Just over the bridge in Collingswood, New Jersey, you’ll find Zeppoli, a quaint and unassuming BYOB with a Sicilian menu. Owner Joe Baldino set me up with Chef Blake Weisman for a tasting, where I got to watch the chef hand-cut the tagliatelle and grate fresh cheese on every bite.
The spaghetti vongole was the best I’ve ever had, and it’s the simplest, too. All it takes is fresh garlic, clams, parsley, olive oil and chili flakes. The gnocchi are round pillows of ricotta in a sauce of brown butter and sage. (And even though I didn’t think I could possibly like anything better, I was wrong!) Behold, the tagliatelle limon with prosciutto and shaved parmesan cheese.
After that meal, I thought Chef Blake deserved a drink. I poured him some whiskey while we chatted about how he got his start in the business. He tells me that he didn’t even apply to the head chef position at Zeppoli on purpose! Proof that the best things can be an accident.
Trattoria Carina in Fitler Square is a spectacular neighborhood Italian spot with 36 seats that often fill up with pasta lovers. I wanted to begin with their most popular dish, the bucatini cacio e pepe. If you don’t know what that is, the name literally means cheese and pepper. It’s easily one of the best versions of this dish in the city.
The 10oz chicken parm with a side of spaghetti is the second most popular thing on the menu, and it didn’t disappoint. I went off the grid though and picked another item as my favorite, the perfectly al dente and spicy sausage rigatoni alla vodka.
Perhaps my favorite part though is something that most restaurants don’t have, it’s a BYOB and they also serve specialty cocktails! So you can bring your favorite bottle of red and enjoy an aperol spritz at the very same time.
At Crybaby Pasta in Queen Village, there is absolutely NOTHING to cry about, except after you slurp your last noodle. They set me up with some grilled focaccia with garlic butter for dipping and off I went. The crab linguini with bell peppers, bread crumbs, and old bay butter tasted like crab cake pasta.
The spaghetti pomodoro was classic and a perfect option for a Sunday gravy meal. The rigatoni with smoked chicken, pickled cherry peppers and pancetta had a creamy kick, but their tagliatelle with bolognese sauce and added cheesiness really played with my nostalgia meter…it reminded me of a homemade gourmet Hamburger Helper, and I made sure to take it all home with me.
Catch more pasta favorites next Friday on Action News Mornings!
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