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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: November 5, 2015

Dining Guide: 5 Maine restaurants to visit for a hearty bowl of pasta

A warm, filling bowl of pasta is high on almost everyone’s list of comfort foods, especially when temperatures dip and night falls early. These five places are doing things right.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

See our similar guide from last year for 5 more suggestions.

For full listings and more restaurants, see our searchable Restaurant & Bar Guide.

The Corner Room

Harding Smith works his Friday afternoon happy hour behind the appetizers at The Corner Room in Portland. Press Herald file photo

Harding Smith works his Friday afternoon happy hour behind the appetizers at The Corner Room in Portland. Press Herald file photo

10 Exchange St., Portland | 207-879-4747 | thecornerroomkitchenandbar.com | $$$
Housemade pastas, breads and pizzas are the specialties of the house at this lively, Old Port restaurant, one of four in the city owned by Portland chef Harding Lee Smith. The menu highlights the pastas, which range from classics like fettuccine Bolognese and lasagna to inventive combinations such as gemelli with kale and pumpkin seed pesto, roasted cauliflower and pecorino cheese. The charcuterie and wine list get raves, while the cocktail list is unique and a collaborative effort with the bartenders and chefs.

Ports of Italy

4 Western Ave. Kennebunk | 207-204-0365 | portsofitaly.com/kennebunk | $$$$
After many successful years in Boothbay Harbor, Sante Calandri partnered with Argentine-born chef German Lucarelli to open a second location of his popular restaurant this summer. Right on the Kennebunk River, the dining room offers a gracious setting with white tablecloths and traditional decor. Fans praise the spaghetti with lobster, grape tomatoes, basil and lobster broth and the classic taglierini with clams as alternatives to the lobster rolls and fried clams served in so many places nearby.

Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro

Servers deliver food at Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro in Freeport. Press Herald file photo

Servers deliver food at Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro in Freeport. Press Herald file photo

140 Main St., Freeport | 207-869-7200  | tuscanbrickovenbistro.com | $$$
Just down the street from L.L. Bean and Freeport’s outlet shops, this spacious, contemporary and comfortable Italian restaurant attracts both visitors and locals. The brick oven pizza is deservedly popular, but so are chef Chris Geer’s housemade pastas, including the trumpet-shaped pasta with bolognese sauce made from Pineland Farms beef and housemade fennel sausage, the lobster ale mac and cheese and the pappardelle with slow braised local rabbit.

Enoteca Athena

The bar at Enoteca Athena in Brunswick. Press Herald file photo

The bar at Enoteca Athena in Brunswick. Press Herald file photo

97 Maine St., Brunswick | 207-721-0100 | enotecaathena.com | $$$
One of chef Tim O’Brien’s two Brunswick restaurants, Enoteca Athena serves rustic dishes from Italy and Greece from a sprawling open kitchen in which the chef makes his own pasta. “Spaghetti & Meat-a-Balls alla Nonna Viola” is offered in family-style servings for two, four or six; the menu also includes fettuccine with garlicky clams and a daily pasta del “paesano.” To go with them, the wine list features family vineyards in the mother countries.

Rustica Cucina Italiana

Fettuccine with Sausage and Crispy Eggplant at Rustica in Rockland. Press Herald file photo

Fettuccine with Sausage and Crispy Eggplant at Rustica in Rockland. Press Herald file photo

315 Main St., Rockland | 207-594-0015 | rusticamaine.com | $$$
A comfortable Italian restaurant with dishes inspired by the Old World and flavors that are consistently bold. The sausage in the fettuccine with hot sausage, crispy eggplant, fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, basil and Parmesan is housemade and chef/owner John Stowe also makes the ricotta gnocchi he tops with lobster and shrimp in a tomato, white wine butter sauce. Rustica’s risotto specials are rich, creamy and substantial – luxury in a bowl.

Key to prices

The approximate cost of two dinner entrees (not including appetizers, drinks, tax and gratuity.)
$ – $15 and under
$$ – $16 to $25
$$$ – $26 to $45
$$$$ – $46 and up

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