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The Best Places To Eat Pasta (Outside Italy)

Warning: this article may lead to spontaneous drooling

  • Westcombe ricotta ravioli with walnut and sage butter at Luca, London. Photograph by Mr Jean Cazals. Courtesy of Luca

Pasta is quite possibly the most versatile food in the world. It can be pulled into a spectrum of shapes and finished in seconds with shaved truffle or an unctuous ragu, two hours in the making. It is the absolute soul of all Italian cooking and that nation’s gift to a grateful world.

For centuries, this mix of durum wheat, water and egg has been filling bellies and soothing minds. Worldwide we spend £12bn a year on pasta, which is quite an achievement for a dish so self-effacing and relatively inexpensive. And indeed, pasta can be found in pretty much every corner of the globe, from Sydney to New York.

The reason is simple: Italians have a culture of emigration that dates back to the time of the ancient Romans, and they are often keen to protect the culture and ways of the old country. So, some second- and third-generation emigrants are at times more Italian than the Italians and often produce food of fantastic quality. 

MR PORTER has scoured the globe to find the best pasta outside Italy. As a wise man once said, in heaven, after antipasti, the first course will be pasta.

  • Tagliatelles au ragoût de canard at Pastificio Passerini, Paris. Photographs by Mr Mickaël A Bandassak. Courtesy of Pastificio Passerini

When chef Mr Giovanni Passerini left Rino, the popular Mediterranean restaurant in the 12th arrondissement in 2014, Parisians were bereft. There was, then, much rejoicing when he opened a pasta shop on Rue Traversière. Queues snaked out the door to try the fresh taglioni, pappardelle and ravioli (on certain days it’s seaweed ravioli), which is sold at a very reasonable €1.90 per 150g for the plain stuff and €3.90 for filled. We recommend heading to the chic, rather minimal restaurant – slate-grey walls, lots of glass, no tablecloths – for a leisurely lunch, then popping to the shop for some pasta to take home for dinner.

What to order: ravioli with pumpkin, brown butter, pistachios and bergamot ricotta or anything with tagliatelle

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  • Ravioli with leek and cheese at Pastificio Tosatti, Berlin. Photograph by Still in Berlin

Berliners may have loved pasta for a long time, but pasta hasn’t always loved them back. In Germany, it is often cooked to slithery death or else drowned in sauce. It would be a crime to do that with the stuff Mr Matteo Tosatti produces, with suitable theatre, in his glass-fronted Pastificio just off Helmholtzplatz. His pasta is without peer in Berlin, as indeed is Mr Tosatti, who, bored by his job as a web designer, took himself off to pasta school in Bologna, where he found his calling. His pasta is cooked to al dente perfection and his fillings are as heady as a weekend in Positano with Ms Sofia Loren.

What to order: ravioli filled with leek and white cheese

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  • Casonzei at The Factory Kitchen. Photograph by Mr Jesus Banuelos. Courtesy of The Factory Kitchen

Housed in the loading bay of a former factory in the Downtown Arts district, this northern Italian trattoria ticks all the modish restaurant boxes. There is an open-plan kitchen, exposed brick walls, factory-chic aesthetic and buzzy location. It’s no flash in the pan, however – it has pedigree. Chef Mr Angelo Auriana ran Mr Piero Selvaggio’s kitchen at Valentino for 18 years, while the maître d’, Mr Matteo Ferdinandi, managed Mr Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Las Vegas before opening Cut in Beverly Hills for the chef and restaurateur. And sure enough, the dining room runs like clockwork, the waiters and waitresses gliding around as if on ice skates. But the main show is in the kitchen. The mandilli di seta (silk handkerchief) is justly famed among gallerists from the area. These diaphanous sheets of pasta come piled one on top of the other in a rich Ligurian pesto, which is so good it deserves its own poem. All the pastas are hand cut and stamped, and we can’t get enough of them.

What to order: corzetti stampati with slow-braised duck sugo and Italian parsley

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  • Garganelli alle verdure at La Famiglia, London. Photographs by Mr David Loftus. Courtesy of La Famiglia

La Famiglia has been serving gramigna alla montanina and tiramisu to the besuited denizens of Chelsea for 51 years, and it has all the charm of the traditional Italian restaurant in England – the starched table clothes, the waiters of a certain vintage and a list of regulars that includes Sir Mick Jagger. It is a time capsule and a welcome one at that. Order the fagioli al fiasco, a Florentine dish of beans with sage and olive oil, and then immerse yourself in the Italian-heavy wine list before settling in to pasta heaven. There are 13 on the menu – ranging from pappardelle with a wild boar sauce to garganelli with pesto – but we recommend the vermicelli alla carbornara, which is fresh-egg spaghetti with black pepper, bacon and an egg and pecorino sauce. It won’t do much for your waistline, but it will soothe your soul.

What to order: vermicelli alla carbornara

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  • Sheep's milk cheese-filled agnolotti, saffron, dried tomato and honey at Lilia, New York. Photograph by Mr Evan Sung. Courtesy of Lilia

You might be surprised to hear that the best pasta in New York is to be had in a former car repair shop in Brooklyn, but there it is. Williamsburg’s Lilia is magnificent. We’ll come to the food in a moment, but first off, the room. It has the type of derelict chic that only comes when you have spent an extraordinary amount of money – exposed wood floors and rafters, open kitchen, long tables down the walls. A fitting venue for the return of chef Ms Missy Robbins, previously of A Voce, whose presence has ensured this new venture has been packed out since it opened last year. Ms Robbins has a way with pasta in general, but her agnolotti is particularly fine. The sprightly casing of these Piemontese delicacies that enclose a pillow of sheep’s milk cheese is lent a red hue, thanks to a sprinkling of saffron and a slither of tomato. It is a dish to please even the most exacting nonna.

What to order: the agnolotti, whatever the filling

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  • Westcombe ricotta ravioli with walnut and sage butter at Luca, London. Photograph by Mr Jean Cazals. Courtesy of Luca

All dark wood and low lights, the dining room at Luca is, well, quite a looker. But this Clerkenwell restaurant, from the people behind The Clove Club (ranked 26th at the world’s 50 Best awards) is much more than just a pretty face. It is a gloriously grown-up paean to all things Italian – and no more so than in head chef Mr Robert Chambers’ pasta. The philosophy at Luca is seasonal British ingredients through an Italian lens, which means turnip tops with samphire and cod roe on the menu next to traditional Italian dishes such as crudo and 28-month-aged mora romagnola Parma ham. We recommend heading there for a spritz at the bar, then drifting through to the dining room for the Hereford beef carpaccio and a plate of either cannelloni, ravioli, garganelli and spaghettini from the rotating menu.

What to order: grouse ravioli with potato sauce and whisky

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  • Smoked paprika tagliolini with spanner crab and Macadamia at Ormeggio at the Spit. Photographs by Mr Chris Chen. Courtesy of Ormeggio at the Spit

Messrs Alessandro Pavoni and Victor Moya take guests on a culinary tour of Italy at their waterside restaurant in Mosman. The food of Piemonte, Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Puglia and Campania are all strong influences at this pared-back restaurant, which has both a main dining room and a show-stopping terrace on which the bel mondo of Sydney gather to work their way through the expansive wine list created by sommelier Mr Luke Collard. The precise cooking, which makes use of both traditional Italian techniques and the latest bells-and-whistles tech, such as a centrifuge, has earnt it a legion of fans. As well as being known for their toothsome charcoal Wagyu beef served with plum, turnip and cucumber, the duo also serve some of the best pasta in the country, such as bottoni filled with an oozing slick of parmigiano reggiano.

What to order: Piemontese capsicum tagliolini with spanner crab

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