The 18 Best Pasta Dishes in New York City, Picked by Top Chefs

Elegant bundles of veal tortellini at Foul Witch. Photographer: Evan Ortiz/Bloomberg (Evan Ortiz/Photographer: Evan Ortiz/Bloombe)

(Bloomberg) -- The dog days of summer conjure daydreams of ice cream, picnics, barbecues … and heaping plates of hearty pasta?

“I used to think I needed to make the pastas lighter in summer,” says Andrew Carmellini, who serves notable noodles at New York’s Locanda Verde, Café Carmellini and Bar Primi. But in the hottest months, he says, “we’d still sell so much carbonara and Bolognese, customers freaked out when I tried to change it.”

Now he makes them year-round.

New York is a pasta town, after all, dating to the mass arrival of Italian immigrants in the 1800s. And as with other city staples, namely pizza, bagels and burgers, there are a lot of strong opinions about them. Especially where to find the best.

So we polled a few experts—the country’s top chefs—to tell us what they love. Alongside cult favorites like Don Angie, there are newer options such as Torrisi, where co-owner Rich Torrisi serves cavatelli with an allspice- and chile-packed ragu inspired by the Jamaican beef patty snacks he used to get from food trucks outside his school. At Raf’s nearby, chef Mary Attea channels southern Italy for spaghetti heaped with bottarga, the intense, salty dried tuna roe. At Daphne’s in Brooklyn, chef Jamie Tao makes his ragu with fatty, luscious beef cheek that wedges itself in the nooks of spiral gemelli.

Here are some highlights to enjoy this summer—and spring, fall and winter.

Veal Tortellini With AmarettoFoul Witch, East Village, Manhattan  

Carlo Mirarchi has established cult followings for his Brooklyn pizza destination Roberta’s and for Blanca, the fine dining counter next door. Mirarchi’s latest is the brick-walled, Italian-accented Foul Witch in Manhattan. A must-order on the rotating pasta menu is a subtly sweet, grandma-inspired stuffed pasta in brodo. Light and aromatic, “the broth is highly addictive,” says Wildair alum Quang Nguyen. “I could probably eat three portions back-to-back-to-back.” 

—Recommended by Quang Nguyen, chef of Demo in New York 

Pici all’Arrabbiata Lodi, Midtown, Manhattan

Amid the throngs of tourists packing Rockefeller Center, this stylish aperitivo bar is a peaceful oasis with an all-day menu from chef Ignacio Mattos. The plump, piquant tomato-sauced pici is tossed with chunks of salty guanciale (cured pork jowl) and is the obsession of Kwame Onwuachi, who was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a Rising Star Chef in 2019. “I have been craving it every day since the moment I had it,” he says. “It’s so simplistic and incredibly nuanced at the same time. Layered with flavor from the guanciale, tomato and chiles, it perfectly complements the thick pasta.”

—Recommended by Kwame Onwuachi, chef-owner of Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi in New York  

Rigatoni CarbonaraBar Primi, East Village, Manhattan

Occupying a corner on the rowdy Bowery is the two-story Bar Primi, where outdoor tables get packed in warm weather. Carmellini’s menu is a crowd-pleasing roundup of Italian antipasti and secondi favorites, but for Mitsunobu Nagae, owner and executive chef of L’Abeille, there’s only one order: rigatoni carbonara with guanciale, pecorino and egg yolk. “It’s a classic for a reason! Just a few ingredients, and done right, it’s the perfect blend of flavors,” Nagae says. “I’ve yet to taste a better carbonara in the city.”

—Recommended by Mitsunobu Nagae, chef-partner of L’Abeille and L’Abeille à Côté in New York

Tagliatelle with Parmigiano and Prosciutto Via Carota, West Village, Manhattan

The wait to get into this expertly rustic, no-reservations dining spot infamously takes hours. Few are deterred, including Louis Lin when he’s in town from Portland, Oregon. He shouts out one of the best-known dishes, the tangle of silky, ruffle-edged tagliatelle, topped with slices of prosciutto and a handful of grated cheese. “It’s exactly what you expect from them: simplicity, intentionality, execution and crave-ability. And most of the time, that’s all I want out of a bowl of pasta,” says Lin.

—Recommended by Louis Lin, chef-co-owner of Xiao Ye in Portland, Oregon

Spaghetti NeroBacaro, Lower East Side, Manhattan

Bacaro has been operating on Division Street since 2007, before the area became a nightlife hotspot. Alex Raij is a longtime fan of the restaurant’s inky black spaghetti nero. “It’s not overdressed, and the actual pasta is somewhere between a chitarra and linguine,” observes Raij of the noodles’ distinct bite. And unlike every other version of the dish, it features squid ink in the potent cuttlefish-tomato-cream sauce, rather than in the pasta, so its briny flavor is more pervasive. “It’s very consistent and a little spicy and light on its feet.” 

—Recommended by Alex Raij, chef-owner of Txikito and La Vara in New York 

Shell Pasta With Ramp SausageRucola, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

This dining room on a picturesque, residential Brooklyn block is what Alinea and Per Se alum Greg Baxtrom calls “the perfect neighborhood restaurant.” His current favorite dish? “A delicious shell pasta with ramp sausage, English peas and pecorino cream.” The house-made shells are a staple on the short pasta menu; the sausage changes seasonally. One more thing to know about Rucola, says Baxtrom: “It’s also great for celebrity spotting. Every time I go in there, there’s someone famous.”

—Recommended by Greg Baxtrom, executive chef-owner of Olmsted, Patti Ann’s and 5 Acres in New York

Lasagna PinwheelsDon Angie, West Village, Manhattan 

Since it opened in 2017, Don Angie has become a prime destination for gorgeous, playful pastas. Exhibit A is chef-owners Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito’s three-meat pinwheel lasagna, served in thick slices to show off the rolled layers. “I’ve never tasted anything like the lasagna at Don Angie,” says Max Wittawat of the buzzy Bangkok Supper Club. “Lasagna tends to be too heavy, but their use of homemade pasta makes the dish feel lighter, more enjoyable—and the whipped ricotta is creamier but not too dense.” The secret in the ragu? Thai fish sauce. “I’m obsessed,” says Wittawat. It’s also the favorite of Aquavit’s Emma Bengtsson, who labels it “a must-have pasta in New York. I love the crispy bits on the outside and the creamy inside.”

—Recommended by Max Wittawat, executive chef of Bangkok Supper Club in New York, and Emma Bengtsson, executive chef of Aquavit in New York  

Buffalo Milk CaramelleDon Angie, West Village, Manhattan 

Simone Tong of Zoé Tong in Austin says her favorite New York pasta right now is Don Angie’s candy-styled buffalo milk caramelle that, with its twisted ends, conjures a wrapped confection. It’s filled with creamy ricotta and strewn in a sweet-sharp citrus sauce. The two-tone look comes from ribbons of black sesame pasta. “Black sesame, candied kumquat—all my favorite flavor profiles,” Tong raves. “And the shape makes my inner child smile so big!”

—Recommended by Simone Tong, executive chef of Zoé Tong in Austin

Uovo Raviolo di Nino Bergese and Grandma Walking Through the Forest in EmiliaRezdôra, Flatiron District, Manhattan

To get to Stefano Secchi’s terrific little restaurant, walk down an unremarkable Flatiron side street and descend a few steps into a sliver of a space where his artful pastas have captivated notable New York cooks. Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert declares the uovo raviolo di Nino Bergese—in which one giant round is stuffed with herbed ricotta and an egg yolk that flows all over just as its dome is cut—his favorite. “It’s very original, difficult to execute, but most importantly, delicious.”

Salil Mahta has a different idea about the best order. He favors the brilliant, green-colored, spinach-flavored cappelletti stuffed with sweet roasted leeks and given a fanciful name: Grandma Walking Through the Forest in Emilia. “For me to crave a vegetarian pasta dish, that in itself is phenomenal.”

—Recommended by Eric Ripert, chef-co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York, and Salil Mehta, founder-chef of Fungi Hospitality Group, whose seven restaurants include Laut and Singapura

Cavatelli With Jamaican Beef RaguTorrisi, SoHo, Manhattan

Like its sister restaurant Carbone, Torrisi is a perennially packed power dining spot. But the superb menu extends beyond an Italian-American highlight reel to include oversized, shell-shaped cavatelli in a meaty sauce punctuated with sweet and hot Caribbean flavors. Among its fans is Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose restaurant empire includes the Tin Building food hall and the ABC Kitchens. “It’s the most pleasantly surprising dish, packing spice and punch, and it’s also comforting just as pasta should be,” he says. “It’s become one of my favorite restaurants. I go back time and time again just for this pasta.”

—Recommended by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose five dozen restaurants include his flagship Jean-Georges in New York

Spaghetti PomodoroSistina, Upper East Side, Manhattan 

Sistina has been an elegant uptown dining staple since chef-owner Guiseppe Bruno opened it 40 years ago. “It’s a really special place that feels truly Italian,” notes Daniel Humm. “They make the most incredible spaghetti pomodoro.” Seductive in its simplicity, the dish has been served since Day 1 and is a consistent bestseller. A blend of tomatoes that adds varying degrees of sweetness is quickly cooked with a little garlic and onion, and a generous amount of olive oil, then tossed with the spaghetti for a creamy, sunny finale.

—Recommended by Daniel Humm, chef-owner of Eleven Madison Park in New York

Gemelli With Beef Cheek RaguDaphne’s, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

This recently opened hot spot updates the city’s ubiquitous red sauce classics with options such as grilled pork collar with garlic chives, as well as green tomato vodka sauce-topped salsify. The effect is cozy and fun and “really delicious,” says Erik Ramirez of Llama Inn. He highlights Jamie Tao’s gemelli with beef cheek ragu because “it was the right amount of rich and hearty and gave off Bolognese vibes. I also liked that it didn’t have a lot of butter in it.”

 —Recommended by Erik Ramirez, chef-owner of Llama Inn in New York and London

SpaghettiFour Twenty Five, Midtown, Manhattan

The newest big-deal restaurant in Midtown is the Norman Foster-designed Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant Four Twenty Five, named for its Park Avenue address. There are 45-foot-high ceilings and well-spaced tables and a simply named spaghetti from Jonathan Benno that makes the most of few ingredients—especially one with a strong umami hit. “It’s sublime: creamy sea urchin atop a nest of spaghetti tossed in garlic, lemon, olive oil and spicy pepperoncini,” says Grayson Altenberg. “It’s beautiful, because of the simplicity of the ingredients, and it showcases the urchin during its peak season.”

—Recommended by Grayson Altenberg, executive chef at the Ivory Peacock in New York

Rigatoni With Wild Ramp Pesto, Asparagus, Favas and PecorinoAita, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

This fun neighborhood restaurant has a light-filled dining room, an inviting covered patio and plenty of aperitivo action. For chef Shenarri Freeman, who oversees the kitchens of plant-based restaurants on the East and West coasts, a selling point is that the dish she recommends is based on what’s best at the market. “I like their spin on the pesto pasta. It’s always seasonal and vegetable-forward,” she explains. Given a menu that highlights produce from farmers markets, in spring that means chunks of asparagus and shelled favas tossed in with the noodles and oniony ramp pesto.

—Recommended by Shenarri Freeman, chef of Cadence in New York and Ubuntu in Los Angeles

Spaghetti With Tuna Bottarga and Calabrian ChiliesRaf’s, NoHo, Manhattan

“The spaghetti with tuna bottarga is my idea of perfection on a plate,” says Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of Dirt Candy. The Sicilian-inspired dish comes from Mary Attea, who with her partners has transformed the original Parisi Bakery space, where the brick ovens produced delectable Italian loaves, into a cozy hangout with a long Mediterranean menu. Here, the salted dried roe melts into the pasta strands and imbues them with the taste of the sea.

—Recommended by Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of Dirt Candy in New York

Cacio e PepeRoscioli, SoHo, Manhattan 

Two hundred years ago, Roscioli in Rome got its start; since then, it’s been selling top-quality Italian grocery staples and turning out the Italian capital’s best-known dishes. The year-old New York outpost, set on a hidden corner in SoHo, doesn’t disappoint on the classics. “The cacio e pepe is simple,  but the flavor is fantastic. It’s served with good-quality cheese, and the pasta is perfectly boiled,” says Hiroki Odo of Italy’s famed dish (that’s increasingly everywhere). It’s made here with sharp, nutty pecorino and a house peppercorn blend.

—Recommended by Hiroki Odo, chef-founder of Odo, HALL and the Gallery in New York

Tagliolini With White Venison Ragu Terre, Park Slope, Brooklyn

At this Park Slope storefront restaurant, there’s plenty of charcuterie and cheese to pair with more than 100 natural wines by the glass. But Jay Kumar raves about a different combination: ribbony tagliolini dressed with a gamy ragu and garnished with crunchy nuts. “It’s a creamy white sauce infused with the rich flavors of venison, the subtle nuttiness of almonds and the fragrance of rosemary,” he says. “The combination is absolutely amazing.”

—Recommended by Jay Kumar, chef of Lore in New York


©2024 Bloomberg L.P.