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 restaurants.
Yelp/ Yum E.
At chef Frank Stitt's more casual sibling to his upscale Bottega, 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 pasts dish that won't ever be leving the menu is his spaghetti carbonara. One of the simplest pasta dishes around (it's 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.
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.
Yelp/ Pepper T.
Chris Bianco may be best known for his amazing pizza skills, 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 housemade and perfectly cooked, and the sauce is simple and flawless.
Yelp/ Elissa M.
One of Little Rock’s most popular Italian restaurants, this classic family-owned red sauce joint 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.
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 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; its slicked with a sugo made from roasted veal and rabbit bones and topped with some extra Grana. It’s pasta perfection.
This popular downtown Denver spot showcases the cuisine of Northern Italy, and its housemade pastas are some of the best in town. But do us a favor and drop by during Happy Hour (from 2:30 to 6 daily), and order the pastiche. It’s a little cast iron pot, filled with meatballs, cheese tortellini, meat ragu, and cinnamon-kicked béchamel, topped with a thyme-accented crust. It’s everything a pasta dish should be – hearty, filling, full of bold flavors, and a lot of fun to eat – and best of all, it only costs $6.
This old-school Italian joint has been a New Haven legend since it opened nearly 80 years ago, and it’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.
Yelp/ Susan H.
Since 1978, La Casa Pasta has been serving housemade pastas and authentic Italian fare, 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 housemade tomato sauce. It’s about as simple and comforting as a pasta dish gets.
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 with Macchialina in 2012. The menu is primarily composed of antipasti and housemade 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.
Yelp/ Daniel B.
This neighborhood Italian spot is cozy and unassuming, but the locals know that it’s the best place for homemade pasta in Atlanta. Chef Brian Moll’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 his renowned veal meatballs, and follow them up with this.
Arancino di Mare
Located in the Waikiki Beach Marriott, Hawaii’s best Italian restaurant 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.
This cozy downtown Boise 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 one of their 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.
Chef Tony Mantuano’s refined and modern Spiaggia is the gold standard for Italian fine dining in Chicago (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, and 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.
If you’re looking for a big serving of hearty Italian fare in Indianapolis, 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 20th 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 housemade meatballs and an extra ladle of chunky sauce.
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 housemade agnolotti filled with a mixture of local beef and Parmigiano-Reggiano, tossed with a traditional brown butter and sage sauce.
Yelp/ Chryz C.
This College Hill standby offers 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 mixed with pine nuts, creamy parmesan sauce, and fresh basil.
Vincenzo’s Palermo-born chef Agostino Gabriele has been cooking professionally since 1963, and has been at the helm here since it opened in 1986. To say he’s learned a thing or two in the past 54 years is an understatement, and he’s turned Vincenzo’s into a venerable Louisville institution and certified standout. His skills are on full display in his Fettucine Patricia: fettucine with scallops, shrimp, tomatoes, and scallions tossed in homemade red clam sauce.
August is one of New Orleans' top fine-dining institutions. Chef Todd Pulsinelli'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.
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 lobster. Scoop out the tomalley and mix it into the pasta sauce, and spend the next 20 minutes in seafood pasta bliss.
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 housemade squid-ink spaghetti, which is tossed with garlic white wine sauce, cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach, and plenty of fresh local blue crab meat. It’s simple, perfect, and an ideal showcase for the famed local crustacean.
James Beard Award-winning chef and Daily Meal Council member Lydia Shire’s Scampo is a true Boston 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. Handmade breads come in seven varieties. There’s a full "mozzarella bar" five different seasonal fresh mozzarella-based dishes (just opt for the mozzarella tasting, you know you want to). 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 aglio e olio is as simple as can be – al dente spaghetti tossed with high quality olive oil, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and a sprinkling of cheese – but it’s a master class in balance and moderation.
Chef and restaurateur Luciano Del Signore’s 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 housemade pasta are tossed with a sauce made with housemade sausage, tomato, cream, and a touch of truffle oil and plated like no other pasta dish you’ve ever seen.
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.
Yelp/ Ryder T.
This Jackson hotspot 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.
Yelp/ Ren V.
This venerable St. Louis institution can trace its roots back to 1946, when it got its start as a small café run by Tony Bommarito. Today it’s 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.
Yelp/ Marissa H.
Lucca’s is a high-end Helena hotspot that’s been named the best restaurant in Montana by Business Insider. 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.
Yelp/ Will S.
The always-crowded Spezia serves some of Omaha’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.
Yelp/ Anthony T.
Paul Bartolotta used to helm this restaurant when it was called Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, but since he left it hasn’t skipped a beat. It ships in fresh seafood from Italy daily, and a great way to try it 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.
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 housemade 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.
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.
Yelp/ Lindy B.
This simple, no-frills osteria looks like it’s been imported directly from Italy, and so does the menu. Chef-owner Lino Pertusini and executive chef Christian Pontiggia both hail from Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, and they’re turning out spot-on versions of Italian classics. A good lasagna is hard not to love, and you’ll definitely fall in love with theirs, made with housemade pasta, meat ragout, marinara sauce, béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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 wonderful 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 housemade 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.
Yelp/ Nikki W.
This Charlotte institution is a neighborhood favorite that’s renowned locally for its high-quality ingredients, attention to detail, and housemade 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.
Yelp/ Raison D’Etre D.
Lucca-born chef Mirco Morganti is bringing a taste of Italy and France to Fargo. 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.
Everything chef Jonathon Sawyer touches turns to gold, and that’s certainly true of his three year-old Trentina, which he runs with his wife Amelia. His pastas are all stunning, but the true showcase of his culinary chops is the classic Bucatini Della Nonna. The bucatini is housemade, and it’s tossed in a simple sauce of heirloom tomato butter, Soave white wine, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s not easy to make something this simple.
Yelp/ Jennifer F.
This elegant OKC hotspot 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.
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 the state) 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.
Yelp/ Rachel B.
A Philly 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 Cicale 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.
Yelp/ Alexa D.
With only 18 seats, you’ll feel like you’re dining in the 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 housemade pasta with creamy chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, and it’s homey, humble, and supremely comforting.
Yelp/ Jing L.
Chef Sean Brock can truly do no wrong. The mastermind behind Husk and a self-proclaimed savior of indigenous Southern ingredients, his skill extends even to pasta. The spaghetti chitarra served at his newish McCrady’s Tavern is a prime example: It’s not just great; it’s the best pasta dish in the state. The thick strands of housemade spaghetti are partnered with local shrimp, chile, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and a big dollup of fresh burrata, and all the flavors work so well together you’ll completely forget that Italians tend to shun combining cheese and seafood. Hey, when it tastes good it tastes good.
Yelp/ Gene A.
A warm and inviting family-owned Black Hills destination, the 20 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, 33 year-old chef Aleaha Ghere, last year. The menu is going through some changes, but 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.
Yelp/ Dez S.
Il Mulino is one of New York City’s finest Italian restaurants, and its sister restaurant Trattoria Il Mulino is more casual but has established a reputation as a top spot for expertly-prepared pasta dishes. The formula is apparently replicable, because the Nashville offshoot is spectacular. Chef Thomas Cook has given the New York menu a twist and made it his own, but the pest pasta on the menu is a timeless classic: fresh handmade potato gnocchi, perfectly sauced with real-deal Bolognese and expertly-made béchamel.
Yelp/ Michael O.
A downtown 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.
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 restaurant for years. The homemade fresh pastas are all standouts, but you’ll find the best dish on the menu – and the one that Valter’s 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.
Yelp/ Linda B.
One of Burlington’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 housemade sausage.
Yelp/ Jozef V.
Dal Grano has only been in business for about a year, but it’s already made waves in Northern Virginia for its wide selection of housemade 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 than combines tomato, pancetta, onion, and pecorino.
Yelp/ Amanda M.
Chef Doug Psaltis’ RPM Italian had such great success in Chicago that the team decided to open in D.C., and it’s apparently true that you can capture lightning in a bottle twice. This classy and upscale Italian restaurant really excels in the housemade 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.
Yelp/ Sarah C.
Ethan Stowell has a lock on the Seattle 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.
This Charleston favorite was founded more than 35 years ago by Nell Fazio and her son, chef Danny Fazio. Nell recently passed, but Danny still runs the restaurant with his wife, Marsha. A true family-operation, Fazio’s specializes in the red-sauce basics, and they also happen to turn out some mean fried chicken. But if you want to get a real sense of what’s kept the place in operation for so long, just order the spaghetti and meatballs; al delte spaghetti is topped with luscious tomato sauce and hearty meatballs, both from old family recipes.
Yelp/ Marie E.
Renowned chef Paul Bartolotta’s flagship Italian restaurant is located on the outskirts of Milwaukee, and it’s been drawing guests from downtown for more than 20 years. It’s easily Milwaukee’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.
Yelp/ Jasmine C.
A Jackson Hole must-visit inside the Anvil Hotel, 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 housemade 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 unwelcome at a standout restaurant in one of America's best cities for food.