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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: December 9, 2014

Dining Guide: 5 Portland-area restaurants for a good bowl of pasta

Sometimes, a hearty bowl of spaghetti bolognese or linguine carbonara is what we crave, especially on a cold and dark Maine winter’s night. Find Italian-style comfort at one of the restaurants in this diverse group.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

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

Piccolo

The busy dining room at Piccolo. Press Herald file photo

The busy dining room at Piccolo. Press Herald file photo

111 Middle St., Portland | 207-747-5307 | piccolomaine.com | $$$
For authentic southern Italian cooking, elegantly and simply prepared, Piccolo offers an outstanding dining experience in a small (give or take 20 seats), casual café setting. The wine list offers serious bottlings from Italy’s outstanding wine-producing regions; the list is well-priced. The menu changes daily, but best dishes include any the homemade pastas; a standout is the homemade cavatelli with lamb ragu, eggplant, orange and pecorino cheese. Desserts are made by pastry chef and co-proprietor Ilma Lopez.

Paciarino

Paciarino on Fore Street. Press Herald file photo

Paciarino on Fore Street. Press Herald file photo

468 Fore St. | 207-774-3500 | paciarino.com | $$$
You can’t get more authentic Italian than the fresh-daily pastas and sauces served at Paciarino. That’s because the owners, Fabiana de Savino and Enrico Barbiero, moved to Portland from Milan in 2008. Watch the couple cook as you feast on dishes such as pumpkin ravioli and lasagna Bolognese and listen to Italian music. Most pastas, raviolis and sauces can be purchased to take home.

Enio’s

Enio's in South Portland. Press Herald file photo

Enio’s in South Portland. Press Herald file photo

347 Cottage Rd., South Portland | 207-799-0207 | enioseatery.com | $$$
A cozy Italian cafe, offering a small collection of well-composed and uncomplicated dishes that are different from the old-school litany of red-sauce classics. It’s an attractive space, with just a few rustic and contemporary accents, run by husband and wife team Bob and Laura Butler. The menu includes more mix-and-match items than big plates, and pastas range from a simple bowl of pasta pomodoro to homemade cavitelli with broccoli rabe, roasted shallots and braised Italian sausage.

Ribollita

Ribollita on Middle Street in Portland. Press Herald file photo

Ribollita on Middle Street in Portland. Press Herald file photo

41 Middle St. | 207-774-2972 | ribollitamaine.com | $$
Ribollita’s long-standing reputation is well-deserved. Order handmade pasta (especially the gnocchi) in this rustic, romantic neighborhood trattoria, and have it served by friendly and food-loving staff. The signature ribollita soup is outstanding, and the “traditional favorites” section of the menu includes a first-rate rendition of what the restaurant calls “North End Linguine” – a variety of seafood in red or white sauce.

Vignola Cinque Terre

Vignola Cinque Terre in the Old Port. Press Herald file photo

Vignola Cinque Terre in the Old Port. Press Herald file photo

10 Dana St., Portland | 207-772-1330 | vignolamaine.com | $$$
In the heart of Portland’s Old Port, this ultra-stylish spot is one of the finest restaurants in the city, offering artisanal pasta and antipasti of all stripes and an impressive cheese selection in addition to delectable entrees and desserts. There’s an extensive list of fine Italian wines, too. Standout dishes include potato gnocchi with four-cheese sauce, and hand-cut thick-style spaghetti in a ragu of San Marzano tomatoes and house-made pancetta.

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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