While we’re not going to stop you from busting out some Annie’s and eating it straight out of the pot, we will let you know that there are tons of better options when you’re in the mood for pasta—like these nine dishes from restaurants across the city. Whether you’re looking for bolognese with 60-month-aged parmigiano reggiano or a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, head to these spots.
Our version of an idyllic weeknight involves Ernest, some natural wine, and their uni carbonara. The decadent bowl of chewy lo mein noodles, uni butter, and lots of bacon is the perfect antidote to a long day—and it's just as rich and luxurious as it sounds. The bar at this Californian spot in the Mission is reserved for walk-ins, so it’s pretty easy to come for spontaneous pasta dates, something we can always get behind.
The Sardinian restaurant in Noe Valley leans heavily on seafood, from baby octopus stew to fusilli with grated tuna heart. If you were to throw a dart at the menu you’d end up with something fantastic, but never leave without ordering the spaghetti. It’s simplicity at its finest: just spicy olive oil, garlic, and cured fish roe. And it’s also light enough that you won’t feel like taking a nap when you’re done.
A meal at Barzotto, a wine and pasta spot in the Mission, is never complete without their spaghetti and meatballs, which is the best version you can find in SF. The slightly sweet sauce clings to the noodles like an overeager high school ex, and the meatballs are well-spiced and tender. There’s nothing fancy going on—just a perfectly-executed classic that goes well with a $10 glass of house wine (there’s also a two-for-one deal daily).
This neighborhood bar and restaurant in the Richmond looks like a photo you’d find on an apartment inspiration board on Pinterest, with huge windows, cushy leather booths, and plants everywhere. It’s also home to handkerchief pasta with meaty white bolognese that’s rich without feeling too heavy, and topped with generous amounts of shaved grana padano. Post up at the bar with the pasta and a cocktail, and start taking mental interior decorating notes.
If you’ve ever wanted to twirl around tagliatelle al ragu with 60-month-aged parmigiano reggiano on your fork while eating somewhere that feels like an Italian version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, get to Che Fico. The colorful dining room at this NoPa restaurant has skylights, mismatched floor tiles, fig-patterned wallpaper, and cured meats hanging from the ceiling—stimulus overload that somehow just works. And it doesn’t distract from the super flavorful tagliatelle al ragú, which is always cooked flawlessly. Absolutely sop up every last bit of the bolognese with their excellent house focaccia.
Much like getting in and out of Costco in under five minutes, finding a great pasta under $15 can feel damn near impossible. But The Italian Homemade Company in North Beach makes it easy. Their pappardelle with bolognese is always our go-to when we want something extra hearty and filling—you choose your own adventure at this casual counter-service spot, so all you have to do is pick a pasta and a sauce, and it’ll arrive steaming hot on a paper plate in no time. The bolognese is our number one, but you really can’t go wrong with their other sauce options, like pesto or butter and sage.
You probably know someone who’s a diehard fan of the raviolo from Cotogna—or, at least, a coworker who’s bombarded your Slack with photos of it. The ricotta-filled pasta is face-sized and has yolk inside that oozes out like lava when you cut into it. Aside from being highly photogenic, this is one of the best pastas on the menu at this FiDi Italian spot. Get it on your table, along with the corn-filled triangoli if it’s in season.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso/Flour + Water
Flour + Water
If there were a Pasta Hall of Fame, Flour + Water would have its dishes blown up and framed on the wall. The Mission restaurant has been churning out inventive, seasonally-changing pastas, like corn and chocolate or lobster and fig, since 2009. Another combination we love is the veal agnolotti topped with fresh horseradish that cuts through the rich meat beautifully. Each plump pasta pillow bursts with veal so tender it melts in your mouth. If it’s on the menu, order this.
The new restaurant from the Flour + Water team also serves pasta, but focuses on more traditional Italian dishes, like bolognese and cacio e pepe. We love their rigatoni all’amatriciana. With every bite, you’ll get a gush of slightly spicy tomato sauce and guanciale that’s snuggled inside each fresh pasta tube. Get it while sitting in the plant-filled Mission courtyard and sipping on some natural wine—a.k.a. a foolproof plan for an ideal night.