Going through life as a pasta addict is tough. As it turns out, not everyone wants to eat pasta all the time. I get a lot of “let’s try the local cuisine” when traveling, or “we just made pasta yesterday, we aren’t making pasta again” when prepping dinner.
Non-pasta dining experiences lack the “eat until you can’t move” mentality. I never worry about leaving an Italian restaurant hungry – massive plates of spaghetti, warm bread, and mountains of parmesan cheese make trendy tapas-style dishes at other establishments feel like an incomplete meal. Where’s the rest of the food?
I owe this flour-filled addiction to my grandma, who prepared pasta dishes every Sunday when I was a child. My great grandparents emigrated from Italy, so family meals always incorporated homemade pasta, sauce, meatballs and “keep eating, there’s more left.”
Now, equipped with a fancy homemade pasta-making machine, I attempt to replicate these timeless recipes … or I force my friends to try all of Charlotte’s Italian restaurants. Here are my nine favorite places for pasta, ranked:
1910 South Blvd
Vibe: Italian artwork and simple floral arrangements accent the warm, rustic interior of the Southend restaurant serving dishes inspired by the traditions of Naples. The striking fireplace offers a haven from the cold in the winter, whereas summer patrons would likely enjoy the relaxed patio. Although the space is relaxed, I’d recommend dressy-casual date-night apparel – preferably something you don’t mind getting saucy.
Perfect for: A romantic date night
Must order: Chicken Parmigiana with capellini pasta, fresh mozzarella, marinara and fresh basil ($19)
100 N Tryon St
Vibe: Serving Italian classics with an emphasis on Tuscan flavors, Aria captures the ambiance of a modern Italian kitchen. Contemporary décor, a wall of wine and neutral tones complement the scent of the wood-fired pizza and homemade pasta. Classy cocktail attire is a safe bet.
Perfect for: A pre-cocktail outing
Must order: Tagliatelle with pork Bolognese ($17)
4400 Sharon Rd
Although this isn’t native to Charlotte, it’s worth a mention, as I’ve never tried a dish I didn’t like.
Vibe: As someone who’s enjoyed Maggiano’s in multiple cities, I can vouch for the fact that no matter where you are, you always encounter the same Maggiano’s experience. Extravagant chandeliers, wooden walls and old-school Italian décor make you feel like you’re dining in the original restaurant. Frank Sinatra and the like add the ideal background music to devour a plate of pasta (I’ve gone so far as to play the “Maggiano’s” Spotify playlist when making homemade pasta). Dress fancy or casual, but wear pants that stretch!
Perfect for: A post-shopping meal
Must order: Any of the “On the House Classic Pastas” – enjoy any of the 11 options, and then select another one to take home! More pasta = more fun. ($14.25 – $16.25)
(6) Flour Shop
4101 Park Rd.
Vibe: Floor to ceiling windows open up the intimate, trendy space at Flour Shop. Perhaps one of the most entertaining features sits in the center of the room, where the bar surrounds chefs prepping pasta for hungry patrons. Casual chic attire recommended.
Perfect for: A double date
Must order: Tomato Bucatini with Heritage Farms pork sugo, crowder peas, Calabrian peppers ($24)
(5) Alexander Michael’s
401 W 9th St
Vibe: Set in a historic Fourth Ward house, Alexander Michael’s mimics the ambiance of a neighborhood pub. The tag line says it all: it’s “where everyone knows your name.” The casual, homey tavern welcomes famous actors and personalities, as well as both locals and visitors alike, wowing them with a unique selection of satisfying dishes that make choosing just one a meal a difficult feat. Casual dress code.
Perfect for: When the parents are in town
Must order: “Build Your Own Pasta” option – try the garlic cream and add shrimp! ($18)
(4) Mama Ricotta’s
601 S Kings Dr
Vibe: Warm hues, exposed brick walls and bright artwork make Mama Ricotta’s an inviting and social destination. Upon entering, you’ll be greeted with the scent of warm bread and garlic – two staples of any Italian diet. Snag a seat on the enclosed patio, complete with a fireplace. Casual attire recommended.
Perfect for: A family night out with the kids
Must order: It’s a toss-up between the Penne Alla Vodka ($15) and the Shrimp Scampi with linguine ($20.50)
201 S Tryon St #101
Vibe: Modern wooden furniture artfully decorates the open-concept venue, accented by bold red hues and lush greenery. The order process proves an experience in itself: watch chefs prepare fresh pasta dishes behind a glass window as you drool over the carb-y goodness you’re about to consume. Then ask for extra cheese, because you deserve it. I’ve seen everything from casual to prom-esque attire, so you’re set no matter what you wear.
Perfect for: Post-work dinner on a Friday
Must order: Carbonara with pancetta and onions in a cream sauce with fresh egg yolk and parmesan cheese ($11.95) Tip: ask for bread – it’s warm and fresh!
16646 Hawfield Way Dr
Vibe: Romantic and upscale, Oggi serves vibrant dishes in the midst of modern décor. Unique artwork enlivens the space and complements the deep red and gray hues. Ask for a seat in their enclosed porch (think market lights and gas lanterns). Dressy casual attire.
Perfect for: A celebratory occasion
Must order: Penne Vodka — its menu description says it all: “basically delicious” ($15)
(1) Pasta and Provisions
1528 Providence Rd, 4700 Park Rd
Vibe: Armed with racks stocked with bread, wine, and cooking supplies, Pasta and Provisions embodies a specialty grocery with Italian accoutrements. Wandering through the Italian wonderland will likely find you with arms full of homemade meatballs, fresh bread and more pounds of pasta than you can possibly eat in one sitting. Casual attire, as you’ll take the pasta home (so nobody can judge you if you need to unbutton your pants after a meal).
Perfect for: A night in
Must order: Handcrafted spaghetti — tomato basil is my personal favorite ($5.49/lb) + a cup of 18 homemade meatballs ($11.21). Or go big with the $20 special, which includes 3.25 lbs of pasta, meatballs, salad and bread.
Note: They have the softest “Eat Pasta Run Fasta” tees, and it’s basically motivation to work out + eat pasta. You need one.
Featured photo: Jessica Swannie