In the very first episode of Chef’s Table, the one about Massimo Bottura and his legendary restaurant Osteria Francescana in Emilia-Romagna, the chef describes his childhood connection to tortellini over a series of shots of the pasta-making process—flour flying, dough rolling, anonymous hands pressing and folding little balls of meat into immaculate rings of tortellini. Like much of Chef’s Table—and so much TV in general these days—it’s enough to get your Postmates fingers twitching.
Whether Netflix-induced or naturally occurring, when you have a craving for fresh pasta that old box of spaghetti just won’t do. Fortunately, there are more than a few restaurants in L.A. that make fresh pasta by hand and in-house at a stunningly high level, both in hyper-regional purist styles and modern Cal-Ital mash-ups. You may not be able to eat Massimo Bottura’s mother’s tortellini, but these restaurants will serve you the next best thing. Here are five great places to get handmade pasta.
Weave your way past the Scylla and Charybdis of Triple Beam and Go Get Em Tiger and duck into Chef Matt Molina’s Hippo, a collaboration between Molina and Randy Clement and Joe Capella of the ever-expanding Silver Lake Wine Cinematic Universe.
Hippo is a happy bow-trussed box with colorful swirls of cartoonish foliage painted on the wall surrounding the open kitchen. The crowd alternates between dressed-up professional and dressed-down bohemian, and the restaurant balances those two interests, fun and whimsical with serious food.
The pastas lean non-traditional, but the noodles are crafted with an Italian master’s attention to detail: plump tortellini and perfect discs of the Northwest Italian corzetti stampati, about the size of a sand dollar and stamped like one too, whirlpools and fleur- de-lis pressed into each noodle. They sit surrounded by white beans and crispy bits of pancetta, resting in a sauce of white wine and butter that is as much a broth as it is a sauce—you’ll want to drink it like broth, at least. 5916 1/2, N. Figueroa St., Highland Park.
The best gelato in L.A. is actually in Altadena, tucked away in a dark corner of a shopping center all the way at the top of Lake, where the mountains loom over the neighborhood like they’re trying to pick a fight. It looks like a gelato shop inside, sure, but a gelato shop run by an eccentric artist, a freezer case at the door with a massive table further in, and a hodgepodge of equipment and artifacts in varying states of functionality scattered around the room.
There is dinner here too, served just 6 to 10 p.m. every Wednesday through Sunday. On the menu there is a seasonal Tuscan soup and a crispy-crusted oil-drenched focaccia, and about four or so handmade pastas, including gnocchi with pesto and tagliatelle with meat sauce. Best of all is a plate of the uncommonly shaped pasta called pici, a Tuscan specialty, pinched at the top (hence the name) and rolled into thick strings like fat spaghetti. They are outstanding, sticky with bright tomato sauce and that satisfying chew that only comes from thick noodles that are perfectly cooked. 749 E. Altadena Dr., Altadena.
At the center of Venice’s buzzy Felix, there is a glass box that juts out into the dining room. Most nights, pasta master Evan Funke stands at a table in the center of that box like Magneto in his plastic prison, a chamber built purely for him. But instead of diabolical plans, Funke is rolling dough and making pasta, cutting wide rows for pappardelle and gently shaping little ears of orecchiette with laser-sharp focus. When those pastas land at your table, it’s clear his obsession pays—the pasta is magnificent, cooked al dente so that each bite is substantial, regardless of whether you’ve ordered the tonnarelli or the rigatoni, the spaghetti or those lovely orecchiette. 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice.
Los Feliz has plenty of casual neighborhood restaurants, but La Pergoletta may be the pinnacle of the form. Tucked away in a Hillhurst strip mall, the restaurant is big enough that getting a table on a weeknight is relatively easy, but cozy enough that it’s always warm and lively inside. It’s also casual and affordable and damn good.
They make almost all of their pasta by hand in house and allow you to mix and match noodles with sauces, building your own dinner that you can order over and over or change up with every visit. And there will be many visits, because those pastas are excellent, springy fresh noodles that hold tight to the sauce like family reunited. The fettuccine verdi are made with spinach, which gives a hit of color and vegetal flavor that works well with their creamier sauces, and the rigatoni are thick and weighty, an ideal pair for some of the brighter sauces on the menu. The fusilli, though, may be the best of all, substantial but not the least bit heavy, soaking up flavor like a sponge from any sauce you choose. 1802 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz.
There are a handful of restaurants in the greater downtown area that turn out very good Italian food in grownup settings for the area’s high concentration of well-to-do office workers and businesspeople. There may be an open kitchen with a wood-fired oven, a strong cocktail program, industrial-chic design flourishes, and the happy murmur of after-work dinner. What sets Factory Kitchen apart, though, is its roster of pastas, about eight in a variety of shapes and sauces.
The unquestioned star of the list is the mandilli di seta, a Genoese specialty of flat sheet pasta like an extra-thin lasagna, coated in rich pesto fortified with almonds and layered on the plate in twisting folds that make a silky, deeply satisfying bite. 1300 Factory Place #101, downtown.
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