Giacomino Drago's restaurant is always good for antipasti, carpaccio, pasta, and risotto and reminds you of the homey neighborhood cafés found all over Italy.
Best Squid Ink Risotto, August 2008
The color of soot with a tinge of midnight blue, squid ink risotto is an earthy, dramatic dish. At Il Pastaio
, the Mediterranean specialty is cooked al dente and teems with bay scallops, puffy shrimp, and delicate calamari. It's bathed in, of course, squid ink, flown in twice a week from the waters off Italy or France. This risotto nero recipe originated at the Drago brothers' flagship restaurant, Drago, and is executed here with even more swagger. Maybe it's the lone cherry tomato on top or the leftover broth, which is just enough for dipping bread.
Best Spaghetti and Meatballs, August 2013
In this age of no-cream
carbonara and Instagram-ready orecchiette
, spaghetti and meatballs is, at best, an underappreciated throwback. At Il Pastaio brothers Giacomino and Celestino Drago treat the dish with all due respect, following their grandmother's recipe from the Messina region in Sicily. Technically the pasta they use is bucatini
(a narrow hole runs through each al dente strand), but it wins over purists with two petite fork-friendly meatballs—Nonna's polpette—
of braised ground beef and veal with garlic, basil, olive oil, pecorino, and a slight kick of flaked chili. Deliciously timeless.