Five of the best: pasta

All images: Charlotte Griffiths

Where's the best pasta dish in Cambridge? Charlotte Griffiths investigates

Supermarket pasta sales have declined in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of gluten-free eating and alternative grains – but you only have to look at the astronomical success of restaurants such as Padella in London’s Borough Market to see that Britons haven’t fallen out of love with this wheaty treat.

Cambridge has been home to some much-missed pasta places: Clowns Cafe, of course – where late-night bowlfuls kept generations of students well-nourished – or Mill Road’s Pasta Fresca, which several locals openly mourned when we asked for recommendations on Twitter. But if you’re after fantastic fusilli, splendid spaghetti or terrific tagliatelle these days, where can you find pasta that’s worth pausing for?

Read on for our current favourites...

Perfect for people watching and feasts with friends: Maurizio Dining & Co 

Pasta is always on the menu at this relative newcomer to the Cambridge dining scene. Maurizio opened on Mill Road around a year ago and has fast won over locals with delicious aperitivo, simple cicchetti, sharing boards of cheeses and Italian meats, and a pasta dish which changes daily.

When we dropped by, the specials included trofie pasta al pesto, which our super-friendly server highly recommended – and which we demolished in minutes. Wash down your dinner with a glass from Maurizio’s extensive and well-kept wine list – and every Thursday, their Italian cocktails are two for £10.

Best for celebratory meals and special occasions: Il Piccolo Mondo

No round-up of pasta places in our city would be complete without mentioning Trip Advisor’s number one eatery in Cambridge – this fiercely booked-up restaurant out in the village of Bottisham garners praise from all corners, and sits extremely high on many people’s must-eat lists.

We snuck in before lunch service to sample their latest summer pasta treat, tortelloni di zucca – pasta parcels filled with pumpkin and parmesan cheese, served with with peas and cream sauce, all home-made by chef Elio.

It’s well the effort of persisting to secure a reservation at this beautiful rural restaurant, though weekends are currently booked out until August – hit the phones, plan ahead, and secure yourself a pasta feast to remember.

Best for date night: De Luca Cucina & Bar 

Nestled between Regent Street and Parker’s Piece is a secret: De Luca’s delightful rooftop terrace, the perfect spot for al fresco dining in the heart of the city. On a sunny day this is an ideal location for lunch, especially if you manage to bag the table with a view over the green.

De Luca’s à la carte menu features several pasta dishes, but the summery vibe of the day sent us in the direction of seafood and the linguine with shrimp and crayfish in a rich Napoli sauce – delicious. If you visit for a later meal and find yourself lingering after dinner, their top-floor cocktail lounge becomes a lively piano bar on certain nights of the week – a whole evening’s entertainment under one roof. 

Perfect for a mid-shopping snack: Limoncello 

This full-to-bursting Italian delicatessen on Mill Road has been a favourite of the local foodie scene for well over a decade, subtly changing and shifting its offering over time. The classic pick-your-own-pesto counter remains, selling antipasto and pricey-but-beyond-delicious pots of sauce to smother on your own feasts – but the deli also features the chance to rest your feet (don’t miss their teeny garden for a peaceful bolthole) with a plateful of homemade gnocchi, filled ravioli or tortellini.

Served on a bed of salad, tossed in Limoncello’s ‘world famous’ rocket pesto and drizzled with balsamic glaze, their pasta is fresh and wholesome. If you’d prefer to eat at home, you can take it away – cooked or ready-to-cook – to tuck into later on.  

Perfect for cheap (and delicious) eats: Tradizioni

Don’t be fooled by the minimalist interiors of this Mill Road (what is it about Mill Road and pasta?) eatery if you’re passing while its doors are shut: the kitchen goes big on flavour, as will be completely obvious by the packed tables of happy diners you’ll find tucking in during opening hours.

Famed for its pizza offering but also serving up a terrific plate of pasta, Tradizioni’s platefuls are budget friendly and completely delicious – and the £1 corkage for BYO makes this the perfect spot for a low-key night out with pals.