Chef Jason Cichonski was having so much fun creating wacky flavor-infused noodles with the pasta extruder he bought for his restaurant Ela in Queen Village, it's become a business of its own. The Little Noodle Co., which he cofounded with partner (and former Lacroix colleague) Justin Lisius in Denver, has focused here largely on wholesale collaborations with other Philly chefs, along with the frequent happy hour special at Ela. A quick-serve restaurant concept is also in the works. In the meantime, Riverwards Produce in Fishtown remains the sole retail outlet for Little Noodle Co. in town. Unlike industrially produced extruded noodles, these are still fresh and soft, with a cooking time of just a couple of minutes. (That means you'll find them in the refrigerated section.) Yet they still have that distinctive extruded noodle snap. Cichonski plays with lots of flavors, with infusions from charred onion to red wine, toasted rye and a chili flavor that was ideal for the spicy Calabrese Bolognese recipe from the Hungry Pigeon. Even the plain Little Noodles, though, have a big personality of texture and freshness that can improve your pasta night.
— Craig LaBan
If the name Steve Gonzalez rings a bell (or at least a couple), that's because this Vetri alum was the talented opening chef at Zavino in Midtown Village, where his pastas were at least as memorable as the wood-fired pizzas. After heading to New York to work with several other Italian luminaries (like Macro Canora) Gonzales is now in charge of pasta production at Sfoglini in Booklyn, which makes what I consider some of the best dried extruded pastas on the market, domestic or otherwise. Sfoglini uses organic American semolina, seasonal ingredients, and bronze dyes for its shapes, and I've loved pretty much every one I've tried, including the cavatelli-like saffron malloreddus that was perfect with lentils and sautéed greens. The pumpkin-shaped zucca, meanwhile, creates grooved little noodle cups that are ideal for cradling sauces you might also pair with a typical tube pasta.
Trattoria Carina is an Italian restaurant. But Asian crab paste is the key ingredient in the Angry Crab pasta recipe that is one of my favorite dishes there. It adds a subtle undertow of funk and spicy crab intensity to the tomato sauce, which pairs with shell-shaped pasta. Chef Steven Eckerd says there are many varieties available at the Asian markets along Washington Avenue, but this jar from Thailand imported by IHA with a big red crab on the yellow label is the variety he prefers: "It has the cleanest flavor of chili and crab," Eckerd says, "while others can feel oily on the palate."