown of Amalfi, Italy, ricotta pasta is still hand-rolled, one-by-one off a fork at the third- and fourth-generation owned family restaurant. It’s paired with thin-sliced beef, rolled and seasoned with parmesan cheese, garlic, basil and other spices, slowly simmered until tender in fresh tomato sauce.
BBQ Spaghetti at The Bar-B-Q Shop (Memphis, Tennessee)
When you consider that the traditional preparation of spaghetti tops the pasta with tomato sauce and ground meat, it's not that odd to think of substituting barbecue sauce in for the ragu and pulled pork for the meatballs. OK, it's still a little weird, but it's also delicious and popular in barbecue joints all over Memphis. The Bar-B-Q Shop offers what it probably the best-known version in Memphis.
20 Yolk Tagliatelle at BoccaLupo (Atlanta, Georgia)
Buzzy BoccaLupo consistently ranks as one of the best places in dine in food-obsessed Atlanta, and the tagliatelle has a lot to do with it. Inspired by an exceptionally decadent and chewy egg yolk pasta that he tried in Italy, Chef Bruce Logue developed an equally indulgent recipe made from 20 yolks and an additional six whole eggs. The color is great, so is the flavor, but these might just be the softest, most supple strands of pasta on the planet. The noodles paired with two other ingredients Logue adores, mushrooms and fermented foods, making his own Tuscan kale kimchi. It might sound very unItalian, but Logue ties it all together with a bit of butter so the multicultural ingredients come together in perfect harmony.
Fettuccine with Duck Confit at Tony’s (St. Louis, Missouri)
Tony’s has been a landmark in St. Louis’ iconic Italian neighborhood, The Hill, for more than 70 years. Not your average red-sauce joint, this elegant restaurant is the grand dame of the city’s fine-dining scene, renowned for its white tablecloths, impeccable service and perfectly balanced dishes. Now run by third-generation-owner Jim Bommarito, it features well-executed dishes like fettuccine with duck confit. The new(ish) dish is earthy and rich with wild mushrooms and decadent poultry served in a hearty duck stock sauce and topped with salty parmesan.
Clams Buccatini at The Depot (Seaview, Washington)
When razor clam season hits the Long Beach Peninsula, The Depot restaurant is where you want to be. Clams Bucatini, which has been on the menu for more than a decade, is flavored with a generous amount of the pungent shellfish, which is tossed in a sauce of garlic, white wine, lemon juice, chile flakes and a helping of the razor clams more subtle, buttery counterpart, the Willapa Bay clam. The hollow build of the bucatini allows the juices to flow in and out. And by the time you run out of pasta, you'll be left with spoonfuls of razor clams left to eat.
Lasagna at Dominick’s (Bronx, New York)
Since 1962, folks have lingered along Arthur Avenue — New York’s real Little Italy — on Sunday afternoons awaiting seats at Dominick's communal tables for a taste of the once-a-week lasagna. Every Sunday morning, the restaurant prepares trays of perfect layers of pasta with ground beef, ricotta, mozzarella and tomato "gravy." What they refer to as gravy is sweeter than their marinara or tomato sauce (which is infused with garlic), featuring onion as the main flavoring component along with meatballs. The dish is totally worth a trek and a wait, but it’s wise to arrive when it opens around 1 p.m., as it often sell out within a couple of hours.
Spaghetti Parm at Chef’s Restaurant (Buffalo, New York)
Chef’s Restaurant has been a downtown Buffalo icon since 1923. The classic family restaurant is decked out with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and autographed photos of celebrity fans who love the traditional Italian-American red sauce-style fare. The most-popular dish on the menu — a relative newcomer, added in 1962 — is the spaghetti parm. The pasta, the most-famous in Buffalo, is so beloved, it’s considered the go-to for many celebratory occasions and milestones. It features spaghetti, tossed in sauce and butter, sprinkled with Parmesan and Romano and covered with slices of mozzarella cheese, then tossed under the broiler until the cheese melts. Those delicious ingredients come together on the fork, when locals twirl it together and dunk it into marinara sauce.
Agnolotti Carbona at Valentino Cucina Italiana (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Chef Giovanni Rocchio spends four hours making the pasta for his menu at Valentino Cucina Italiana every single day. There’s a reason his restaurant is among the best in Broward County: his evolving pasta selections are completely innovative and perfectly prepared. The current star is the agnolotti carbonara. Delicate pockets of house-made agnolotti are filled with a carbonara custard, a blend of egg yolks, pecorino cheese, black pepper and cream. Once cooked, those little pillows are dressed with parmesan cheese foam, crispy pancetta and asparagus.