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.
10 Exchange St., Portland | 207-879-4747 | thecornerroomkitchenandbar.com | $$$
Housemade pastas, breads and pizzas are the specialties of the house at this lively, Old Port restaurant, one of four in the city owned by Portland chef Harding Lee Smith. The menu highlights the pastas, which range from classics like fettuccine Bolognese and lasagna to inventive combinations such as gemelli with kale and pumpkin seed pesto, roasted cauliflower and pecorino cheese. The charcuterie and wine list get raves, while the cocktail list is unique and a collaborative effort with the bartenders and chefs.
4 Western Ave. Kennebunk | 207-204-0365 | portsofitaly.com/kennebunk | $$$$
After many successful years in Boothbay Harbor, Sante Calandri partnered with Argentine-born chef German Lucarelli to open a second location of his popular restaurant this summer. Right on the Kennebunk River, the dining room offers a gracious setting with white tablecloths and traditional decor. Fans praise the spaghetti with lobster, grape tomatoes, basil and lobster broth and the classic taglierini with clams as alternatives to the lobster rolls and fried clams served in so many places nearby.
140 Main St., Freeport | 207-869-7200 | tuscanbrickovenbistro.com | $$$
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.
97 Maine St., Brunswick | 207-721-0100 | enotecaathena.com | $$$
One of chef Tim O’Brien’s two Brunswick restaurants, Enoteca Athena serves rustic dishes from Italy and Greece from a sprawling open kitchen in which the chef makes his own pasta. “Spaghetti & Meat-a-Balls alla Nonna Viola” is offered in family-style servings for two, four or six; the menu also includes fettuccine with garlicky clams and a daily pasta del “paesano.” To go with them, the wine list features family vineyards in the mother countries.
315 Main St., Rockland | 207-594-0015 | rusticamaine.com | $$$
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.
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