Whenever Italian friends come to stay, I've noticed they can go at most three, maybe four days before they can't stand it anymore: They have to have some pasta. If that means cooking it at a campground or beside the road, so be it. This is comfort food at its most basic. And if there's nothing much in the cupboard, well then that's why aglio olio (garlic and olive oil) was invented. Or for that matter cacio e pepe (Pecorino Romano and lots of black pepper). Here are three places to get that pasta fix.
Chef/owner Vic Casanova grew up in an Italian American neighborhood in the Bronx, cooked his way around New York and then headed west, where he launched the contemporary Italian restaurant Culina at the Four Seasons. Now he's got his own little place on West 3rd Street where he turns out some terrific pasta, all made in-house. Two regulars are wide pappardelle noodles sauced in a rich, complex oxtail ragù and gargati (very like strozzaprete) with fennel sausage simmered in Chianti and scented with rosemary. Tonnarelli with tomatoes, basil, hot pepper and olive oil hits a satisfying note too. Other favorites: his tender ravioli stuffed with ricotta, mint and sweet English peas and squid ink agnolotti with sea urchin and the last of summer corn.
8432 W. 3rd St. (near Orlando Avenue), Los Angeles, (323) 782-1778, http://www.gusto-la.com. Pasta, $14 to $19.
For pasta in an elegant setting, you can't beat the broad outdoor terrace at Scarpetta at the Montage Beverly Hills, where New York chef Scott Conant excels at elevating regional classics. His tall swirl of spaghetti, each strand cloaked in fresh tomato and basil sauce, is a signature dish, the execution dead on, the taste subtly elegant. Look for cavatelli in duck ragù with fresh cranberry beans and mushrooms, or agnolotti stuffed with short ribs with shimeji mushrooms, brown butter and hazelnuts, accented with horseradish. His cappellacci with a subtle filling of pumpkin, crushed amaretti, pepperoncino and cheese fit the season perfectly.
225 N. Cañon Drive, Los Angeles, (310) 860-7970, http://www.montagebeverlyhills.com. Pasta, $24 to $32, more with truffles.
Sitting outside Angelini Osteria at lunchtime, the sidewalk terrace feels just like Italy. This is where I come for Gino Angelini's masterful bombolotti all' Amatriciana, ridged pasta in a San Marzano tomato sauce fired with pepperoncino and dotted with browned nuggets of house-cured guanciale (cured pork jowl). For me, it's a perfect lunch with a glass of rosso. But I'm also partial to his pasta e fagioli, fat brown borlotti beans with maltagliati, "badly cut" fresh pasta with a drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil and some black pepper. Not to forget: Angelini also makes one of the best lasagne in town with lovely fresh green pasta layered with cheese and a beef and veal ragù.
7313 Beverly Blvd. (near Poinsettia Avenue), Los Angeles, (323) 297-0070, http://www.angeliniosteria.com. Pasta, $9 to $22.