Call them noodles or pasta, the fresh spaghetti or tonnarelli or tagliatelle you’ll find at some of Atlanta’s most popular Italian restaurants are almost always handmade, using flour, eggs and a lot of love.
For me, the fresh wide pappardelle with bolognese gravy at BoccaLupo in Inman Park is the Platonic ideal of a noodle dish. Both homey and painstakingly realized, it’s the toothsome melding of hand-cut pasta and slow-cooked sauce.
Chef-owner Bruce Logue explained the dish by referencing his time training under Mario Batali at Babbo in New York.
“In 2005, I ate at Momofuku for the first time, and, while I was sitting there, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I want to do this with pasta,’” Logue said. “So, at that point at Babbo, I started honing in on pasta-making.”
Logue’s first Atlanta Italian restaurant, La Pietra Cucina, focused on using seasonal and local ingredients, and showcased the more modern Italian-American cooking that would culminate in BoccaLupo.
His pasta recipe is from Italy, “all done by feel,” with 00 flour, whole eggs, some extra yolks, and a bit of durum flour, for “a little more bite.” It’s rolled out, and hand-cut to be “super wide.”
The bolognese is based on a recipe Logue learned from Batali. It’s essentially veal and pork ground with some bacon or pancetta, and prosciutto scraps. It’s all simmered together, before successive layers of vegetables, white wine, chicken stock, San Marzano-style canned tomatoes, cream and herbs are added and further reduced.
In total, the sauce takes 4-6 hours, but it’s well worth the time and attention to detail.
Five favorite Atlanta pasta dishes
Fresh wide pappardelle, with bolognese gravy and American Parmesan
The ultimate pasta dish to soothe your soul. Though the sauce simmers for hours, and the pappardelle is handmade, this dish at BoccaLupo is cooked to order, and is served immediately in a sublime and hefty twirl of meaty gravy-coated noodles, topped with a snowy dusting of Parmesan cheese.
BoccaLupo. 753 Edgewood Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-577-2332, boccalupoatl.com.
Spaghetti e polpette, with fresh spaghetti, tomatoes, marinara, garlic and meatballs
Il Giallo Osteria & Bar chef and co-owner Jamie Adams and his team roll and cut fresh pasta to order on a large wooden table in front of the open kitchen. Adams' tasty take on spaghetti and meatballs uses a firm, fat noodle made from semolina and 00 flour, and whole eggs. The sauce is a simple marinara that's fired to order with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and turkey, duck and beef meatballs.
Il Giallo Osteria & Bar.5920 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-709-2148, ilgialloatl.com.
Pasta carbonara, with pancetta, black pepper, pecorino
In 2008, No. 246 chef and co-owner Drew Belline partnered with Ford Fry to open what has become a Decatur fixture for dinner and weekend brunch. And, it’s at brunch that you’ll find Belline’s substantial and dreamy version of carbonara. Made with farm eggs, 00 flour and a touch of olive oil and salt, the pasta is hand-cut daily. Along with the expected elements of pancetta, black pepper and pecorino, it’s topped with a crispy poached egg that’s breaded, fried and oozes creaminess when you cut into it.
No. 246. 129 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 678-399-8246, no246.com.
Tonnarelli cacio e pepe, with pecorino and cracked black pepper
A family-owned neighborhood restaurant, Osteria Mattone has made fresh pasta with egg-based dough its main menu item. Chef Eric Sell’s simple but elegant cacio e pepe employs a tonnarelli-style noodle with a square cut. The soft pasta aids in thickening the creamy sauce, and helps the dish cling together. The addition of chicken stock to the butter, pecorino cheese and cracked black pepper formula ups the richness.
Tagliatelle ai funghi, with wild mushrooms, garlic and cream
When chef-owner Riccardo Ullio opened Sotto Sotto in 1999, he’d already become Atlanta’s fresh pasta pioneer at his former restaurant, Pasta Da Pulcinella. Ullio carries on the tradition with fresh-rolled egg and durum flour pastas. His silky wild mushroom tagliatelle is one of those simple but delicious dishes elevated with great ingredients, including locally grown mushrooms cooked in porcini mushroom jus, and finished with butter, garlic and cream.