As a city with red sauce coursing through its veins, it’s safe to say New York has never lacked in the Italian pasta department. There’s glitz in Carbone’s spicy rigatoni vodka, technique in I Sodi’s towering lasagna, comfort in the Franks’ sausage cavatelli or even Scarpetta’s supreme tomato and basil spaghetti — not to mention all of the places on a mission to introduce every last niche pasta shape (kudos to you if you know what casoncelli, gramigna, and corzetti look like off the top of your head).
But something else is being extruded in New York. A pasta new guard of sorts, which pulls from a variety of influences, techniques, and cultures: fusion pasta. Yes, fusion, that most frowned-upon word. But according to our own columnist Mahira Rivers, it’s time we reclaimed fusion. Indeed, we may be in what she terms a golden era of fusion cuisine.
Now, throw in the cultural kaleidoscope that makes New York New York, and you’ve got yourself a whole new set of exciting dishes that could only make sense — and exist — in the Big Apple, from pastas inspired by the bodegas and diners that dot the city, to new-age Asian restaurants redefining their noodle-based traditions whilst borrowing from others.
So, ready to rethink your pasta possibilities? Welcome to New York’s new pasta guard.
Pasta Drops at Golden Diner
It all started with a bowl of black bean vongole. When chef-owner Sam Yoo first introduced greasy spoon neo-classics at Golden Diner, he also featured Diner Drops: limited-edition remixed pastas that were both playful and electrifying (previous editions have included carnitas strozzapreti and Korean sweet potato agnolotti). Needless, to say, when the GD pasta drops, you go, and you really don’t want to miss their latest: the Greek gnudi, gnocchi’s cheese-stuffed cousin that’s got both New York’s Greek diner culture and Tuscany in mind.
Soy Butter Bigoli at Kimika
As the itameshi* ringleader here in New York — especially after David Chang closed his Italian-flecked Momofuku Nishi (remember that iconic ceci e pepe?) — Kimika brings its bicultural cuisine into the stratosphere with an incredible lineup of Japanese-Italian mashups. But you should always leave room for the seasonally changing soy butter bigoli, which arrives perfectly dressed for the fall: with baby leeks, flowering garlic chives, garlic scapes, and a shallot gremolata clinging to the thick, soy-slicked strands.
(* A term used for Japanese-Italian fusion food, which also literally translates to “Italian food” in Japanese.)
Southern Fried Lasagna at Cadence
This is lasagna like you’ve never had it before. And that’s because Cadence chef Shenarri “Greens” Freeman has brilliantly reconciled the Southern and soul food of her Richmond, Va., upbringing with her pursuit and love of plant-based cuisine. Her vegan Southern fried lasagna, inspired by the one her mother would make for her growing up, packs just as much oomph and comfort as the original: what looks like two fried egg rolls are in fact sheets of pasta that’ve been layered with pine nut ricotta and spinach, rolled up, breaded, deep fried, and laid out in a pool of red wine Bolognese.
XLB Agnolotti at Red Paper Clip
When this Taiwanese American kitchen opened in the summer of 2019, the most scrutinized item was the XLB agnolotti. Combining two dumpling superstars into one, Red Paper Clip essentially took the insides of a xiao long bao (soup dumpling) — seasoned minced pork, alongside a gelatinized cube of pork fat that melts into soup when steamed — and grafted them inside handmade agnolotti, that plump, stuffed, and square pasta shape from the Piedmont region of Italy. Black vinegar and truffle finish the dish off, and while you might think twice before bringing your nai nai, nonna, or any other stuffed-dough purist here to try it, don’t hesitate; it’s worth the visit.
Koko’s Island Pasta at Kokomo
Nothing prepares you for the joyous party that is Kokomo, Williamsburg’s pan-Caribbean restaurant. And the same can be said of the creamy Koko’s Island pasta, or what happens when rasta pasta (itself a Jamaican-Italian penne dish created in Jamaica in the ’80s) and Alfredo sauce have a (spicy) lovechild. Think pappardelle subbing for the OG rasta penne and a cream-based sauce spiked with island spices, topped with portobello and mixed peppers (do order the juicy add-on shrimp if you know what’s good for you). If you want to take it to a whole other level, there’s rasta pasta with penne as a flatbread pizza topping, also on the menu.
Fuyu Cacio e Pepe Mein at Bonnie’s
At Brooklyn’s most anticipated Cantonese American restaurant, you’ll find a Cantonese twist on Rome’s legendary pasta. For Bonnie’s fuyu cacio e pepe mein, chef-owner Calvin Eng uses a homemade fermented fuyu (fermented bean curd) garlic butter. The classic trio of black pepper, pecorino, and Parmesan follows suit, but the fun twist here is that the Chinese noodles and sauce are tossed in a wok, giving it that deep and smoky “wok hei” (breath of the wok) flavor.
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Unsure of whether they belonged in this guide, the editorial team at Resy posed the following: Are tteokbokki — Korea’s chewy, oblong rice cakes — a pasta? Our peers and general internet observers were shocked at first, then indignant, and ultimately, undecided. Were rice cakes akin to gnocchi? (Quite possibly.) Do gnocchi count as pasta? (They’re really more dumplings.) Answers from our totally valid polling methods included everything from “Gnocchi and tteokbokki are to pasta as tomato is to vegetable” to “Don’t do it, Noëmie.”
We leave it to you, dear reader, to make up your mind.
Chopped Cheese Rice Cakes at Nowon
How did the famed bodega sandwich found across Harlem, Queens, and the Bronx find its way inside an East Village rice-cake dish? Something to ask Jae Lee next time you’re at Nowon, his playful Korean restaurant that riffs off Americana. The best way to think about his brainchild is a chopped cheese spilling its guts: spiced beef, tomato, lettuce, and cheese are tossed in a wok with fried tteokbokki, which are then topped with soy-pickled jalapeños, Parmesan, and breadcrumbs — salty, crispy, and utterly satisfying.
Dukboki Fundido at Haenyeo
Last but not least: One of 2019’s most talked-about appetizers, still rallying two years later. There’s a reason why every table still orders Haenyeo’s dukboki fundido, a cast iron skillet of saucy and bubbly Oaxaca cheese, mixed with bits of jalapeño and chorizo. This is a multicultural dish at its best, in which Korea’s pillowy rice cakes act as a perfect vehicle to scoop up the molten and spicy cheese dip, a wink to both Mexico’s queso fundido and alpine fondues. Beyond that, the medley of textures and flavors is pretty much unbeatable.