As I stepped down from street level into the unassuming eatery nestled near Union Square Park on 17th Street, New Yorkers were happily swirling, twirling, and devouring pasta all around me. The hum of lively conversations filled the space along with the divine aroma of authentic Italian cooking. Servers swiftly glided to and from the kitchen carrying steamy, colorfully plated dishes, while a cart topped with a giant cheese wheel full of Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe rolled by. My mouth was watering at Pasta Eater before I even sat down.
Founded by Giusto Priola, the Sicilian-born restaurateur behind popular restaurants Cacio e Pepe (recognized for its namesake dish served in a wheel of Pecorino cheese) and Cacio e Vino, Pasta Eater is a homey new hotspot below Midtown for Southern Italian fare. Every day for lunch and dinner, the kitchen cranks out all-freshly-made pasta, stuffed focaccia, earth and sea antipasti, and beyond under the direction of Chef Luigi Cetrulo, who infuses his cuisine with ancient traditions from his childhood in Italy’s Apulia region.
Among the countless palette pleasers on the menu, a handful of dishes deserve special attention for their old-time ingredients and flavors. Standouts include Cavatelli di Grano Arso (burnt wheat cavatelli); Quadrotti al Nero di Seppia (squid ink ravioli filled with cod fish); Pasta Giusto (tagghiarini garnished with prosciutto di Parma) served from a Parmigiano Reggiano wheel; Paccheri al Ragù di Polpo (paccheri pasta in a hand-made octopus ragù); and Fettucine al Cioccolato (chocolate fettuccine).
“The majority of the dishes, such as the orecchiette cime di rapa and the spaghettoni, come from my land, Puglia,” Cetrulo explains. “I have tried to mix tradition and innovation whilst remembering timeless flavors only my mother, my grandmother, and everyone before them brought to the table in their own home.”
To round out your savory feast, desserts such as the Crème Brûlée al The Verde (green tea crème brûlée) and Semifreddo al Torroncino (nougat semifreddo) are an added bonus. Both confections are light with a delicate sweetness.
Those looking to capture insider foodie content can find it during the early morning hours at Pasta Eater—when the real magic happens. Passersby have a view of the pasta maker meticulously rolling their pin at the end of the restaurant’s bar.
“You can see it every morning through the front window,” says Priola. “All the people who walk by and see the fresh pasta being made stop in awe and come back either during their lunch break or at night to try it.”
Keep an eye out for the addition of a full cocktail bar stocked with a selection of wine and beer imported from Italy. Hello happy hour.