Chef Evan Funke has dedicated his life to the pursuit of the perfect pasta. It’s not just a job or a passion. It’s a religion to the chef. He’s spent years studying under masters and nonnas alike in Bologna, Italy’s culinary heartland. He returned to America ready to share the beauty and nuance of not just great pasta but the best pasta Italy has to offer.
That homecoming translated to Funke opening up the much-lauded (now closed) Bucato in Los Angeles. Currently, he owns and operates Felix Trattoria in Venice Beach, where he’s been twice nominated for James Beard Awards. But Funke’s love of pasta goes beyond being a restauranteur. He’s a teacher at heart and has written a cookbook, American Sfoglino, and is currently starring in a Tastemade Now documentary called Funke (which is streaming on major services).
All of this adds up to Chef Evan Funke being the pasta expert to ask about the best plates of pasta in all of Italy. The man has dedicated his life to finding exactly that. We reached out to Funke recently to pick his brain about the essential pasta experiences everyone should have when they travel to the Boot. The eight pasta stops below blend the modern and fresh with the classic and traditional. The throughline? Each and every spot is a must-stop for any vagabonding food lover looking for a transcendent Italian pasta experience.
LA CARBONARA from SANTO PALATO, ROME
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Chef Sarah Cicolini is a virtuoso of the new Roman kitchen. She takes an enlightened approach with deep traditional roots. The guanciale (cured pork jowl) is perfectly crisp and creates a counterpoint to the lusciousness of the cheesy sauce that’s nothing more than great, local cheese, black pepper, and serious skills.
TORTELLINI EN BRODO from AMERIGO DAL 1934, SAVIGNO
The sfoglini at Bettinni’s trattoria are some of the best in Emilia–Romagna. Their prowess is displayed simply by the size of the tortellini, eight to a spoonful. The broth is so deep and blows all others away. You’ll be asking for seconds, trust me.
TORTELLI VERDI COM RAGU DI CULATELLO from LA CUCINA DEL MAESTRO, PARMA
If you like pig, you will love Parma and La Cucina del Maestro. Traditional spinach tortelli dressed in a most spectacular ragu made from culatello. That’s a ham made from the loin cut of the pig’s hind leg that’s cured inside a bladder with salt to add a whole new level of umami, funk, and deliciousness.
ORECCHIETTE from VIA ARCO BASSO, BARI
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This is not a restaurant. This is an alleyway where the quintessential “Pugliese” shape is produced out in the open, in substantial quantities, by hand, by shit-talking nonnas. If you’re lucky you will find a woman named Nunzia and her mother Franca and maybe, maybe get yourself invited to lunch upstairs. This alleyway of fresh pasta makes getting an Airbnb with a kitchen a must when in Bari.
BUSIATE ALLA CASTELLANA from TRATTORIA AL SOLITO POSTO, TRAPANI
Busiate is the cornerstone of la cucina Trapanese. Typically, you will find it dressed with the local pesto. But, at Solito Posto, a surprising condimento of eggplant, sausage, pomodoro, and cinnamon is a glimpse into the distant past of Arab influences on the Sicilian kitchen.
This plate of pasta will leave you saying, “F$@king WOW!”
TAJARIN from OSTERIA DA GEMMA, RODDINO
Signora Gemma is a powerhouse of Piedmontese cuisine. Utilizing a unique rolling technique, Gemma produces some of the finest, gossamer thin, hand-cut pasta I’ve ever seen or eaten. It’s worth the winding drive to Roddino from Genoa … or even Nice if you happen to be in France.
RASCATIEDDI CRUSCHI E CACIO from RISTORANTE LE MACINE, SENISE
I can’t explain. If you can find this little place, you win.
Just a warning: You’ll need to rent a car and drive it through amazing southern Italian hill country in the Potenza province. So even if you don’t find it, you’ll still have a great time.