Whether rolled by hand, extruded in-house or straight from a box, it’s hard to go wrong with a plate of pasta. And in Philadelphia, we’re blessed with a vast and varied landscape of Italian restaurants that do old school red sauce and regional Italian, with countless options for meatballs, marinara and mezzelune. Here’s a look at seven of the most perfect pasta plates in the city.
Robiola Francobolli at Osteria
The menu at this North Broad pasta palace might ebb and flow with the seasons, but these lovely postage stamp-shaped beauties are always on offer. Filled with mildly tangy robiola cheese from Northern Italy and dressed with shaved trumpet mushrooms, thyme and lots of good butter, there are never enough francobolli to go around
640 N. Broad St.; 215-763-0920
Meatballs at Little Nonna’s
Chef Marcie Turney might not come from an Italian-American background, but you’d never guess it after trying her spaghetti and meatballs. Using the holy trinity of Italian-American meats (beef, pork and veal), she adds intrigue to the dish by filling her meatballs with molten fontina before setting them atop a mountain of spaghetti.
1234 Locust St.; 215-546-2100
Spinach Gnocchi at Vetri
The menu at Marc Vetri’s tasting menu-only flagship is rewritten on a daily basis, but his feather-light spinach gnocchi have earned a permanent place at the table. Made with breadcrumbs and grana padano, these little puffs of spinach are finished with nothing more than butter, shaved ricotta salata and some parmigiano-reggiano.
1312 Spruce St.; 215-732-3478
Maccheroni alla Mugnaia at Le Virtu
There’s a reason this sharable, single-strand pasta dish has gotten so much attention since making its debut so many years ago. At ten plus feet in length, the pasta dish is an exercise in craftsmanship and in flavor. Finished with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pecorino and a garnish it yourself basket of chiles, this Abbruzese import is a must-try.
1927 E. Passyunk Ave.; 215-271-5626
Lasagna at Dante & Luigi’s
Old school in the best possible ways, the lasagna at this South Philly institution is a textbook version of the red sauce classic. More ricotta and meat than pasta, a perfectly cut rectangle arrives covered in long-simmered red gravy with just the right amount of melty mozzarella (pictured above).
762 S. 10th St.; 215-922-9501
Tagliatelle al Limone at Zeppoli
Just a quick trip over the bridge to Collingswood, chef Joey Balladino is brining fantastic Sicilian fare to South Jersey. His pasta menu is made up of rarely seen dishes like pesto trapanese made with almonds, pistachios and a deceptively simple plate of tagliatelle — all tossed with lemon and briny bottarga (pictured above).
618 Collings Ave., Collingswood, New Jersey; 856-854-2670
Lumachelle all’Amatriciana at A Mano
This newcomer from chef Townsend Wentz does right by this Roman osteria go-to (pictured at top). Tossing snail shell-shaped pasta with a deeply porky tomato sauce made with chunks of guanciale and marjoram, this dish needs nothing more than a shower of salty fiore sardo, a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese to emerge old-country perfect.
2244 Fairmount Ave.; 215-236-1114