Mafalde from Hank's Pasta Bar
Mafalde from Hank’s Pasta Bar / Photo by Rey Lopez

Hank’s Pasta Bar

Hank's Pasta Bar
Bread and oil plate from Hank’s Pasta Bar / Photo by Rey Lopez

After that first bite, I could only think: Where has this been my whole life?

Sometimes that sentiment pops up when test-driving a new car or meeting someone hysterical in line for the ladies’ room. But tonight, it was after I twirled this noodle around my fork at Hank’s Pasta Bar.

Opened at the beginning of the year, the restaurant can command an hourlong wait for an early Sunday supper. But that bowl of pasta is worth it.

Mafalde is a long, flat noodle like fettuccine but much thicker, with the edges rippled like a cancan skirt. Its crevices hold the light, creamy sauce dotted with abstractly shaped fennel sausage. It’s a simple dish that works as refined comfort.

Like Hank’s Oyster Bar is more than the bivalve, this sister restaurant offers more than carbs: tender, meaty tentacles of octopus wear spots of char next to a tangle of arugula and fennel strips; housemade ricotta is ultra-creamy, if a little sweet; and the tiramisu holds back on the booze for a layered cake that is soft like a pillow and sweet as a dream.

Established: February 2016
Type: Italian
Good for: bread and oil, housemade pasta in shapes you’ve never heard of
Address: 600 Montgomery St., Alexandria
Open: daily for lunch and dinner, weekend brunch

(May 2016 Best New Restaurants 2016)