The Boston Marathon takes place April 17, and runners looking to load up on carbs face an embarrassment of riches. Old-school meatballs? Sea urchin or Jonah crab? A pasta-style take on a Reuben sandwich? Read on for a selection of standout noodle dishes around town — to enjoy whether you’re running or just eating for support.
Gnocchi with capers and veal, $22
At this family-run North End stalwart, pasta is made in-house, and gnocchi is a favorite. “I’ve loved gnocchi dishes since I was a little boy at the restaurant,” says restaurateur Philip Frattaroli. He put this version on the menu four years ago in April to satiate marathoners craving carbs with a pop of caper-driven salt. Now it appears on his menu every spring, splashed with a tomato sauce.
415 Hanover St., Boston, 617-367-2353, www.luciab.st
Spaghetti with cracklings and hot pepper, $16
“I just think the main ingredient, the cracklings, is so unusual,” says Scampo’s Lydia Shire. “We cut a slab of pork belly into big cubes, salt it overnight, and render it slowly in its own fat until it’s super-light, with just the right amount of salt. They’re so delicious, and they’re warm when they go on the spaghetti.” In fact, it’s the restaurant’s biggest seller. “We just can’t take it off! Anyone who eats at Scampo has it,” she says.
The Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles St., Boston, 617-536-2100, www.scampoboston.com
Noodle soup, $15
Area Four co-owner Jeff Pond created this dish when his kids had strep throat. “My wife was making matzo ball soup, it was rainy and snowy, and I was playing around with noodles — but I didn’t want to do ramen,” he says. Instead, he concocted thin, spaghetti-like rye noodles that sop up his “intense” double or triple broth, made with veal and chicken bones, carrots, onion, and ginger.
Troy South End, 264 E. Berkeley St., Boston, 857-317-4805, www.areafour.com
Mafalde with braised suckling pig, green garlic, and nettles, $12 (half) or $23 (full)
At this cozy Southie joint, executive chef Tony Susi braises pig shoulders overnight in a buttery roasted chicken stock with onions and bay leaves. Then he tosses them with mafalde — a short, wavy pasta — and adds green garlic and nettles. “Green garlic looks more like a scallion, with a mild garlic flavor. It doesn’t have that strong, astringent bite,” Susi says. Nettles have a little sweetness, especially when sautéed with olive oil. “They’re kind of like baby kale,” he says. Healthy, maybe?
443 W. Broadway, Boston, 617-993-8080, www.caposouthboston.com
Whole-wheat spaghetti with sugo di mare, $18
This romantic Somerville nook serves house-made whole-wheat spaghetti in sugo di mare, or seafood sauce, with a few surprises. The sauce has garlic, caramelized shrimp, lobster stock, Jonah crabmeat — and a splash of anchovy sauce called colatura, plus a kick of jalapenos. “We go a step above with the colatura and jalapeno for some more heat,” says chef Mike Bergin.
126 Broadway, Somerville, 617-764-1612, www.fathenboston.com
Spicy seafood bucatini, market price
“There are go-to dishes, and for me, it’s either carbonara or fra diavolo,” says Saltie Girl restaurateur Kathy Sidell. “There’s nothing more satisfying.” This version of the latter, served at her Back Bay spot, has shrimp, mussels, squid, and littlenecks from Wulf’s Fish Market in a sauce spiked with Thai chiles. And while purists frown on sprinkling cheese atop seafood, Sidell isn’t in that camp. “I can’t help myself. Reggiano on anything is good. On my hand, it’s good!” she says. As for the bucatini? She calls it “toothy, and the perfect texture to hold up to all that seafood.”
281 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-267-0691, www.saltiegirl.com
Vinny’s at Night
Linguine with meatballs, $14.45 (dinner)
For a frills-free red-sauce feast, nothing beats this East Somerville hole in the wall. Step through the deli area and enter a garlic-scented, rollicking dining room filled with locals slurping wine like the world’s on fire. The heaping portion of linguine with homemade meatballs is a deal. Can you detect the secret ingredient? The ground beef is rolled with eggs, salt, pepper, grated Parmesan — and fresh mint, reveals manager Carmen Aniello.
76 Broadway, Somerville, 617-628-1921, www.vinnysatnight.com
WITH A TWIST
Uni carbonara, $16 (half) or $25 (full)
This rich dish has been on Coppa’s menu since it opened in 2009. Carbonara “was one of the first real, authentic dishes I learned how to make when I was younger. I fell in love with the simplicity of it,” says Jamie Bissonnette, chef-partner at the South End restaurant. This version has spaghetti, slow-cooked onions, black pepper, scallions, house-made bacon, egg yolks, Parmesan — and, of course, that briny pop of uni, also known as sea urchin. “It has a balance of familiarity and a little bit of uniqueness,” Bissonnette says. “I never get sick of it.”
253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-391-0902, www.coppaboston.com
Pumpernickel cavatelli with pork sugo and vermouth, $26
“One of my grandfather’s favorite Sunday meals was a Reuben with a martini,” says Townsman owner Matt Jennings, who created the rye-inspired dough as an homage to the classic sandwich. It’s served at the Chinatown restaurant with house-made pork sausage; instead of grandpa’s martini, there’s a vermouth glaze.
120 Kingston St., Boston, 617-993-0750, www.townsmanboston.comKara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.