The stretch of Pico Boulevard between Western Avenue and Arlington Avenue is lined with auto shops, laundries, Oaxacan cafes and Korean restaurants. Since September, Arlington Heights is also home to one of the best Italian values in the city: Pasta Sisters.
The menu at Pasta Sisters is more or less mix-and-match. Pick a pasta and match your favorite sauce. Tagliatelle, spaghetti, pappardelle and penne are all considered basic. House-made gnocchi and ravioli cost a bit more. For a sense of what you'll face at the register, tagliatelle tossed with tomato basil sauce runs $7.50. The same pasta with porcini mushroom sauce costs $12.25. That pasta might be twice as much, or more, at fancier spots around town.
For example, al dente ribbons of tagliatelle come tossed with classic pine nut pesto. The plate simultaneously manages to show restraint while still delivering satisfaction and costs only $8.75.
Even though Pasta Sisters is brand new, the keys to their success lie in a book that dates to the 19th century. Paola Da Re's great grandmother kept a recipe book for sauces like arrabbiata that also imparted life lessons like how to keep a husband.
Paola Da Re grew up in the university town of Padua, in the Veneto. Four years ago, she joined sister Luisa in L.A. Paola previously worked in special needs education and as a private chef, since children and food are her two passions. Now she runs Pasta Sisters with daughters Francesca and Georgia, and her son Francesco.
A recipe book for sauces like arrabbiata that also imparted life lessons like how to keep a husband
Francesco, who previously worked for top-flight Italian restaurants like Angelini Osteria, Madeo, and The Factory Kitchen, spotted the small space, which used to be a cell phone shop, when driving home after shifts. Now you'll find four stainless steel tables with red stools and three seats at a wood counter facing Pico Boulevard. Watch the family make pastas in-house through a glass-shielded kitchen. The space is geared toward grab-and-go, making it far from full-service, but pleasant enough for a quick meal.
Pasta Sisters also sells primi like lasagna and eggplant Parmigiana, secondi like chicken Milanese and spezzatino (beef stew). Panini contains ingredients like cotto (Italian ham), caprese, and porchetta. During my last visit, they also had special truffle sauce ($14.95) and bottarga to shave on spaghetti ($10.75). For a sweet finish, Paola's sister Luisa makes cookies and tiramisu.
Panzerotti ($6.50) are another standout, essentially deep-fried calzones that come two to an order. Both spinach ricotta and ham mozzarella versions, which resemble crispy empanadas, come with tomato sauce.
[Left: panzerotti; Right: Family and staff members]
If you're looking to make Italian magic at home, a cold case spotlights house-made pastas like tagliatelle, pappardelle and spaghetti, and sauces like salmon cream, arrabbiata and three-cheese.
Francesco takes issue with many of L.A.'s Italian restaurants, saying, "It bothers me to see restaurants changing Italian food for American tastes." For example, he's still not used to seeing people pile chicken breast on their pasta, which would never happen in Italy, where noodles and proteins typically stay separate. With Pasta Sisters, he said, "Our mission is to reeducate people on how to eat good Italian food the right way."
3343 Pico Blvd.