City Paper is not for tourists
First came a rush of new taquerias. Then a wave of Indian restaurants. Now D.C. is seeing an influx of Italian restaurants specializing in pasta. Consider this a to-do list if you love twirling spaghetti with seafood or consuming a wide variety of meat-filled carb pouches.
Napoli Pasta Bar
2737 Sherman Ave. NW
Antonio Ferraro’s first solo restaurant is a salute to his hometown, sandwiched between Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. He even sources hand-painted plates from the region, which serve as colorful backdrops for seven pasta dishes. The paccheri with slow-cooked meat and tomato sauce with parmesan cheese and basil ($19) is a dish common at Sunday family lunch in Italy. Half of the pasta at the Park View restaurant is made fresh in house and the rest comes from outside vendors. Ferraro explains that starting with dry pasta is common in southern Italy and achieves a better al dente texture. You can taste the firmness of the spaghetti that comes topped with clams, cherry tomatoes, and parsley ($19). Come early and see if you can nab the table fashioned out of a vintage scooter. If there’s any room for improvement, it’s that the pastas don’t always come out piping hot.
San Lorenzo Ristorante & Bar
1316 9th St. NW
Shaw newcomer San Lorenzo is the passion project of Chef Massimo Fabbri. The Tuscan chef, formerly of Tosca and Posto, took over the Thally space and introduced a menu of antipasti, pasta, and roasted meat and fish. Fabbri makes all of the pasta in house and the texture of the pappardelle with rabbit ragu, white wine, herbs, and olive oil ($17) is spot on. Other options include tortelli filled with robbiola cheese and black truffle in a porcini mushroom sauce ($16) and gnocchi coated in a verdant basil pesto with pine nuts and parmesan ($16). The space is charming and the negronis are strong. You’ll only wish the portions were slightly larger.
Trattoria Al Volo
3417 Connecticut Ave. NW
Restaurateurs Daniele and Matteo Catalani have practically made pasta their singular pursuit in life, and it shows. Washingtonians have tried their noodles at farmers markets, Union Market, and in Adams Morgan at Osteria Al Volo. One of their latest ventures is a trattoria in the former Ripple space in Cleveland Park. The uncle-and-nephew team makes the pasta on site and if you like what you had for dinner, you can purchase their pasta fresh or frozen to cook at home. Vegetarians should gravitate to the half-moon shaped eggplant mezzaluna with ricotta salata, cherry tomato confit, and a creamy sauce ($20). Of the 11 other pastas, the pappardelle al cinghiale, with its red wine and wild boar ragu ($20), is supremely comforting. The Catalanis plan to launch cooking classes at the trattoria in the near future.
40 Pearl St. SW
This waterfront sister restaurant to Lupo Verde and Lupo Osteria has a small but indulgent selection of four pastas. Try the paccheri with blue crab, head-on shrimp, squid, and garlic in a saffron brodetto ($28) and ask for warm, crusty bread to sop up the sauce. Chef Todd Sprik says the flat, wide paccheri noodles are the only type of pasta he doesn’t make in house. Other dishes are more experimental, like the gnocchi with wild mushrooms, asparagus, fonduta, spring peas, and parmesan gelato ($22). Lupo Marino stops a little short of transporting diners to anywhere in Italy. A Top 40 radio station blares from the soundsystem, commercials and all, and rosé wine is served warmer than room temperature.