In Italy, it's so critical that the pasta be cooked right that I've seen a whole dinner party standing around the pot at the crucial moment to ensure the spaghetti wouldn't be overcooked. Some people prefer freshly made pasta, the more eggs the better. Others swear by dried pasta and insist on certain brands from Gragnano outside Naples. I say there's room for both.
FOR THE RECORD:
Critic's Choice: In the Jan. 24 Saturday section, a column on best places to eat pasta gave a wrong Web address for Bucato. It is
The Factory Kitchen
Longtime Valentino chef Angelo Auriana is back in town as chef/partner in the Factory Kitchen downtown. At this casual Italian restaurant, head straight to the pasta section of the menu for his silky mandilli di seta (handkerchief pasta) tossed in a fragrant almond-basil pesto from Liguria embellished with Sardinian sheep's milk cheese. Wide ribbon noodles are speckled with olives and sauced in a rich duck ragú. To try too, his paccheri (large dried pasta tubes) in a spicy tomato sauce enriched with pork sausage. His ricotta gnocchi? Ethereally light, the best in town.
1300 Factory Place, Los Angeles, (213) 996-6000, http://www.thefactorykitchen.com. Pasta dishes, $18 to $22.
At his new Culver City restaurant, Evan Funke takes a purist's stand, making pasta with only flour and eggs and rolling it out with a long wooden rolling pin as they do in Emilia-Romagna. That means even his cacio e pepe is made with fresh, square-cut spaghetti alla chitarra, upsetting those who insist it should be made only with dried pasta. Taken on its own terms, though, it's delicious. Go for his pappardelle with a gentle lamb ragú. And who could resist the delicate ravioli with peas, pancetta, brown butter and Parmigiano Reggiano?
3280 Helms Ave., Culver City, (310) 876-0286, http://www.bucato.la. Pasta dishes, $15 to $17.
Pasta e fagioli can be made with either fresh or dried pasta. I've always loved the version of the bean soup Gino Angelini makes at Angelini Osteria. He uses maltagliati ("badly cut" fresh pasta scraps) — not a lot of them, but enough to give the velvety beans a lift. Add a swirl of olive oil and some black pepper and it's pure comfort, Italian style. But then I so love his bombolotti all' Amatriciana, fat ridged-tube pasta in a sauce made with his house-cured guanciale, San Marzano tomatoes and dried hot peppers too.
7313 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 297-0070, http://www.angeliniosteria.com. Pasta, $9 to $22.