From agnolotti to ziti, here are some of our fave Italian restaurants for pasta
Let's spaghetti this out of the way. A pasta listicle intro demands puns. Please keep scrolling to the good stuff if you don't like them, you won't have to scroll far-falle (sorry).
It may just be flour and water, with a bit of egg thrown in if you're lucky, but pasta can be a vehicle for all manner of flavours. And we're here to tagliatelle you about our favourite pasta dishes in Manchester. You can go wild with fire, theatre and friends with sharers at San Carlo, or if you're feeling cannelloni and want to rigatoni it down a bit, there are back to basics belters from newbie Ornella's Kitchen. That's another good thing about pasta, you can go large if you like, but you don't have to spend a pretty penne to get a decent and filling lunch.
Manchester has a lot of pasta masters but this lot are the ones we think deserve a trofie.
Read on to pappardel-ve into the bubbling waters of Manchester's best pasta purveyors.
Campagna at The Creameries
This Chorlton neighbourhood gem was opened by dairy queen (and Heston's mate) Mary-Ellen McTague back in 2018. It was known for great cheese, low intervention wine and Mary-Ellen's love of game and trad recipes popping up in various forms on tasting menus. Now with the kitchen reins handed over to Mike Thomas, formerly of Where The Light Gets In, there's been a sharp change of direction to a broadly Italian country-style menu but still with gamey bits sneaking in - see dishes like tagliatelle with wild rabbit ragu. You might also find a wodge of lasagne as thick as that copy of War and Peace you've never managed to finish or a nettle and wild garlic pesto with ricotta salata adorning your fresh tagliatelle if game ain't your style. Hyperseasonally focused, the menu changes faster than any listicle can keep up with so if you need to know in advance what you're getting, you'll find up to the minute deets on socials.
406 Wilbraham Rd, Manchester M21 0SD
What started as a pop-up pizza joint at Levy Market soon became a permanent fixture above Fred's Ale House and boy did it get a cult following quickly. Fast forward to 2021, the team moved into a new, standalone restaurant space and expanded its menu. In came dishes from all over Italy and Sicily using ingredients that you'll struggle to find anywhere else in Manchester. Our top pasta pick is the rich and umami depths of the porcini lasagne. Baked layers of fresh pasta, porcini mushrooms, truffle paste, mozzarella, parmesan & truffle oil. But while you're at it, get stuck into some of the legendary savoury doughnuts.
847-849 Stockport Rd, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3PW
What started as a lip-smacking pandemic-fuelled pop up in Eccles quickly gained momentum. Rising in popularity via appearances at key foodie events like Festa Italia, Lucky Mama's soon popped its pop up pants and moved into its own permanent home in Chorlton. All your favourites are there from mac n cheese to arrabiatta to the classic ragu but if you're after a curveball, what about Rasta pasta? Born out of a, er, misunderstanding, rasta pasta features jerk infused creamy parmesan sauce, sautéed mixed peppers and red onions.
565 Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 8AE
Denton may not be the foodie destination du jour (that's, Sale, right?) but that doesn't mean it doesn't have foodie credentials at all. Locals would tell you there's a host of good stuff there and it's certainly one to watch now Sicilian chef Ornella Cancila has planted her flag there. Who's Ornella? Well, you might know her from her time at the universally adored Pollen bakery, or maybe you got a preview of her pasta when she set up a delivery service during lockdown. Think mushroom ravioli with truffle sauce, creamy pork sausage pappardelle with crispy shallots or classic lasagne all made with a whole lot of love.
10 Manchester Rd, Denton, Manchester M34 3LE
We love The Pasta Factory at Confidentials and we know that lots of other people do too. This unassuming little restaurant quietly opened on Shudehill back in 2015 and began churning out all manner of fresh pasta from stripey farfalle to squid ink ravioli. Yes it is an actual factory of sorts - you can buy the pasta it produces to take home and cook - but the name doesn't quite do justice to the fact that it's a really great restaurant too. With super friendly staff, great wine and a laid back vibe, expect exceptional dishes like Reginette al Barbera al ragu di cervo (red wine ribbon pasta with wild venison and parmesan crisp) or ravioli di capesante con zucca confit (filled pasta with scallops, spicy miso butter, pumpkin and sage). Crikey.
77 Shudehill, Manchester M4 4AN
If it's an excuse to dress up in your fanciest pants you're after, Rosso can provide the glamorous backdrop you need. This footballer-owned, fine-dining style Italian in a grandiose grade II listed building is the choice of Manchester's glitterati both established and aspirational. But it's not all fur coat and no knickers. The food stacks up. In the pasta department, one of our team favourites is spaghetti neri alla chitarra con cozze e vongole in which jet black "chitarra" spaghetti (the square-cut kind, apparently inspired by guitar strings) is dressed in a rich tomato, chilli and garlic sauce and jewelled with plump mussels and clams.
43 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BG
No list of Italian restaurants in Manchester is complete without San Carlo. When it opened on King Street West in 2004, you couldn't move for paparazzi. This old school favourite has continued to reign as the glam option for Manchester's stars, particularly of the footie and soap variety. San Carlo's "thing" is to bring the wow factor with dishes like a seafood spaghetti sharer baked in the oven under a bonnet of pizza dough (see main pic), which is then slashed into at the table for a bit of steamy shellfish theatre. Fire more your thing? How about Penne Romanoff? Named for the Russian tzar: salmon, tomato and cream with a good glug of vodka set alight at the table. Less theatrical but definitely celeb-worthy is San Carlo's most famous dish: Tagliolini Lobster with the king of seafood dressed in a silky sauce made from brandy, tomato and cream.
42 King St W, Manchester M3 2WY
Salvi's started life as a self-styled "mozzarella bar". This next-level deli injected some much-needed indie spirit (and burrata) into the chain-fest of the Corn Exchange back when it was still called The Triangle. Maurizio Cecco and his family soon expanded to multiple sites and even launched the now huge Festa Italia. We love the latest member of the family, the cosy NQ restaurant where spaghetti alla vongole made our reviewer come over all Sophia Loren. Pasta con salsiccia e crema di patate is another of our top picks with Italian sausage and creamed potato making for the best kind of carb on carb action. Look out for Salvi's latest arrival on Deansgate Square soon.
60-67A High St, Manchester M4 1FS
This restaurant is named after its key dish of spätzle which translates from German as, you guessed it, little sparrows. Spätzle has roots in a broad geographical area encompassing South Germany, Switzerland, Alsace, Austria and South Tyrol, and Trentino and Alto Adige of Northern Italy. These fat, wool-like strands of egg pasta are perfect for soaking up simple sauces like classic tomato, käse (with Emmentaler cheese and braised onion) or sage butter. But there's more: freshly made ravioli fillings change daily - we enjoyed ours stuffed with sweet squash and sprinkled with breadcrumbs. You might also find fresh egg pappardelle or torteli stuffed with ricotta and spinach. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the dishes, you'll find some of the best food in the city here.
16 Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M4 4HF
Another restaurant with pasta as its main focus, Sugo is a cult classic in Manchester these days. Beginning life in Altrincham in 2015 with an Ancoats restaurant following a few years later, Sugo's menu is mostly inspired by Southern Italy and dishes are famously served in shallow bowls with spoons to eat with. Of course it's the house Sugo made with beef shin, pork shoulder and nduja that is the feather in the restaurant's cap, but the seafood symphony of Sugo Scoglio also has an army of fans. My favourite dish of recent times, however, is chewy squiggles of strozzapreti with broccolini softened by anchovy butter and house chicken stock and finished with pangrattato (aka breadcrumbs).
46 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF
22 Shaw's Rd, Altrincham WA14 1QU
Pasta is not the main event for these twin restaurants in Altrincham and Ramsbottom, with the focus more on traditional Italian trattoria-style dishes like their famous roast chicken skillets and their extensive Neapolitan pizza menu. However, when pasta appears on the specials menu, it is well worth getting involved. With a substantial focus on the fruits of the sea, recent pasta specials have included paccheri (chunky af tube pasta) with prawns, mussels, garlic and artichokes in lobster bisque as well as linguine with hand-picked white crab meat, wild garlic, chilli and lemon.
16-18 Market Pl, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 9HT
4a Moss Ln, Altrincham WA14 1BA
Salford has about as much in common with Sorrento as this writer has with Kim Kardashian, but there is a little slice of rustic Italy on Salford's tastiest terrace, Chapel St. Vero Moderno is a modern Italian that wants you to step away from the bolognese and carbonara (just for a moment, you can go back) to try some of Italy's lesser-known regional dishes. This Salford restaurant has got a hardcore sect of adoring fans that could give Pope Francis a run for his money. Check out the Taglierini del Pescatore: fresh long pasta with mussel meatballs, chunks of cod, baby squid and Italian Datterino tomato.
Unit 4 Vimto Gardens, Chapel St, Salford M3 5JF
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