OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — In today’s carb-conscious world, it can often feel sinful to indulge in a bowl of noodles. And yet, few things are more comforting than a plate of pasta. Wolfing down a bowl and enjoying that perfectly full feeling is like getting a bear hug from a loved one, and few ecstasies are as enjoyable as resting in the ensuing food coma.
While there are plenty of restaurants serving up great pasta dishes in Omaha, here are five that stand above the rest.
Every noodle at Dante, from the long strands of tagliatelle to the curved, ridged rigatoni, is handmade and cooked to order, resulting in a product that’s tender, yet has a good amount of bite. Chef/owner Nick Strawhecker and Executive Chef Drew Statz pair traditional Italian cooking with modern techniques and seasonal ingredients to craft a rotating menu of masterpieces.
The Rigatoni Bolognese, which features pork and beef enhanced with deep, bold flavors of being cooked down in red wine, is a crowd favorite, as is the rich, creamy Carbonara, a dish that employs cheese, egg yolks, and guanciale (think a crispier, superior version of bacon) with shell-shaped lumache noodles. But the real masterpiece is the Tagliatelle & Sunday Ragu; long, perfect pasta ribbons are mixed and topped with enormous portions of pulled bison meat (courtesy of the great Central Nebraska Buffalo) that's been cooked with spicy nduja (a spreadable pork sausage spiked with Calabrian chiles) and red wine.
The result is a rich, warming dish that satisfies your appetite, tastebuds, and soul.
After opening the award-winning restaurant Dario’s Brasserie in 2006, chef/owner Dario Schicke searched to no avail to find a standout Italian restaurant in Omaha. "No one was really focused on bringing the Italian culture back to life," Schicke said on the Restaurant Hoppen podcast.
So he traveled to the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, worked in five different kitchens and learned all that he could, then returned to open Avoli Osteria in 2013.
He didn't want another old-school, red-sauce Italian restaurant with a menu full of lasagna and meatballs. This would be modern Italian cuisine with a twist. With simple flour and water, Avoli creates noodles that serve as the headliner on every plate.
Omahans quickly embraced the unique dishes, and none more so than the Bolognese Bianco. The large rigatoni noodles could be the final exam of a master's class in pasta craft alone. But the sauce — or dare I suggest, meat accompaniment — sets this dish apart.
Though technically this white wine-based topping is indeed a sauce, it's not wet and cloyingly sweet as so many others are. Rather, it highlights the savory, rich pork and veal, which camp in the rigatoni bunkers to deliver delicious bite after bite. A healthy spattering of toasted hazelnuts adds texture and depth.
The idea of handmade pasta served in a drive-thru is nearly unheard of, but chef/owner Piero Cotrina is passionate and driven enough to turn this pipe dream into a reality. Originally intended to be a patisserie serving coffee and confections, WD Cravings was, like so many restaurants during 2020, forced to pivot.
Cotrina’s solution? Return to pasta, his true culinary love, but do it in a fast-casual way without sacrificing quality.
That mission seems lofty, but any doubter need take only one bite of WD Cravings’ savory Beef Bolognese or creamy Mac & Cheese (studded with strips of crispy fried chicken) to become a believer. And if your appetite can handle it, try to take down the Chicken Parmigiana, a manhole-sized fried chicken cutlet nestled atop velvety pappardelle pasta.
Plus, visiting WD Cravings allows you to savor one of co-owner Wendy Delgado’s delectable desserts, from the sweet Tres Leches cake to the decadent Chocolate Mousse. Whether you dine in or utilize the drive-thru, WD Cravings is a pasta destination.
Lo Sole Mio
Ask most Omahans where to get the best Italian food in Omaha and Lo Sole Mio is likely on their shortlist.
An Omaha institution since 1992, Lo Sole Mio offers an old-school atmosphere that transports diners across the Atlantic with its classic vibe and heaping plates of pasta.
That’s right, you’d better come to Lo Sole Mio hungry.
The portion sizes are large enough to crush most appetites, and that’s without savoring any of the house-made rolls or delicious Minestrone Soup. Any of the hearty pasta entrees can be ordered with six different styles of noodle, and they’ll leave you feeling happy and satisfied.
The Pasta di Casa features meteor-sized meatballs, and the creamy Pasta alla Carbonara is a delightful combination of bacon, cheese, beaten eggs, and tender noodles. If you love seafood, the Pasta Cappesante con Asiago, complete with buttery, supple scallops, is a must-experience dish.
Located just outside of downtown, Via Farina could be described as a “sauce minimalist”
restaurant. Great pasta can shine on its own without being drowned in sauce or bludgeoned by meatballs, and Via Farina’s is near perfection. At just al dente, it has a nice chew to go along with a pleasant but not overwhelming saltiness.
While all of Via Farina’s pasta dishes are excellent, the Egg Yolk Raviolo is the
unique headliner. This giant pasta purse encases a delicate egg that oozes delicious yolk upon being cut into. A delicious brown butter sauce adds fat and a dusting of pecorino cheese brings nuttiness. Plus, any leftover yolk/sauce can be mopped up by pieces of tangy sourdough bread.
Omaha is home to a host of incredible pasta joints, and these are but a sampling of the standouts. Have a favorite that’s not on this list? Send a message to @dan_hoppen on Instagram or @danhoppen on Twitter. As a passionate pasta lover, I’d love to hear more about your go-to spots that I need to try.