If you’re like me and carbs are literally your bread and butter, then you’ll never turn down a good plate of pasta. Luckily, there are plenty of places around town to get your fix. D.C. has had a recent surge in new Italian spots, and there are plenty of standbys that have been rolling in dough for years.
I personally don’t think pasta ever gets old, but for those who are looking to change up the rotation, several spots have created uniquely flavored pasta doughs. These go way beyond squid ink, which is now on almost every pasta menu in the city. Here are 12 places to find nuanced noodles.
The green kale fusilli at Al Volo will make you feel like you’re making a healthy choice while indulging in a satisfying plate of carbs. The dough is made with seminola flour, eggs, and kale juice, so it might actually have some nutritionally redeeming qualities! Enjoy the pasta with basil pesto and goat cheese at one of Al Volo’s locations, or take some home and turn it into a masterpiece of your own.
On the specialty tasting menu in Kingbird’s backroom, find a Maine lobster ravioli that is beet red, literally. The pasta for the ravioli is made with flour, beet puree, eggs, and salt. It’s then stuffed with lobster claw, scallop mousse, yuzu, and herbs. The decadent pockets are served in reduced beet juice and lobster butter, along with a roasted lobster tail, pickled Castelfranco, and braised radicchio.
New on the menu at Beuchert’s Saloon is a graham cracker spätzle. This take on the traditional German egg noodle is made with flour, honey, graham flour, cinnamon, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Graham flour is the coarse whole wheat flour that gives graham crackers their nutty sweetness. The spätzle is topped with braised short rib, sour carrot slaw, sauerbraten jus, and parsnip cream.
Bibiana has found a way to make chocolate for dinner sound like a perfectly reasonable choice: their pappardelle pasta is infused with bitter chocolate. Wild boar ragù and ricotta salata infornata complete the dish.
At Casa Luca, grano arso, which means burnt grain, is used in a few housemade pastas, including bucatini and pappardelle. According to the Casa Luca team, the smoky flour made from burnt wheat is a historical tradition specific to the peasants of Puglia. It refers to a flour that was made from the grains left in the fields after the wheat had been harvested and the fields were burned to prepare for the next season. Impoverished farmers would gather the remaining burnt grain and make a flour that was used to make bread and pasta. The grano arso pasta at Casa Luca is often served with meat ragù or all'amatriciana.
The menu at Centrolina changes frequently as seasonal ingredients ebb and flow, but often features buckwheat chitarra – a square spaghetti made with buckwheat flour. Accompaniments vary, but the pasta dish has included roasted cauliflower, fried chick peas, garlic, anchovy, and hot pepper in the past.
The tasting menus at Conosci feature seafood in a variety of artful preparations. One such creation is the scallop pasta that’s not really pasta at all. The noodles are made from scallop paste. They’re served with scallops, fermented yucca, ink pain noir, and caviar.
There’s plenty of pasta experimentation going on in the kitchen at Inferno Pizzeria. The tasting menu regularly features pasta specials like garlic bread spaghetti; preserved lemon and Calabrian chili pasta; and miso uni pasta. Flavors like onion and garlic powder or a puree of miso, uni, and Korean chili paste are added to dough to create these imaginative pastas. There’s also a truffle dough made entirely from blended truffles, truffle juice, and eggs.
Red’s Table makes a mean rye bread, so they decided to make more of a good thing. Their dark and nutty pumpernickel pappardelle is made with a similar flour mixture. The ribbons are coated in a butternut cream sauce and topped with spinach pesto, pine nuts, and Grana Padano. You can choose to add chicken, steak, shrimp, or salmon for a punch of protein.
At Ripple, black trumpet mushrooms give cavatelli pasta an earthy flavor and color. The dough is made with black trumpet puree, dried mushroom powder, flour, water, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and salt. The dish is finished with smoked blue foot mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, squash prepared four ways, and charred pumpkin seeds.
At the pasta-focused sibling of the Trabocchi family of restaurants, various unique doughs rotate on and off the specials menu, but the beet-stained ricotta scarpinocc is there to stay. The dough gets its red hue from juiced beets.
Urbana’s spinach lumaconi is another pasta masquerading as a superfood. The dough is made with fresh baby spinach, which comes from the rooftop garden during the warmer months. The snail-shaped pasta is tossed with tomatoes, Italian sausage, rapini, chilis, and Pecorino cheese.