Sometimes, there's nothing more satisfying then a plate of pasta. And the one thing that always makes it better? Freshly made pasta. Luckily, the Bay Area is packed with places to buy pasta in a variety of flavors and types, cut to order per your specifications. Here are options for places to get fresh pasta in San Francisco and the East Bay--and if we didn't include your favorite, let us know in the comments.
Berkeley’s Phoenix Pastificio sells their pastas to high-end restaurants across the Bay Area, but their production facility, where you can buy any of their pastas, is charmingly homey. It’s a cavernous brick building in West Berkeley that includes a bell you ring to get the attention of the staff, who are busy making pasta and pastries. They’ll sell you any amount of their wide range of products, from their famous olive bread to their pastas, which they’ll cut to order. Their plain pasta, light and eggy, is very good, but the real fun is their array of other noodle flavors, from stinging nettle to rose petal. Roasted yellow bell pepper with green serrano and habanero noodles managed to pack an impressive amount of flavor and heat into its thin strands, and would be the ideal base for a farmers' market vegetable-heavy spring pasta dish.
“I haven’t cooked in a year,” a smiling customer gushed to me while I was waiting to order at Noe Valley’s Pasta Gina. It’s a common sentiment echoed by fans of the tiny, cramped shop, who include Senator Mark Leno. The store manages to produce an impressive amount of offerings out of their small space, including sauces, ravioli and several types of pasta you can get cut to order, including lemon, bell pepper, and eggless options. The solicitous staff will also recommend sauce pairings for any pasta you buy. The plain egg pasta is good, the porcini ravioli perfect. Rich, herby and meaty, it’s astonishingly complex, a meatless main to leave vegetarians smug and meat-lovers impressed.
Rockridge’s Market Hall is both the best and worst place to be while hungry: it’s so crowded with every kind of delicious food, it’s almost overwhelming. Luckily there are the cheery, helpful employees--calmly calling out numbers over a microphone, holding an animated conversation while cutting up a rotisserie chicken with cooking shears--to guide you through the bustle. The Pasta Shop is one of the Hall’s many offerings, with a wide variety of egg noodles in flavors like garlic, herb and saffron. They also offer a collection of raviolis, with vegetarian, vegan and seasonal options. There are even adorable, pre-packaged mini-packs of about a serving’s worth of ravioli, like fancier versions of those 100-calorie Oreo packs. The egg pasta--they’ll cut any of their flavors to whatever size you want in their hulking, loudly grinding machine--is a pleasant base for any of their sauces, and the flavor combinations of their raviolis are thoughtfully considered. If you want to have a luxurious at-home meal, try the ricotta raviolis flecked with good-sized chunks of truffle shavings. It’s bold, funky and earthy. And unlike 99% of truffle products on the market, it includes real truffle shavings--which is the closest most of us will come to eating truffles anytime soon.
The Pasta Shop at Rockridge Market Hall
5655 College Ave #201, Oakland, CA [map]
Ph: (510) 250-6000
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am–8pm; Sat 9am-7pm; Sun 10am-6pm
Facebook: Rockridge Market Hall
Twitter: Rockridge Market Hall
Price range: $ (Pasta $10 and under per pound)
To get to San Francisco's Italian Homemade Company from BART, you have to walk about a mile down Columbus Ave. It’s a busy mile: you walk past the open restaurant windows, exhaling the cologne of men on dates; past the clumps of tourists in front of the Condor Club; and past the slackliners drinking beer as they precariously perch in Washington Square Park. The inside of the store is just as bustling, with workers chattering to each other in Italian in front of a doorway to a mysteriously marked “pasta lab.” You can order any of the restaurant's pastas to eat at the store, covered in one of their homemade sauces, or take it to go, packed up in giant Ziploc bags. Their plain pasta had a clean, eggy flavor, and their meat tortellini was perfection: tiny plump dumplings, juicy and rich from the combination of prosciutto and mortadella.
The Italian Homemade Company
716 Columbus Ave, San Francisco [map]
Ph: (415) 712-8874
Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am–9pm
Facebook: The Italian Homemade Company
Price range: $$ ($11-$17 per pound)
The Mission’s Lucca Ravioli Company is a combination deli and specialty grocery store, packed with fancy Italian sodas and Italian foodstuffs made in-house, from pizza dough to meatballs. (They also have an impressive selection of amaros competing for space with dutch crunch rolls on the wooden shelves behind the counter). During lunchtime, everyone from young office workers to sunburned construction workers crowd each other in the tiny store, waiting patiently to be called up by the dapper collection of paper-hatted employees. Their plain pasta is good, and the cheese tortellini is appropriately old school: salty, rich and satisfying.
Going to Genova Delicatessen is a singular Oakland experience, alternately hellish and life-affirming. Hellish because no matter how shrewdly you plan your visit, no matter how much use you make of that handy new Google feature that tells you the busiest times, there always seems to be at least 20 people in front of you.
But while you’re waiting--which you must do, even if you’re just buying pasta and not getting one of their famous deli sandwiches--you’ll notice that Genova is a vestige of Temescal before it got hip, leading to a diverse crowd that’s becoming increasingly hard to find in the area. Everyone is united by the same goal: getting some of Genova’s homey, delicious Italian classics, served up by the efficient, tie-wearing staff who gossip with the regulars about mutual friends.
That’s why it was especially crushing to read the news that Genova--like so many other Bay Area institutions--might close because of rising rents. Nothing is final yet, and the owners have confirmed that no matter what happens, their line of pastas will continue to be stocked in their wholesale accounts (which include Berkeley Bowl and Andronico’s). They sell a satisfying egg pasta--pre-cut in their deli case, in a variety of sizes--and an array of ravioli in classic flavors. One of their best is the the spinach and ricotta ravioli, pillowy pockets of chard-flecked ricotta surrounded by olive-green spinach pasta.
Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli Factory
5095 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA [map]
Ph: (510) 652-7401
Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-6pm
Facebook: Dominics Original Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli Factory
Price range: $ (Pasta $10 and under per pound)