According to the National Pasta Association, October is National Pasta Month. And while most of us don’t really need a reason to consume mass quantities of carbs, in spite of the world conspiring against us with a variety of scare tactics, why not take the opportunity to celebrate and savor some spaghetti?
In Los Angeles there are copious choices for Italian food and many of these restaurants get accolade upon accolade. While these are well deserved – we will always love you, Bucato! — there are some overlooked gems that deserve a little of our attention. So we’re here to sing the praises of a sextet restaurants, all with fantastic, homemade pasta.
6. Ristorante Al Mare
It’s difficult to imagine getting actual good food to eat on the Santa Monica Pier that isn’t deep-fried. Ristorante Al Mare aims to change all that.The restaurant serves up a great deal of noodles, some made in-house. There are ravioli, gnocchi and chitarrine. The most luscious and all the better for being eaten directly over the Pacific Ocean, is the chitarrine nere ai frutti di mare. This squid ink pasta comes with calamari, shrimp, mussels and clams in a spicy tomato sauce. Also pretty great is the maccheroncini al fume, a rigatoni with a smoked pancetta, procuitto and speck. Try to get the table on the patio overlooking the action. 250 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica; 310-458-4448.
5. Fig & Olive
Adjacent to the hustle and bustle of Melrose, this restaurant somehow manages to feel serene and unhurried. Chef Pascal Lorange brings a general Mediterranean feel to the menu, heavy with local, seasonal ingredients – the pastas get changed up depending on what's available. At the moment, two fall-leaning choices definitely put you in the mood for fireplaces and cozy sweaters. The pumpkin sage ravioli and the zucchini blossom and goat cheese ravioli meld housemade pasta with farmers market produce. The pumpkin, with chicken, ricotta, chermoula and toasted pumpkin seeds bursts with flavor and may even get you to drop your pumpkin spice latte habit for something a little more reputable. 8490 Melrose Pl., West Hollywood; 310-360-9100.
4. Chaya Venice
Perhaps happy hour and sushi are the first things that come to mind about Chaya Venice, and certainly this local institution does those two things well. What Chaya also does well is freshly made pasta with an air of decadence. The pappardelle with American Kobe beef Bolognese recruits maitake mushrooms and truffle oil to create an awesome umami party in your mouth. The noodles provide just the right backdrop for the perfectly balanced sauce. Another great option is the lobster and rock shrimp ravioli with a basil-pesto cream sauce. To drink, Chaya mixes a farmers market cocktail of the month, for example, a Jim Beam, Luxardo, brandy-infused cherry number that was sublime. 110 Navy St., Venice; 310-396-1179.
Having trained at French Laundry with Thomas Keller, chef Bryan Podgorski brings a respect and knowledge for ingredients that is a breath of fresh air for Westwood. The house-made pastas are spot on, including a delicious and traditional orecchiette with spiced turkey sausage and Swiss chard. What’s unexpected is the playfulness that Podgorski can bring to the table, most remarkably the bacon and eggs ravioli. That’s right, that’s bacon and egg ravioli. The noodle pillows come filled with ricotta cheese and soft boiled egg yolk then topped with wilted spinach and a brown butter-bacon vinaigrette. Served at brunch, the this ravioli pairs well with one of Tanzy’s handcrafted drinks, like Can’t Beet This, a beet, ginger and toasted green cardamom concoction. The juiced drinks come straight or with the pleasurable addition of prosecco or Veuve Clicquot. 10840 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-307-7004.
2. Milo and Olive
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a woman who bakes like a dream can also whip up an amazing pasta dish. Zoe Nathan, co-proprietor of Milo and Olive, does just about everything well. The house-made pastas at this small and charming establishment are carried out with aplomb by executive chef Erin Eastland. Pasta is a fixture on the menu with some seasonal changes to the ingredients. At the moment there is a roasted sunchoke ravioli but if you miss that, don’t worry, the permanent choices include a tagliatelle with classic Bolognese, and a cheese and sausage lasagna with pickled chile and fontina cream. Before you leave, stop by the dessert counter and take something home. Look for Milo and Olive's expansion sometime in the winter. They are taking over the space vacated by Haute Seconds, with twenty or so tables added. 2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-453-6776.
If you find yourself at Adoteca, you will quickly find yourself transfixed by chef Antonio Mure’s way with a noodle. Hailing from Sicily but having trained and worked in other regions of Italy, Mure combines elements of both northern and southern cuisine. There are quite a few house-made pastas to choose from, including a delicious tagliolini neri, or squid ink noodles, similar in shape to fettuccini and the home-made pheasant and chestnut mousse. Raviolini are good enough to go out of your way for. But the dish that will steal your heart and wake you up with a craving for more is the red beet tagliolini with quail ragu on a bed of Taleggio cheese fondue. A hit at Ado in Venice, Mure resisted having the exact same dish at the newer Adoteca — but cooler heads prevailed, and if the customers have any say, the tagiolini rossi isn’t going anywhere. 11712 San Vicente, Brentwood; 310-826-9222.