The Best Pasta Dish in Every State
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably made pasta at some point in your life. It’s really not that hard; You boil some pasta and dump some sauce on top. But as you probably know, there’s a big difference between the spaghetti you made in your college dorm and the pastas being served at some of America’s best Italian restaurants.
In seeking out the best non-chain restaurant pasta dish in every state and Washington, D.C., the first thing we had to do was set the parameters for what constitutes a pasta dish. We stuck with dishes that hewed to Italian sensibilities — you can certainly consider ramen to be a pasta dish, but that’s a whole other ranking — and the pasta itself had to be the primary focus; we didn’t consider risotto to be a pasta dish, and dishes that are served alongside pasta, like chicken parm or veal saltimbocca, weren’t considered either. With these dishes, pasta is the star of the show.
In our list you’ll find tortellini, spaghetti chitarra, pappardelle, linguine, lasagna, agnolotti, squid ink spaghetti, gnocchi, ravioli, strozzapretti and many more of the countless pasta styles found in Italy. Some are perfect interpretations of traditional dishes, some are ingenious inventions of creative chefs. But at the end of the day, it proves one thing: No matter where you are, an amazing plate of pasta isn’t too far away.
Alabama: Spaghetti Carbonara, Bottega Cafe (Birmingham)
Yelp/ Yum E.
At Bottega Cafe, chef Frank Stitt’s more casual sibling to his upscale Bottega (both Alabama must-visits), you’ll find a variety of well-made pasta dishes like rigatoni Bolognese and macaroni and cheese, along with a couple that change depending on what's in season. But one pasta dish that won’t ever be leving the menu is his spaghetti carbonara. One of the simplest pasta dishes around (just spaghetti tossed with a little cheese, guanciale or pancetta, and egg yolk), it’s also one of the most difficult to get right. But at Bottega Cafe, it’s just about perfect.
Alaska: Garlic Alaskan Seafood Pasta, Louie’s (Kenai)
Yelp/ Dean I.
It’s all about the fresh seafood in Alaska, and you’ll find one of the state’s best seafood preparations in the small city of Kenai, at the popular Louie’s Restaurant at the Uptown Motel. This heaping platter of fresh wide linguine is infused with a flavorful garlic herb butter sauce along with plenty of fresh halibut, salmon, shrimp and scallops.
Arizona: Pappardelle Bolognese, Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix)
Yelp/ Pepper T.
Chris Bianco may be best known for his amazing pizza skills (the best in Arizona, for sure), but his pasta chops are also seriously on point. You’ll find pasta on the menu only at Pizzeria Bianco’s newer second location, and there are only two options: spaghetti with tomato sauce, and pappardelle with grass-fed beef Bolognese and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Opt for the second; the pasta is house-made and perfectly cooked, and the sauce is simple and flawless.
Arkansas: Lasagna Imbotito, Bruno’s Little Italy (Little Rock)
Yelp/ Elissa M.
One of Arkansas’ most popular Italian restaurants, this classic family-owned red-sauce joint Bruno’s has been going strong since 1949. Just about everything on the menu is spot-on, but the Lasagna Imbotito is nothing short of legendary, a must-order. It’s layered with ricotta, mozzarella, and Romano cheese, but the real kicker is what comes next: Italian sausage, meatballs and various cured Italian meats. This is one kicked-up lasagna.
California: Agnolotti Del Plin, Cotogna (San Francisco)
Chef Michael Tusk’s Cotogna, along with its next-door predecessor Quince, are constantly raising the bar for what can be done with simple, seasonal California ingredients. Cotogna celebrates rustic Italian cuisine with a daily-changing selection of grilled meats and fish, wood-oven pizzas and house-made pastas. A couple of menu items never change, though, including the must-order agnolotti del plin. Tusk fills his tiny handmade pasta packets with slow-roasted veal and rabbit, vegetables and Grana Padano cheese; it’s slicked with a sugo made from roasted veal and rabbit bones and topped with some extra Grana. It’s pasta perfection.
Colorado: Tagliatelle, Tavernetta (Denver)
Yelp/ Sumiyyah A.
The James Beard Award-winning Colorado team behind Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine branched out to open Tavernetta in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood, and it’s a warm and welcoming spot for rustic, inspired Italian fare. Chef Ian Wortham (a former chef de cuisine at Frasca) is turning out some spectacular pasta dishes, but the one to order is the tagliatelle with Maine lobster, Calabrian chile, preserved tomato and celery. It’s light, bright, teeming with fresh lobster, just a little spicy, and the pasta itself is house-made and flawless.
Connecticut: Lasagna, Consiglio’s (New Haven)
This old-school Italian joint has been a New Haven, Connecticut, legend since it opened nearly 80 years ago, and Consiglio’s still going strong on Wooster Street today. All the red-sauce staples are represented here, but it’s the lasagna that the locals swear by. Pasta sheets, ground beef, ricotta cheese and tomato sauce are layered, and it’s all baked with a melty topping of mozzarella. It’s lasagna perfection.
Delaware: Gnocchi Sorrentina, La Casa Pasta (Newark)
Yelp/ Susan H.
Since 1978, La Casa Pasta has been serving house-made pastas and authentic Italian fare to locals in Newark, Delaware, overseen by chef-owner Guiseppe Martuscelli, who travels back to Italy yearly to learn new recipes and discover new ingredients. His expertise is best exemplified in the classics, however: The must-order gnocchi Sorrentina starts with light and pillowy fresh potato gnocchi, and it’s tossed with house-made tomato sauce. It’s about as simple and comforting as a pasta dish gets.
Florida: Beet Mezzaluna, Macchialina (Miami Beach)
Yelp/ Cassie G.
Queens-born, Italy-raised chef Michael Pirolo spent time at some of Italy’s finest restaurants and enjoyed a stint as chef de cuisine at Scott Conant’s Scarpetta before branching out on his own in Florida with Macchialina in 2012. The menu is primarily composed of antipasti and house-made pasta, and we strongly suggest you try as many of the pastas as possible (especially on Thursdays, when they’re just $10). The beet mezzaluna, little half-moons filled with a beet-based mixture tossed with a simple sauce of brown butter and hazelnuts and topped with ricotta salata, is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Georgia: Squid Ink Spaghetti, La Tavola (Atlanta)
Yelp/ Daniel B.
This neighborhood Italian spot is cozy and unassuming, but the locals know La Tavola as the best place for homemade pasta in Atlanta, Georgia. Chef Andrew Peterson’s finest offering in the pasta department is his squid ink spaghetti, which is tossed with calamari, Calabrian chiles, garlic and a light pesto made with Thai basil. Start with the popular veal meatballs, and follow them up with this.
Hawaii: Spaghetti Alla Pescatora, Arancino di Mare (Honolulu)
Yelp/ Lucas B.
Located in the Waikiki Beach Marriott, Arancino di Mare is renowned for its impressive pasta dishes and super-fresh local seafood. When you combine the two, you’re left with the best plate of pasta in Hawaii. Perfectly cooked spaghetti is tossed with a simple sauce of garlic, white wine and olive oil and topped with a bounty of calamari, clams, mussels and shrimp scampi.
Idaho: Rigatoni, Alavita (Boise)
Jenne R./ Yelp
This cozy downtown Boise, Idaho, spot has breathed new life into the city’s tired Italian scene thanks to its commitment to using fresh local ingredients, house-cured meats, and making all of its fresh pastas in-house. And if you try just one of Alavita’s pastas, make sure it’s the rigatoni, which is tossed with rich shredded Barolo-braised Northwest short ribs and topped with arugula and pecorino. It’s a great way to get through a long Idaho winter.
Illinois: Gnocchi, Spiaggia (Chicago)
Chef Tony Mantuano’s refined and modern Spiaggia is the gold standard for Italian fine dining in Chicago, Illinois (and let’s face it, across America), and it’s constantly breaking new ground and reinventing itself, most notably with a 2014 renovation and menu revamp. There’s one dish, however, that can never be removed from the menu or it might incite riots (or at least polite disapproval): the gnocchi. Super-tender hand-rolled gnocchi are blanched and tossed in a sauce made with heavy cream, milk, ricotta, a handful of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of truffle oil (the real stuff, infused with preserved Italian truffles). It’s plated after the sauce reduces slightly, and is topped with a spoonful of rich jus and a couple of those preserved sliced truffles. It’s a masterpiece and a must-order, even with a $60 price tag.
Indiana: Spaghetti and Meatballs, Mama Carolla’s (Indianapolis)
Tavia B./ Yelp
If you’re looking for a big serving of hearty Italian fare in Indianapolis, Indiana, look no further than the warm and inviting Mama Carolla’s. Built as a model home in the 1920s and still boasting plenty of original fixtures, the family-run restaurant is currently celebrating its 22nd year turning out consistently delicious classic red-sauce fare. Start with the popular garlic cheese bread, and then try the spaghetti and meatballs, a twist of perfectly sauced spaghetti topped with two house-made meatballs and an extra ladle of chunky sauce.
Iowa: Agnolotti di Carne, Baroncini (Iowa City)
Yelp/ Angela R.
Chef Gianluca Baroncini spent time cooking at some of Verona, Italy’s finest Italian restaurants (including the two-Michelin-starred Il Desco) before opening this Iowa City favorite. He’s committed to turning out spot-on interpretations of Italian classics made with fresh, seasonal, local ingredients, and the star of his menu is his fresh house-made agnolotti filled with a mixture of local beef and Parmigiano-Reggiano, tossed with a traditional brown butter and sage sauce.
Kansas: Pappardelle al Pesto, Albero Café (Wichita)
Yelp/ Chryz C.
The College Hill standby Albero Café offers residents of Wichita, Kansas, a wide selection of Italian classics and creative specialties like Italian nachos and shrimp dip, and there’s a wide variety of customizable pastas. There’s no reason to get too creative when pappardelle al pesto is available: fresh pappardelle mixed with homemade basil pesto along with pine nuts, creamy Parmesan sauce and fresh basil.
Kentucky: Spaghetti Con Aragosta, Pomodoro e Arugula, Vincenzo’s (Louisville)
Yelp/ Jeanne W.
Vincenzo’s Palermo-born chef Agostino Gabriele has been cooking professionally since 1963, and has been at the helm here (alongside his co-owner and brother, Vincenzo) since it opened in 1986. To say he’s learned a thing or two in the past 55 years is an understatement, and he’s turned Vincenzo’s into a venerable Louisville, Kentucky, institution and certified standout. His skills are on full display in his spaghetti, which is tossed with South African lobster tail, shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, olive oil, parsley, and garlic.
Louisiana: Potato Gnocchi, Restaurant August (New Orleans)
Yelp/ Mark N.
August is one of Louisiana's top fine-dining institutions. Chef Ross Dover’s French-inspired menu is heavily influenced by Creole cuisine, but his gnocchi transcends all categorization. It’s ethereally light and soft, and it’s served in a small bowl with a creamy Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce, chunks of fresh Gulf blue crab, and shavings of fresh black truffle. It’s an absolute must-order, a quintessential New Orleans dish.
Maine: Lobster Diavolo, Street & Co. (Portland)
Yelp/ Joyce H.
Portland has no shortage of stellar dining options, but there’s one lobster dish that the locals will tell you is a must-try: the Lobster Diavolo For Two at Street & Co., quite possibly the best seafood pasta on the Eastern Seaboard. Garlicky, buttery linguine is topped with mussels, clams, calamari and a whole grilled Maine lobster. Scoop out the tomalley and mix it into the pasta sauce, and spend the next 20 minutes in seafood pasta bliss.
Maryland: Spaghetti Neri al Granchio, La Tavola (Baltimore)
Yelp/ Eliza B.
Located in the heart of Baltimore’s Little Italy, the elegant La Tavola showcases the cooking of Venice-born chef Carlo Vignotto. His lineup of traditional Italian classics is buttressed by creative uses of fresh local ingredients, and all of Vignotto’s skills are on display with his Spaghetti Neri al Granchio. It starts with house-made squid-ink spaghetti, which is tossed with garlic white wine sauce, cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach and plenty of fresh Maryland blue crab meat. It’s simple and perfect, an ideal showcase for the famed local crustacean.
Massachusetts: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, Scampo (Boston)
Yelp/ Johonna C.
James Beard Award-winning chef Lydia Shire’s Scampo is a true Massachusetts gem. You might call it “Italianish”: While Italian at heart, Shire isn’t afraid to incorporate a tandoori oven or Spanish Ibèrico ham into the mix, and the menu is fun and playful. But when she devotes her attention to simple, straight-ahead classic Italian fare, you end up with one of the best plates of pasta you’ll ever have. Her classis carbonara is as simple as can be — al dente spaghetti tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano, pancetta, eggs, and fresh peas — but it’s a master class in balance and moderation.
Michigan: Strozzapreti, Bacco (Southfield)
Yelp/ Tara L.
Chef and restaurateur Luciano DelSignore’s Michigan home base, Bacco, has been drawing crowds for its contemporary high-end Italian cuisine since 2002. High-quality ingredients, prepared simply, result in some truly outstanding dishes. Take the strozzapretti, for example: These long tubes of fresh house-made pasta are tossed with a sauce made with house-made sausage, tomato, cream and a touch of truffle oil.
Minnesota: Tagliarini de Lonanda Del Lupo, Broder’s Pasta Bar (Minneapolis)
Yelp/ Kayla H.
Molly and Tom Broder opened their “pasta bar” in 1994, and the crowds have never stopped coming. Why? Ingredients are sourced from Midwest farms whenever possible and some vegetables are grown in an on-site garden, “but really,” as the website states, “it’s all about the pasta.” Fresh pastas are made in-house and dry pastas are imported from Italy, and nearly 30 pastas and risottos are on the menu. You can’t go wrong with the Tagliarini de Lonanda Del Lupo, inspired by a dish served at a restaurant of the same name in Soragna, Italy. Tagliarini (an eggy thin pasta) is tossed with a light truffle cream sauce as well as lots of diced prosciutto di Parma. You’ll most likely be ordering a second helping.
Mississippi: Tri-Color Cheese Tortellini, BRAVO! (Jackson)
Yelp/ Ryder T.
Jackson, Mississippi, hotspot BRAVO! is a must-visit for traditional Italian classics as well as creative Creole-inspired fare. There are 11 pastas on the menu, but if you love tortellini you need to order the tri-color cheese tortellini, which is served in a creamy tomato sauce kicked up with shiitake mushrooms, baby spinach, red onions, roasted red bell peppers and artichoke hearts.
Missouri: Linguine With Lobster and Shrimp, Tony’s (St. Louis)
Yelp/ Ren V.
Venerable St. Louis, Missouri, institution Tony’s can trace its roots back to 1946, when it got its start as a small café run by Tony Bommarito. Today the kitchen is run by his grandson, Vince, and it’s a high-end destination for spot-on upscale Italian fare. Make sure you try the linguine with lobster and shrimp; every component is cooked perfectly, and the tomato sauce is an old family recipe.
Montana: Shrimp Fra Diavolo, Lucca’s (Helena)
Yelp/ Marissa H.
Lucca’s is a high-end Helena hotspot that’s easily one of the best restaurants in Montana. And with good reason: Chef-owner Frederick Stout has created a supremely elegant dining room serving expertly prepared dishes using the freshest ingredients possible. Don’t miss the shrimp fra diavolo: angel hair pasta with big shrimp, fresh grape tomatoes and spicy cream sauce.
Nebraska: Giglio With Chicken and Asparagus, Spezia (Omaha)
Yelp/ Will S.
The always-crowded Spezia serves some of Omaha, Nebraska’s finest steaks, but it’s also a popular pasta destination. The real standout is the giglio with chicken and asparagus, twisty pasta in a creamy pesto sauce with grilled chicken, toasted yellow peppers and tomato basil relish. It’s a symphony of flavors.
Nevada: Spaghetti all’Astice, Costa di Mare (Las Vegas)
Yelp/ Anthony T.
Costa di Mare is one of the finest seafood restaurants in the country, even though Nevada is landlocked: It ships in fresh seafood from Italy every day, and (as you can imagine) is very expensive. A great way to sample the top-notch cooking without breaking the bank is in the spaghetti all’astice, with al dente spaghetti in a spicy tomato white wine sauce with plenty of Mediterranean blue rock lobster.
New Hampshire: Maine Lobster Ravioli, Tuscan Kitchen (Salem and Portsmouth)
Yelp/ Elly W.
With a menu inspired by owner Joe Faro’s travels to Italy, Tuscan Kitchen is bringing some Tuscan sunshine to the Granite State. There are plenty of authentic Italian dishes on the menu, and the house-made pasta is made with imported “double zero” flour. Lobster is the name of the game in this neck of the woods, and here it’s put to good use in ravioli, sauced with lemon butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
New Jersey: Ravioli, Spirito’s (Elizabeth)
Yelp/ Carol C.
Spirito’s is a North Jersey institution, renowned for three things: its pizza, its massive veal or chicken Parmesan, and its perfect house-made ravioli. The pasta is so thin and the ricotta-based filling so ethereally light that it’s a miracle they don’t float off the plate, and the marinara sauce is spot-on.
New Mexico: Lasagna Alla Bolognese, Osteria D’Assisi (Santa Fe)
Yelp/ Lindy B.
This simple, no-frills osteria looks like it’s been imported directly from Italy, and so does the menu. Osteria D’Assisi chef-owners Lino and Pietro Pertusini hail from Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, and they’re bringing spot-on versions of Italian classics to New Mexico. A good lasagna is hard not to love, and you’ll definitely fall in love with theirs, made with house-made pasta, meat ragout, marinara sauce, béchamel and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
New York: Fusilli With Red Wine-Braised Octopus and Bone Marrow, Marea (New York City)
Yelp/ Alice Y.
When it opened, Marea was immediately acclaimed as one of the most original and consistently wonderful upscale Manhattan restaurants in recent memory. And it’s still a must-visit, with two dishes that are so unique and delicious that they’ve officially entered New York’s culinary canon: a simple crostini with sea urchin and lardo, and fusilli with octopus and bone marrow. The latter, chef Michael White’s homage to surf and turf, starts with house-made durum wheat fusilli. This is tossed with a sauce of braised baby Spanish octopus, sangiovese wine, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, basil and chunks of lightly sautéed bone marrow before being plated and topped with toasted bread crumbs. There’s nothing else out there that’s quite like it, and it remains in a league of its own in the competitive New York dining scene.
North Carolina: Penne Alla Vodka, Mama Ricotta’s (Charlotte)
Yelp/ Nikki W.
Charlotte, North Carolina, institution Mama Ricotta’s is a neighborhood favorite that’s renowned locally for its high-quality ingredients, attention to detail, and house-made ingredients. Its New Haven-style pizza is a standout, but make sure you sample the pasta, especially the penne alla vodka. The penne is cooked to a perfect al dente, and it’s sauced with a spicy tomato cream sauce made with pepper vodka. Some sautéed pancetta completes the dish.
North Dakota: Tortelloni Vodka, Toscana (Fargo)
Yelp/ Raison D’Etre D.
Lucca-born chef Mirco Morganti is bringing a taste of Italy and France to North Dakota. At Toscana, he’s turning out showstopping creations like osso bucco, tournedos Rossini, and noisette of lamb in a curry-chive cream sauce, so needless to say he also knows his way around pasta. The true standout is the tortelloni vodka, large tortellini filled with six different cheeses and tossed with mushrooms, roasted peppers, fresh basil and a house vodka sauce made with Absolut vodka.
Ohio: Spaghetti Five Ways, Blue Ash Chili (Cincinnati)
Yelp/ Jeff S.
One of Ohio’s best-known regional specialties may be called Cincinnati chili, but as it’s traditionally served atop a big portion of spaghetti, it’s a pasta dish in our book. There are hundreds of places to order it in Cincy, but Blue Ash is the place to go. There’s a specific way to ordering your chili here: Two-way is spaghetti topped with chili (made with spices including cocoa, allspice, cumin, and chili powder); three-way adds cheddar; four-way adds onions or beans; and five-way adds both beans and onions, while six-way adds fried jalapeño caps. Yes, there are plenty of excellent Italian pasta dishes in Ohio, but the best is a purely American creation.
Oklahoma: Sausage Pasta, Stella (Oklahoma City)
Yelp/ Jennifer F.
Elegant Oklahoma City hotspot Stella has been going strong since industry veteran Lori Burson first opened the doors in 2010. You’ll feel at home here eating a pizza in shorts or osso bucco for two in your Sunday best, and nearly every table orders a pasta. The one to get is the first pasta on the menu, called simply “Sausage Pasta.” The sausage is homemade, and it’s served with campanelle pasta, mushrooms, red wine sauce, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Oregon: Tagliatelle with Beef and Pork Ragu, Luce (Portland)
Yelp/ Sung L.
The unassuming Luce likes to keep it simple, which is always a good policy in the pasta department. They’re perhaps best known for their cappelletti in brodo, tiny little meat-filled dumplings in a light broth, but they (and we) consider that to be a soup. Instead, the best pasta dish on their menu (and the best pasta dish in Oregon) is their simple tagliatelle with beef and pork ragu. It’s sold by the half- or whole-portion, but you’re going to want to order the whole thing.
Pennsylvania: Maccheroni Alla Mugnaia, Le Virtu (Philadelphia)
Yelp/ Rachel B.
A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, favorite for nearly 10 years, Le Virtu specializes in the cuisine of Abruzzo, and it turns out some of the best handmade pastas you’ll ever try night after night. Executive chef Joe Cicala (a 2015 James Beard Award finalist) keeps it simple, focusing on classic flavor combinations, high-quality ingredients and an insane amount of skill. That’s best displayed with his maccheroni alla mugnaia: one long hand-pulled strand of pasta, simply dressed with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, hot pepper and pecorino. It’s a dish you’ll be remembering for a long time.
Rhode Island: Pasta Ceci, Enoteca Umberto (Providence)
Yelp/ Alexa D.
With only 18 seats, you’ll feel like you’re dining in the Providence, Rhode Island, home of owners Lia and Umberto Bellini, because you might as well be. The cuisine at Umberto’s is rustic, homestyle, and prepared with nuance and a lot of love, which is most evident in their most popular dish, Pasta Ceci. It’s a simple combination of chewy house-made pasta with creamy chickpeas, garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes, and it’s homey, humble and supremely comforting.
South Carolina: Pappardelle, Wild Olive (Johns Island)
Yelp/ Kelly C.
Located on sleepy Johns Island just outside Charleston, Wild Olive is a beloved local Italian restaurant that’s definitely worth the trip from downtown. Celebrating its 10th year in business, Wild Olives is a warm and relaxed restaurant (as well as South Carolina’s first Certified Green restaurant), and chef Jacques Larson celebrates local ingredients and makes all the pasta and charcuterie from scratch. A great example of what makes this restaurant so popular is the pappardelle, which is tossed with rendered house-cured guanciale, arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mushrooms from nearby Wadmalaw Island.
South Dakota:Tortellini Alla Panna, Botticelli (Rapid City)
Yelp/ Gene A.
A warm and inviting family-owned destination in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the 21-year-old Botticelli is so low-key that it doesn’t even have a website. It was run by Michelle Peregrine for 16 years before she handed the keys to her daughter, 34-year-old chef Aleaha Ghere, a couple years ago. You can never go wrong with the mainstay tortellini alla panna, a hearty serving of tortellini in a creamy sauce with sundried tomato and grated Parmesan.
Tennessee: Gnocchi, Trattoria Il Mulino (Nashville)
Yelp/ Dez S.
Il Mulino is one of New York City’s finest Italian restaurants, and its more casual Nashville, Tennessee offshoot, Trattoria Il Mulino (which also has locations in Atlantic City and Orlando) is spectacular. Chef Thomas Cook has given the New York menu a twist and made it his own, but the best pasta on the menu is a timeless classic: fresh handmade potato gnocchi, perfectly sauced with real-deal Bolognese and expertly-made béchamel.
Texas: Rigatoni With Spicy Lamb Meatballs, La Traviata (Austin)
Yelp/ Michael O.
A downtown Austin, Texas, mainstay that’s been pulling in crowds since 2000, La Traviata is turning out a different homemade ravioli every day, and its lineup of pastas is classic and comforting. All the basics are covered here — spaghetti a la carbonara, pasta norma — and they’re all done very, very well, but the one to order is the rigatoni with spicy lamb meatballs. Complemented with roasted tomato sauce, roasted bell peppers, basil and pine nuts and kicked up with a touch of cream, it’s about as soul-warming as it gets.
Utah: Rigatoni al Sugo Della Mamma, Valter’s (Salt Lake City)
Yelp/ Tony L.
Valter Nassi is the natty ever-present proprietor of his eponymous restaurant, and his lineup of Tuscan classics inspired by his mother have kept crowds coming back to his stylish, modern Salt Lake City, Utah, restaurant for years. The homemade fresh pastas are all standouts, but you’ll find the best dish on the menu — and the one that Nassi is most proud of — with the dried pastas. It’s Rigatoni al Sugo Della Mamma, perfectly-cooked al dente rigatoni with a tomato-based porcini and meat sauce based on his mother’s recipe.
Vermont: Gnocchi al Tartufato, Trattoria Delia (Burlington)
Yelp/ Linda B.
One of Burlington, Vermont’s most romantic restaurants, Trattoria Delia occupies a charming basement space and warms the cold night with a fireplace and traditional regional Italian fare. It’s been going strong since 1993, and all pastas are either hand-rolled and cut or made using an Arcobaleno extruder with traditional Italian brass dies. The rich and comforting gnocchi al tartufato will warm you up on even the coldest Vermont night; the handmade pasta is tossed with a truffled mushroom cream sauce and house-made sausage.
Virginia: Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Dal Grano (McLean)
Yelp/ Jozef V.
Dal Grano has only been in business for a few years, but it’s already made waves in Northern Virginia for its wide selection of house-made pastas. Dozens of raw pastas are available for purchase, but if you decide to eat in they’re turning out some truly showstopping dishes. The bucatini all’amatriciana is a spot-on rendition of the classic Central Italian pasta dish, with fresh bucatini and a traditional sauce that combines tomato, pancetta, onion and pecorino.
Washington, D.C.: Carbonara, RPM Italian
Yelp/ Amanda M.
Chef Doug Psaltis’ RPM Italian had such great success in Chicago that the team decided to open in D.C., and they seem to have shown that it’s possible to capture lightning in a bottle twice. This classy and upscale Italian restaurant really excels in the house-made pasta department, and the classics are nothing short of perfect. Just try the carbonara; it’s made the traditional way (with no cream), and like all the best carbonaras do, it proves that combining fresh spaghetti with egg yolk, crispy pancetta, and black pepper can be the culinary equivalent of alchemy when done with skill and attention to detail.
Washington: Pappardelle, Staple & Fancy (Seattle)
Yelp/ Sarah C.
Ethan Stowell has a lock on the Seattle, Washington, dining scene, and his Staple & Fancy Mercantile is arguably his best, especially if you like Italian food. You can stick with the staples or you can go fancy (get it?), but the four pastas on offer are a little bit of both. The best one is his pappardelle, made in house, simply tossed with superb Bolognese and topped with a quenelle of fresh ricotta and a sprinkling of mint.
West Virginia: Manicotti, Leonoro's Spaghetti House (Charleston)
Yelp/ Ryan M.
This Charleston, West Virginia, favorite has been in business since 1915, and many of the recipes have been around since before even then. Leonoro's is still owned by the founding family, and if you're looking for a true taste of classic Italian-American red-sauce fare, this is it. The menu is small, with just a handful of menu items, but the classics are all there: spaghetti amd meatballs, ravioli, lasagna, stuffed shells. But don't miss the housemade manicotti, especially if the mushroom marinara sauce is on offer that day.
Wisconsin: Uovo in Raviolo, Ristorante Bartolotta (Wauwatosa)
Yelp/ Marie E.
Renowned chef Paul Bartolotta’s flagship Italian restaurant is located on the outskirts of Milwaukee, and Ristorante Bartolotta has been drawing guests from downtown for more than 20 years. It’s easily Wisconsin’s best Italian restaurant, and its must-order pasta is Bartolotta’s signature uovo in raviolo, a notoriously difficult dish to pull off. A single large raviolo (that’s the singular of ravioli) encases ricotta, spinach and a whole egg yolk, and it’s topped with brown butter and some white truffles (if desired) for good measure. When you cut into it the yolk oozes out and mingles with all the other components, and the end result is lavish and decadent.
Wyoming: Squid Ink Chitarra, Glorietta Trattoria (Jackson)
Yelp/ Jasmine C.
A must-visit inside the Anvil Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the warm and welcoming Glorietta is turning out some spectacular grilled meats (cooked on a grill located right in the dining room) and homemade pastas. It’s the squid ink chitarra, with house-made squid ink spaghetti, that’s the real showstopper here, tossed with perfectly cooked rock shrimp, salumi, citrus, mint and toasted bread crumbs; it’s a unique and perfect arrangement of flavors, one that wouldn’t be out of place at one of America’s 50 best Italian restaurants.
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