Apart from serious gluten and grape allergies, there aren’t too many good reasons not to eat pasta and drink wine by yourself every so often. However mundane or celebratory the occasion, taking a solo pasta-and-wine break will never make you ask, “Hmm, should I have done that wonderful thing I just did?” Still, when you’re looking for the perfect place, there are some factors that guarantee success: a relaxed atmosphere, a nice bar where you can sit, and, of course, a variety of affordable pastas and wines by the glass. Stick to the spots on our guide, and you’ll wish you could do this every night.
You’ve probably wanted to be Italian at least once, even just for three seconds. Maybe it was when you studied abroad and fell in love with a person on a moped. Or when you watched a History Channel show about Florence and fell in love with a person on a moped. Regardless, eating pasta and drinking wine by yourself at Cafe Altro Paradiso’s bar is another way to continue this fantasy. The menu changes pretty often, and there are usually four or five light, simple pasta options you can try while doing some casual moped shopping on your phone.
Barring the construction of your own personal treehouse in McCarren Park, it can be hard to find a comfortable public space to be alone in Williamsburg. Ammazzacaffe is an exception to this. It’s relaxed, there’s live jazz every Sunday, and it feels slightly hidden from the rest of the neighborhood. They also make pastas that you won’t find on every other Italian menu in the city, like agnolotti with almond pesto and reginette with pancetta and caciocavallo.
Upstate’s only pasta dish is fettuccine with clams. But if that’s something you find even remotely exciting, you should make this place a priority - we’ve been coming back for this pasta for years. Just know that you’ll probably be tempted by some oysters to start. This East Village spot can get pretty packed during the early evenings, but after Happy Hour, when things quiet down a bit, it’s usually not too hard to squeeze in a party of one at the bar. Plus, they give you a little piece of pound cake at the end of your meal.
If you spend time in the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene area, we highly recommend this place for a solo meal. It has a nice bar and a pretty long menu of pastas to choose from, and it feels like the the kind of place where people go on dates to mentally assess when they want to tell the other person they love them. But you don’t have to be on a date yourself to reap those rewards - you can just sit at the bar and listen. Which is much more entertaining than staying home and watching that CSI episode you’ve seen a hundred times anyway.
This one is a power move, since L’Artusi has some of our absolute favorite pasta and people-watching in the entire city. Reservations are hard to come by, but dropping in for a meal alone at the bar is a good way to snag a spot. It’s possible your waiter will interrupt you staring at that person who might be Scarlett Johansson to ask about your order, but don’t get too flustered - all of the pastas on the menu are excellent, and if you ask for wine recommendations, they’ll help you find something you’ll really like at a great value.
Another fancy-ish option is Locanda Verde in Tribeca. Most people make reservations in advance for dinner here on the weekends, but it’s easy enough to walk in and sit by yourself at the bar almost any night. Prepare for somewhat of a Tribeca scene, and a bowl of really good homemade pasta. Options include pumpkin tortelli, pappardelle with rabbit, and a dense, satisfying dish of ravioli.
Via Carota is a walk-in only restaurant in the West Village that occasionally has multiple-hour waits. But one of the benefits of eating alone is that you won’t need to worry about that. Definitely consider their pasta special - in the past, we’ve had a really good pappardelle with butter and prosciutto.
This is a tiny place in Soho where you can sit and pretend you do casually sophisticated things like eating pasta by yourself all the time. Or, if you indeed already do this all the time, you can pretend you’ve been doing it at a place this charming for years. There’s a little bar where one person makes all of the food, and they open all the windows during the warm weather. The orecchiette is served in a slightly tart, creamy tomato sauce, and we suggest you get to know it.
Halfway home from work, you realize you have no groceries in the house, and you don’t feel like fighting through the tiny aisles of your local “supermarket” to get any. Plus, you’re hungry right now. If you’re anywhere near the East Village (and it’s on the early side - this place does get pretty crowded), stop at Frank for a quick bowl of simple, satisfying pasta. The spaghetti limone that you can get any night at Supper or Lil’ Frankies is technically a special here, but if that’s available, you want it. Just keep in mind that this place is cash only.
This place specializes in pizza, which is why there’s a big oven directly in the middle of the restaurant, but they also have a bunch of homemade pasta options that range from lobster risotto to linguini with ’nduja. Plus, the setting is laid-back enough for you to sit at the bar and finally commit to reading that think-piece about shoelaces that everyone posted on Facebook last week.
Bar Tano is where you go if your friend is running late for a live podcast event at the Bellhouse, or if you just need to sit alone and ponder the “The” in The Home Depot before you go to the one in Gowanus. It’s right on 3rd Avenue, and they’re open during the weird hours in the afternoon and evening that might be considered too early or late for dinner (noon to midnight every day). We especially like the short rib pappardelle and the fact that house wine is $7 and $8 at the bar until 7pm.
There might come a time when you’ll need to avoid everyone you know, and you’ll briefly consider burrowing through the floor of your apartment like a wombat. But that’s impractical and, ultimately, expensive. That’s where San Matteo comes in. This is a big, casual Italian spot on the UES where you can simultaneously hide and feel sophisticated at the same time. It’s one of the only places in the city that serves giant pizza sandwiches called panuozzos, so make a mental note to come back here when you’re feeling more social and order one of those. When you’re alone and on a mission, stick to the ravioli and a glass of red. No burrowing necessary.
If you need to do some work during dinner, Bricia is a quiet place on on the LES where you can get some good homemade orecchiette without feeling strange about the fact that your dinner partner happens to be a 13-inch Macbook Air. All of the pastas here are under $16, and they’ll keep refilling your bread basket until you can’t work anymore because your computer is covered in crumbs.
Your friend who works in Chelsea just canceled plans with you last-minute, but your brain has already promised your body that you’ll be eating pasta. Pastai is only two and half blocks from the 23rd street A/C/E train, and it never gets too busy in here. Hang out at the long bar and make up stories about the people in the framed photos on the wall while you eat lasagna and drink a glass of Montepulciano. Also good to know: they’ll make any dish with their homemade gluten-free pasta.
Joe & Pat’s stands out from some of the other casual Italian places in the East Village because of how relaxed it is. Even on a Friday night when most people are in big groups ordering a bunch of pizza, the one-room space somehow doesn’t get too loud. In terms of food, the pastas are the unsung heroes of the menu (there are 12 different kinds to choose from). They’re mostly $20, but then again, they’re giant, so you’re basically paying for dinner and the following lunch/late-night fridge session as well.
La Pecora Bianca is The Smith of casual Italian restaurants - which is to say that it’s very useful if you need a perfectly fine place to eat dinner. Any of their locations works well for a solo pasta and wine experience, but the Midtown East one is especially convenient if you work in the area and want to participate in what everyone keeps calling “self care” after dealing with your coworkers all day.