Twirl Through This Celebrations at These Prime Pasta Joints
Push those diets aside this month, as October marks a month-long ode to pasta in all of its forms—and where better to celebrate than a city with as much Italian history as New York? From splashy red-sauce joints to a hip new pasta bar, here’s where to put your fork and spoon to their best use.
THE NEWEST HOTSPOT
Sola (330 West Broadway)
Despite being just a stone’s throw from Little Italy, the August-opened Sola Pasta Bar is certainly doing things differently in the realm of Italian joints. First of all, the kitchen is the centerpiece of the restaurant and entirely open, so you can watch your pasta being tossed in a wok as your chef tells you about the roots of whichever of the eight pastas you chose.
The head chef and owner Massimo Sola earned a Michilin star in Italy before coming here to fulfill a dream of bringing the highest grade of pasta to the masses (prices hover around $16) as well as test out a concept of incorporating chefs into the dining experience; don’t be surprised if, even though you didn’t snag one of the 16 seats at the bar around the open kitchen, your chef hand-delivers your tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms or pesto-flecked trofie with potatoes directly to your table. Using woks, too, is certainly an experimental way to cook this carbohydrate, but it’s proving a success—this spot is as hot as its burners.
WORTH THE SPLURGE
Carbone (181 Thompson St.)
It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years since the space that had formerly housed Rocco’s—a 90-year-old Italian restaurant in the West Village—was reopened as Carbone. The mid-century, Godfather-esque dining room with tile floors and black walls is still as buzzy and critically praised as when it first opened, though perhaps that is to be expected for a restaurant run by the dream team of chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi and restaurateur Je Zalaznick.
This is not a place that warrants bemoaning the loss of a neighborhood institution; Carbone’s theatrics will charm away any such feelings. Dishes are enormous, even by made-to-share standards, and though price tags are often equally large, they’re worth it. Veal parmesan comes smothered in browned mozzarella still bubbling; waiters in Zac Posen–designed uniforms prepare Caesar salad tableside; and pastas are each homemade and designed to best suit its sauce—supremely light tortellini in Bolognese, chewy rigatoni in a slightly spiced vodka sauce. A shot of Sambuca will help you swallow the bill.
LIKE NONA USED TO MAKE
Don Peppe (135-58 Lefferts Ave., Queens)
One of the fun things about making dinner plans in New York is that they can all too easily turn into a field trip if you’re after a certain food at its absolute best. This often sees those after the best old-school Italian-American food venturing out into Queens, nearly all the way to JFK International Airport, to Don Peppe, an Italian-American fixture founded by an Italian of the same name in 1968.
The family-style recipes used under his guard have been carefully maintained and are, in large part, still used. This means that, in classic Italian style, most dishes are a lesson in how far just a few ingredients can go. A pride point, of course, is the pasta, for which these old recipes translate into meat sauce that is light but not watery, ricotta-stuffed shells sandwiched between mozzarella baked on top and a heavenly red sauce on the bottom, and clam sauce so spot-on that seems to be a part of the pasta itself. Wash it down with the generous pours of house wine, and don’t forget cash—along with reservations, cards aren’t taken here.
FOR THE FAMILY
Carmine’s (2450 Broadway; 200 W. 44th St.)
It’s rare that restaurants as large-scale and touristic also have as much critical acclaim as Carmine’s. In the 27 years since the original was opened in a former ballroom on the Upper West Side, Carmine’s has opened a sister location Carmine’s in Times Square that’s just as grand, along with more far-flung outposts in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Washington D.C., and Atlantis in the Bahamas. Whether it’s after a day spent at the Natural History Museum and Central Park or at a Broadway show, Carmine’s is where to go to keep the entertainment rolling.
Big tables are filled with diners slung over deep banquettes enjoying a raucously good time and delectable Southern Italian cuisine. An exhaustive menu has every kind of antipasti, parmigiana, saltimbocca, and marsala imaginable, in addition to four different porterhouses and five types of pastas that can come with any one of some 20 different sauces. Gargantuan portions means that no one will go hungry.