The last time you went out for your weekly linguine appointment, you may have noticed some unfamiliar noodles on the menu. “Sopre-huh?” “Mallor-what?” New York is in the throes of a pasta boom, with chefs clamoring to find obscure shapes and sometimes even inventing them. “It’s like Play-Doh, right? It’s a dough that we can do anything with,” says Vic’s chef Hillary Sterling. “There are endless possibilities of pasta.” This rush of innovation is being driven in part by increased knowledge of regional Italian cooking, but the internet’s influence is also at play: YouTube makes research easier while Instagram encourages finding foods that stand out. However, no budding pasta geek’s library is complete without a copy of the Encyclopedia of Pasta, which Lilia and Misi pasta savant Missy Robbins says “became a bible” for her kitchen. If you’re more the eating type, here’s a primer on niche pastas around town.
Where: Osteria Morini, 218 Lafayette St.
The torch-shaped pasta hails from somewhere in Italy, but that’s about as specific as it gets.
Where: Misi, 329 Kent Ave., Williamsburg; Vic’s, 31 Great Jones St.
Appropriately shaped like UFOs; it’s not clear where — if anywhere — these delicate stuffed pastas (introduced here by Sterling) come from.
Where: Don Angie, 103 Greenwich Ave.
A real fringe pasta, at best, that’s also called borsa vuota (“open purse”), this one has an origin story as murky as reused pasta water.
Where: I Trulli, 124 E. 27th St.; Legacy Records, 517 W. 38th St.
These eggy ravioli are the signature starch of the northeastern city of Ferrara, where they come pumpkin-stuffed; elsewhere they’re made to look like a cone-shaped hat.
Where: Carmenta’s, 50 Starr St., Bushwick; Scampi.
Named after snail shells, this pasta, produced for centuries in Gragnano, Campania, is now found all over.
Where: Misi, 329 Kent Ave., Williamsburg; Trattoria Italienne, 19 W. 24th St.
This Ligurian pasta traditionally gets stamped, like Madonna cookies, and was a kind of status brag in medieval times. (A modern variant includes the Grateful Dead logo.)
10. Gigli (or Campanelle)
Where: Faro, 436 Jefferson St., Bushwick.
You may be tempted to wipe your chin with one of these Northern Italian handkerchiefs, but its simple shape belies the difficulty of making a pasta so thin it’s nearly see-through.
Where: Zero Otto Nove, 2357 Arthur Ave., The Bronx.
There’s debate over whether this stubby pasta — named, oddly, after radiators — was invented between the two World Wars or in the 1960s.
Where: Lilia, 567 Union Ave., Williamsburg; Locanda Verde, 379 Greenwich St.; Leuca, 111 N. 12th St., Williamsburg.
These Naples noodles were supposedly dreamed up in 1902 to honor Princess Mafalda, or were renamed for her.
Where: Vic’s, 31 Great Jones St.
“Purse,” in English, this is Sterling’s effort to design a four-cornered ravioli that stands up.
Where: Arco Café, 886 Amsterdam Ave.
Fortified with lard, this one varies in shape throughout Sardinia and is served with ragù or an oil-cheese sauce.
Where: As a special at Don Angie, 103 Greenwich Ave.; and L’Artusi, 228 W. 10th St.
These dumplings, braided on top, originated in Ogliastra, Sardinia, and were made individually for major religious holidays.
Where: Upland, 345 Park Ave. S.
“We kind of just made it up,” admits Justin Smillie of his signature pasta, a happy accident that resulted from stumbling onto a star-shaped die.
Where: Barano, 26 Broadway, Williamsburg; Don Angie, 103 Greenwich Ave; Faro, 436 Jefferson St., Bushwick.
Shaped like a candy wrapper, these cute ravioli are praised for their dough-to-filling ratio and are likely from Emilia-Romagna.
Additional reporting by Yelena Dzhanova.
*This article appears in the February 18, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!