One day not too long ago Francesco Sinatra (no relation to Ol' Blue Eyes) stumbled upon a vacant storefront in a tiny mini-mall at the corner of Pico and Arlington in his Country Club Park neighborhood. He decided it would be the perfect spot for his family-run operation, Pasta Sisters, an Italian take-out joint with a heavy emphasis on the eponymous dish: homemade fresh pasta.
He partnered up with his mom, Paola Da Re, and younger sister, Giorgia Sinatra, in opening the homespun establishment. Francesco gives visitors a warm, jovial welcome as they enter the storefront, and explains the dishes in meticulous, loving detail if need be. Sinatra tended bar at Hollywood haunt Madeo for a number of years, and the kindness and care needed for that job still comes through as he hands over plates of pasta with a conspiratorial “you know…it even tastes better than it looks.”
The name “Pasta Sisters” is an homage to Paola and her older sisters, Luisa and Patricia. They grew up in Padua, a small, picturesque town in northern Italy assisting their mother in the preparation of homemade pasta. The pastas at this restaurant are the realization of years of meticulous, painstaking practice.
Pasta Sisters has been open for just over a year doing brisk, primarily takeout business. When they first opened, there were no tables in the tiny space and the expansive, open kitchen took up roughly two-thirds of the room. It was exclusively geared toward prepared dishes to go. Due to customer demand for dine-in seating, a few token tables were added, in addition to three counter stools overlooking bustling Pico Boulevard. (The popular Gus's Fried Chicken is a few blocks away and the immediate area is undergoing the restaurant renaissance of sorts.) You probably won't want to linger too long if you're eating there since it's still a bare-bones, no frills utilitarian environment (i.e. uncomfortable stools; tiny tables) and there's nothing much stronger than Chinotto sparkling soda to drink. A Super Tuscan or aged Barbaresco goes better with the rustic pastas.
The fresh pastas, including tagliatelle, pappardelle, and spaghetti, have that delicate, subtle flavor unique to homemade preparations. If you get there early enough, you can witness the cooks making the pasta. The tagliatelle pairs with a rich bolognese sauce, the beefy, though not heavy, tomato-inflected sauce complementing the broad, flat strands of toothsome pasta. Spaghetti bottarga is sometimes offered. If it is, you would be remiss not to order it. Bottarga is dried, pressed mullet roe imported from the Italian island of Sardinia. The classically al dente strands of spaghetti are napped in a light olive oil-based sauce and topped with tiny, bright, ochre-hued specks of mullet roe.
This spaghetti bottarga preparation can go head to head with even the big Italian stalwarts in town, such as Madeo and Angelini Osteria, at about a third the price and with no loss in quality. (Most of Pasta Sisters pastas are under $10).
The dishes have more of a restrained touch than what you may be used to from heavy, old-school, red-sauce, checker tablecloth Italian restaurants, which is a refreshing change of pace.
Even though you should be ordering their pastas, grilled wild salmon and chicken milanese with roasted potatoes are on the menu.
There is a small dessert menu, too: a buttery, shortbread-topped apricot crostata filled and a creamy tiramisu.
Pasta Sisters' unlikely location just adds to the unlikely charm.
3343 W. Pico Blvd, Arlington Heights.; (323) 870-5271, pastasisters.com.