Today is National Pasta Day, and local options don’t disappoint. From high-end plates that’ll blow up your Instagram to bowls of slurpable comfort that’ll embrace you like a warm hug, here’s where to celebrate all things noodle in Philly.
In honor of the “holiday,” each and every pasta dish at this Italian wine bar hidden along Front Street is available for half price. Chef Matt Gentile, who previously cooked at Lacroix, Ela and Parc, does amazing things with semolina. Standout options include creamy burrata-filled agnolotti and a housemade chitarra (like rough-cut linguine) tossed with a seafood extravaganza of blue crab gravy, lump crabmeat and clams. All of these usually run $23-$25 for a full portion, but today only they’re just $12.50-$15.50 each.
14 N. Front St., 215-922-7800
Set on a triangular strip of sidewalk between the Italian Market and East Passyunk’s restaurant row, this recently revived pub has a menu of throwback favorites done right. Case in point: the pasta entrees, from a big ol’ South Philly-style bowl of gravy and meatballs (also available vegan; $14) to the spicy linguini and clams and one of the absolute best renditions of classic chicken parm and spaghetti in the city.
1338 S. 10th St., 215-800-1992
Walnut Street Cafe
At this newish dining destination in the FMC Tower there are usually specials in addition to the handful of pasta dishes already on the menu ($14-$16). That’s worthy news, because chef Daniel Eddy gives his second in command free reign over creating them — and that second in command is none other than Manny Perez, who for years cooked in Marc Vetri’s restaurants and soaked up every bit of noodle knowledge he could. Bonus: Get there early and start with the Citywide Special of the day, a Miller High Life and shot of Jim Beam for $5.
2929 Walnut St., 215-867-8067
You don’t go to Olive Garden to be culinarily wowed, you go for comfort. As Helen Rosner wrote in this (truly amazing) longread on the chain’s place in American culture, every single outpost has a similar feeling. So if you want to relive birthday dinners with your uncle without any of the awkwardness, sink into one of the rolling chairs and order up a giant bowl of fettucine alfredo (at $13, it’ll be enough for two meals — at least). The Center City Olive Garden is long gone, but there’s still one on Roosevelt Boulevard, and a couple in the ‘burbs, too.
9280 E. Roosevelt Blvd., 215-969-3750
Chef Jason Cichonski is so into pasta-making that he’s starting a whole new company based around it — and not only does it offer fresh-extruded pasta by the bowl or pound, it also features an incredible new snack: fried and spice-dusted pasta. Though Little Noodle Pasta Co. only has a Denver location this far, you can get the puffed crunches as a bar bite at his Queen Village restaurant (dusted with cheese powder, they’re billed as “Cheetos” and go for $5). Follow it up with Cichonski’s famous scallop noodles (as in, the long ribbons are actually made of shellfish; $15) for a totally different take on the day.
627 S. 3rd St., 267-687-8512
With a name like this, how could it not be a great pasta spot? Twin brother proprietors Dave and John Primavera (yes, that is their actual surname) didn’t christen this Bustleton mainstay — that was original founder Steve Martorano — but over the past 25 years, they have continually improved its namesake noodles. Their scratch kitchen puts out plates that straddle the line between refined and hearty. Delicate pea ravioli in parmesan broth? Sure, or for your $23 you can twirl up big spoonfuls of old fashioned spaghetti puttanesca with olives, capers, tomatoes and basil.
9315 Old Bustleton Ave., 215-464-3040
Say you want the quality of Vetri pasta plus the build-your-own flexibility of Olive Garden. Boom, the Navy Yard location of the Brad Spence-helmed trattoria has you covered. Long, square-edged strands of tonarelli come tossed with cheese and cracked black pepper in a relatively traditional “cacio e pepe” for $16, but you can also choose to add chicken, shrimp, salmon, octopus or steak for $4-$10 more. The add-on deal is also available for the bucatini with almond pesto ($16) and rigatoni bolognese ($18).
4503 S. Broad St., 215-282-3184
For a BYO celebration, snag a couple bottles of red and head to this petite family-owned gem on Broad Street just north of the Passyunk Avenue intersection. Father Giovanni Varallo and daughter Maria Varallo-Facenda share chef duties, and their renditions of Italian favorites offer some of the best pasta values in the city, especially considering you won’t be paying for drinks. Spaghetti alle vongole (with clams) runs $19 for a healthy saucerful, and hand-rolled gnocchi with pesto goes for $18.
1915 S. Broad St., 215-336-8380
City Tap House
Because of the brand’s reputation as a haven for craft beer, the food at this tavern with two Philly locations often gets underlooked. It shouldn’t, because along with standbys like wings and flatbreads, dishes often go above and beyond regular pub fare. On the just-introduced fall menu is a rabbit bolognese, featuring wide-cut pappardelle tangled with rabbit ragout and dotted with bits of smoky bacon. Go all out with a full portion for $24 or pair it with a starter and get a half-size pasta for $14.
3925 Walnut St., 215-662-0105; 2 Logan Sq., 215-587-9040
Maybe because it opened right around the same time as much-lauded Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, this Frankford Avenue restaurant and wine bar often gets overlooked when writers put together eating tours of Fishtown. Don’t make the same mistake. Chef and partner Nick Kennedy cooked in some of NYC’s best pasta houses (Del Posto, for example), and he shows off his skills in Philly with the housemade squid ink cavatelli, its folded twists tumbled with shrimp, corn, jalapeno and scallion for $22.
1206 Frankford Ave., 215-515-3452