Where To Find The Best Spaghetti Dishes In America

spaghetti on a spoon
spaghetti on a spoon - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

When it comes to ultimate comfort foods, spaghetti is definitely at the top of the list for many. It's a great, home-cooked meal. But what about getting spaghetti in a restaurant?

Because spaghetti is such a staple meal to make at home, many people might not even consider ordering it when eating out at a restaurant. Restaurant meals are those that you don't want to cook at home or meals that are too complicated, too time-consuming, or otherwise inconvenient ... right? We're here to change that.

It turns out that there are some places where you should absolutely order the spaghetti because the restaurants have put as much thought into their pasta and tomato sauce as they have their other entrées. They've elevated spaghetti way beyond something that you might just consider a kid's meal by using secret sauces, melt-in-your-mouth meatballs, and fresh, handmade pasta. With that in mind, let's talk about some of the restaurants that devoted customers claim on social media and websites like Yelp and Tripadvisor as having the best spaghetti in the United States. (Not heading out on the town in the near future? Make some of these easiest spaghetti recipes you'll ever try.)

Read more: The Best Steakhouse In Every State

Bartolini's — Midlothian, Illinois

Bartolini's spaghetti and meatballs
Bartolini's spaghetti and meatballs - Bartolini's Restaurant & Catering / Facebook

Everyone knows that recipes are better when they're passed down through the family for generations, and that's the secret behind the spaghetti and meatballs at Bartolini's. The Chicago-area hotspot is renowned for its lasagna and pizza, and those meatballs? They're front and center on the restaurant's 10-pound meatball sandwich (really!) and a beloved yearly tradition that honestly needs to catch on in more places: a meatball-eating contest.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, founders Chris and Dominic Bartolini spoke about how their menu was inspired by their family's love of food, from their grandmother and their parents to them. Chris Bartolini explained: "The table is where everybody gathered."

And it's safe to say that customers agree. One Tripadvisor reviewer asks whether the restaurant has the "Best spaghetti and meatballs in the U.S.?" adding: "The last time my wife and I dined at Bartolini's, I raved about the spaghetti and meatballs, especially the meatballs, which is a house specialty." One commenter on Facebook advises "2 forks required!" while another diner adds, "Your meatballs are stupendous !!! "

Carmelina's — Boston, Massachusetts

Carmelina's frutti di mare
Carmelina's frutti di mare - Carmelina's / Facebook

Carmelina's brands itself as specializing in Italian comfort food with a Mediterranean spin, and anyone wondering whether or not that works can consider two things. First, reservations are an absolute must. Also, reviewers on both Yelp and Tripadvisor are pretty consistent in saying that anything on the menu is pretty unconditionally amazing. When thousands of people agree on the internet, it's safe to say that's a really good sign.

Many of the rave reviews involve a spaghetti dish called frutti di mare, and if you're thinking this is going to be your typical spaghetti and meatballs, that's not the case. Order this, and you'll be experiencing a meal that's closer to how true Italians eat spaghetti: It's light on the sauce and heavy on the seafood. In other words, it's what spaghetti is supposed to be. Plenty of customers agree. (Side note: In Italy, it's never spaghetti Bolognese.)

Yelp reviewer wrote, "the frutti di mare was just everything ... I just appreciate that this meal exists." And this: "It's one of the best... I've had. Clams, mussels, prawns, and calamari. The sauce was perfect." Another diner on Yelp described the restaurant's Frutti di Mare and its carbonara as "Flavorful and delicious. I'm still dreaming of my food!"

Scarpetta — Multiple Locations

Scarpetta's spaghetti on a white plate
Scarpetta's spaghetti on a white plate - Scarpetta's NYC / Facebook

After hearing rave reviews for the Scarpetta restaurant's spaghetti dish, Today reporter Katie Quinn observed that yes, it was expensive, but explained, "I respect and appreciate [chef Scott] Conant's dish because it is NOT a gimmick. ... And I can tell you this: If this spaghetti were placed in front of Lady and the Tramp, they would not have shared."

And yes, it's definitely pricey. As of this writing, it's a whopping $36 at the restaurant's Hamptons location, but Quinn isn't the only one to swear that it's well worth the price point. One Tripadvisor reviewer writes, "There is no point in ordering a different entree. The spaghetti is always to die for. Every time I come to NYC I have to have one meal here. And I am never disappointed." Another says, "Growing up Italian I thought I had eaten the best ... pasta ever. Turns out, the spaghetti at Scarpetta is hands down the best plate of pasta I've ever eaten."

Though Conant is no longer affiliated with the restaurant, he was in awe of the attention the dish has gotten, telling Today, "This particular spaghetti with tomato and basil seems to have evolved into something that's a little bit bigger than me. It's the culmination of just small things that are really done properly ... it's a sum of all its parts." And that's the key, isn't it? Dishes don't have to be complex. They just have to be made with quality.

Cafe Spaghetti — Brooklyn, New York

pasta from Cafe Spaghetti
pasta from Cafe Spaghetti - Cafe Spaghetti / Instagram

With a name like Cafe Spaghetti, it's easy to see how customers would expect spaghetti offerings to be top-of-the-line, and this Brooklyn restaurant absolutely delivers. In addition to serving almost ridiculously huge meatballs as a starter (yes, please!), customers are also singing the praises of main courses like the spaghetti pomodoro. One reviewer on Yelp wrote that the "delicious spaghetti pomodoro doesn't need meatballs," while another wrote that they were shocked to find that as delicious as it was, it wasn't even their most popular dish. And those meatballs? They're served separately, slathered in sauce, and, as one Yelp reviewer claimed, they were "some of the best meatballs I've had in the city."

One Tripadvisor review from a customer from London, England, suggested that it was so good that they thought locals were trying to keep the place for themselves. They wrote that "it's off the beaten track for most that come to New York but if you are remotely close you should really come here." Reservations, they added, were a must.

In addition to the spaghetti pomodoro, there are other dishes like the spaghetti alle vongole (pictured). Also delicious? Yes! Some reviews said that the most challenging part about eating there was picking their favorite dish.

Osteria Al Volo — Washington, D.C.

Osteria Al Volo spaghetti noodles
Osteria Al Volo spaghetti noodles - Osteria Al Volo / Instagram

Washington, D.C.'s Osteria Al Volo got started as a food stand and eventually expanded into a restaurant, but it's quick to stress that the place is still about simple, straightforward Italian cuisine done really, really well. For anyone who can't get there to try the spaghetti in a sit-down atmosphere, there's some good news ... for locals, at least: Al Volo still sells its freshly made pasta and sauces at farmer's markets.

But customers rave that the spaghetti is definitely worth the trip and the wait — reservations are recommended. Those who took the time to post online reviews almost unanimously agree that it's a must-visit sort of place for anyone who happens to be anywhere in the vicinity of the place, and if it seems odd to order spaghetti in a Washington, D.C., restaurant that you've made a reservation for, reviews make it clear that the homemade pasta makes this a next-level dish.

One Yelp reviewer proclaimed "their spaghetti carbonara is an al dente perfection," while another said, "It was rich and savory, on the cheesy/creamier side than eggy. The portion is great, just enough for me to comfortably finish and wipe the sauce clean with the bread (just had to)." And yet another observed, "Their spaghetti carbonara is the best I've ever had, the noodles are fresh, the sauce is creamy and delicious and enhances the flavors of the guanciale. It's addicting!"

Maggiano's Little Italy — Multiple Locations

Maggiano's Little Italy spaghetti
Maggiano's Little Italy spaghetti - Maggiano's / Facebook

Looking for a delicious spaghetti dish but nowhere near any of the big cities that seem to attract the flagship, single-location restaurants? Don't worry. With 52 locations in 47 cities, there might just be a Maggiano's Little Italy nearby. You don't even have to leave the house because you can order online and have some deliciousness delivered right to your door.

And here's the thing: Adding a chain restaurant onto a list of the best spaghetti in the nation might seem a little risky, but reviewers don't lie. Check some of the reviews from the Charlotte, North Carolina, location. One customer shared on Yelp, "The spaghetti and meatball dinner was delicious ... The spaghetti noodles were classic. But that meatball was the real winner. ... bake[d] to perfection." Another on Yelp says that when it comes to spaghetti, "theirs is definitely my favorite."

Tripadvisor includes some reviews from Nashville, with one customer saying that not only do they love the spaghetti, but it was such a romantic place that they opted to also have their anniversary dinner there. And another reviewer from Tysons Corner, Virginia, wrote, "If you're a spaghetti and meatball lover, this is the place!" They lauded the use of traditional ingredients for a traditional dish, proving that dinner doesn't have to be fancy to be delicious.

Emmy's Spaghetti Shack — San Francisco, California

spaghetti from Emmy's
spaghetti from Emmy's - Emmy's Spaghetti Shack / Facebook

The "Emmy" of Emmy's Spaghetti Shack is Emmy Kaplan. She started in the restaurant industry when she was 14 years old, and by the time she started thinking about opening her own place, she knew what she did and didn't want. Fun and family-friendly? Yes. Stuffy and pretentious? No. She told SFGate, "Why does everything have to be so fancy? ... So that was something that I definitely was not interested in doing anymore."

The result was the sort of restaurant that has a shrine to Dolly Parton, decorations that change based on the season, a hand-drawn, colorful menu, and incredible spaghetti. It's located in San Francisco. There's no mistaking the place from the outside ... and there's no mistaking the seriousness that goes on in the kitchen.

Reviewers on Yelp rave, writing, "The Classic Spaghetti with meatballs was what you expect it to be. Classic. Homey. Done just the way you remember from childhood." Another calls the dish "perfectly sauced and full of flavor." One diner said it's "a home run, delicious meatballs, awesome red sauce, the hint of capers." Another customer called the spaghetti and meatballs their favorite, saying, "I have been coming here for years and this consistently is top must-have comfort food."

Charlie Gitto's On The Hill — St. Louis, Missouri

Charlie Gitto's spaghetti
Charlie Gitto's spaghetti - Charlie Gitto's / Facebook

Charlie Gitto's on the Hill has been a St. Louis staple for more than four decades, and that's a lot of time to perfect pasta — especially considering it makes the pasta fresh each and every day. Does it really make that much of a difference? Countless fans say yes. Let's put it this way. As of this writing, Tripadvisor has Charlie Gitto's ranked No. 4 out of 1,014 restaurants in the city. That doesn't happen by accident.

One glowing Tripadvisor review describes the spaghetti as deserving of a place among the top, saying, "The Spaghetti Bolognese is by far the best I have ever had in my 75 years and as a result is probably 4000 calories all by itself."

Yelp reviews for the spaghetti and meatballs are just as outstanding, with one customer saying, "I haven't had pasta so good or so well prepared since Rome." Another diner called the spaghetti "so yummy," adding, "On our way out, my daughter exclaimed, 'this was amazing, can we come back every day,' with two thumbs up!" Looking for something a little different? Customers on Yelp also say you can't go wrong with the baked spaghetti, calling it "fantastic," "so delicious," and "the best meal I have had in over a year."

The Pasta Bowl — Chicago, Illinois

The Pasta Bowl spaghetti bowls
The Pasta Bowl spaghetti bowls - Pasta Bowl / Facebook

With a name like The Pasta Bowl, it's pretty obvious what customers can expect from this Chicago eatery. What might not be expected is the quality of the food that's served up on a daily basis, as one Yelp reviewer explained: "I got the spaghetti frutti di mare, and it was fantastic. I had low expectations going in because it's such a small unassuming building. So glad I went!" Another, meanwhile, appealed to readers, "Please try the Frutti di mare!!" Others called their dishes "simply divine" and "to die for," with one adding, "I don't think you can really go wrong with anything here."

Customers on both Yelp and Tripadvisor laud The Pasta Bowl's three locations, all centered around Chicago. In the mood for linguine pesto? Conchiglie gorgonzola? Or how about some bruschetta with fresh plum tomatoes? If that all sounds delicious, that's because it is.

Given that the chicken parmesan is also served on a giant bed of spaghetti noodles, we're going to count that among the must-have dishes, too. That's also according to one Tripadvisor reviewer, who wrote, "The food was OUTSTANDING ... the meatballs were delicate and tasty, the chicken parm was just like my mom made it ... you HAVE to go to The Pasta Bowl for outstanding Italian food."

Cesarina — San Diego, California

Cesarina spaghetti in dish
Cesarina spaghetti in dish - Cesarina / Facebook

Location is everything, and when San Diego Magazine profiled Cesarina, it described the location as "the no-man's land between Ocean Beach and Point Loma." That said, the magazine also stressed that there was every reason in the world to make the trip there and stop for some truly amazing pasta dishes, mostly because the food was elevated into the stratosphere by the handmade pasta. It, the magazine said, was better than most handmade pasta because it skipped the eggs for a firmer texture that can sometimes be lacking.

The magazine is not alone in its insistence that this restaurant is absolutely worth the trip. Reviewers on Yelp call the spaghetti allo scoglio "the perfect blend of light and seafood goodness," with another saying, "Would come back just for the spaghetti allo scoglio. It was delicious!" Diners also give high praise for the cacio e pepe, with a reviewer saying, "It was out of this world," and another calling it "some of the best pasta we have ever had."

Those over on Tripadvisor agree, and so do a slew of food critics. The restaurant has even been awarded the Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide. But don't let that dissuade you if you prefer something a little more casual — you're not going to be going hungry here, and as one review said, "I wish they sold the sauce, because I would have bought a case."

Carmine's — Multiple Locations

Carmine's spaghetti and meatballs
Carmine's spaghetti and meatballs - Carmine's Italian Restaurant - Times Square / Facebook

Italian food is more than just a cuisine. It's a lifestyle. It's about sharing with friends and family, and that's what makes it so appropriate that Carmine's has actually shared its meatball recipe with the world. Can't make it to New York City, Atlantic City, Washington, D.C., or Las Vegas? Make its meatballs from the comfort of your own home, and share at your convenience — just like any Italian gourmand or home cook has intended since the invention of spaghetti, which historical records suggest is surprisingly complicated.

For those who can make it to an actual Carmine's location, it's absolutely worth the trip. The pasta dishes have hundreds of reviews on Yelp, with customers calling portions "over the top generous," and "not big, they are gargantuan." That's what we like to see! The quantity is there, but what about the quality?

There's a ton of rave reviews for that, too, with customers saying that the marinara sauce isn't just phenomenal on meatballs and pasta, but that when it's used on the bread, it's just next-level. And as for the Bolognese, one customer wrote, "We love their lamb bolognese — it's so flipping flavorful and delicious! I could eat that every night of the week." Add in that it has both indoor and outdoor seating and that it's family-friendly means there's no way to go wrong.

North Italia — Multiple Locations

North Italia spaghetti in bowl
North Italia spaghetti in bowl - North Italia / Facebook

While there's always a chance that guest experience will vary by location, there are plenty of reviews for North Italia on Tripadvisor and Yelp, with many echoing the sentiment that one customer offered about the Santa Monica location. They wrote on Tripadvisor that they had "one of the tastiest pastas I have ever tried and I'm really fussy when it comes to pasta."

Sure, you might expect a restaurant in Santa Monica to go above and beyond, but what about Kansas? Reviews for the Leawood, Kansas, location are also pretty stellar, with customers like this one taking to Yelp to write that the spaghetti was their children's go-to: "We have been at least ten times and I'm pretty sure they have ordered the kids spaghetti every time." Another said their husband loved the spaghetti so much that when they were leaving, they were making plans to return on a date night. One diner on Yelp declared the place had "Perfect spaghetti in its own right worth the accolade of a repeat visit many times over."

With many customers unable to decide which pasta dish they liked the most, it's safe to say that North Italia is a major contender for being among the best of the best — especially among chain restaurants. Just save room for dessert!


elegant spaghetti in a dish
elegant spaghetti in a dish - NatalyaBond/Shutterstock

In order to find some of the best places in the U.S. for a delicious spaghetti dinner, we did our homework. After getting pointed in the right direction by food critics, chefs, and various networks, we decided to go right to the people who matter: customers. We looked at reviews from sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp and also checked what people had to say on social media sites. In addition to good spaghetti, we were looking for all-around approval — and that included things like atmosphere, friendliness, and — we'll be honest — dessert.

In the mood for some spaghetti but unable to get a reservation at any of these places? Check out some of the biggest mistakes you can make when making spaghetti yourself and this top secret ingredient to stellar spaghetti so that you can get great food without ever leaving home.

Read the original article on Mashed