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Best Pasta Places in Orange County

mangia bene cucina header
(credit: Mangia Bene)

Pasta universally satisfies even the pickiest eater. A child who won't eat anything else will usually eat pasta, even if it is prepared without any sauce. You, however, need not settle for pasta with just a little bit of butter and cheese. If you're looking for pasta dishes to satisfy you, these are some of the best places to get your fix.

Cosmo's Italian Kitchen
(credit: Cosmo's Italian Kitchen)

Cosmo's Italian Kitchen
23411 Aliso Viejo Parkway
Aliso Viejo CA 92695
(949) 448-9040

When you think about a family restaurant, this is the sort of place that comes to mind. When you walk into this place — located inconspicuously in a strip mall — you are greeted warmly, particularly if the owner recognizes you from a previous visit (and he will). From marinara to putanesca to alfredo, Cosmo's has all of the classic sauces, and you get to choose which pasta you want in your dish of choice. It's hard to go wrong with anything in this restaurant, but try the bolognese sauce.

Related: Best Orange County Restaurants That Opened In 2012

Mangia Bene Cucina
(credit: Mangia Bene)

Mangia Bene
27281 La Paz Road, Suite 1
Laguna Niguel CA 92677
(949) 831-0141

The best way to describe Mangia Bene is warm. From the pizza ovens to the decor to the greetings by the hostess, this place embodies warmth. Before you even get to ordering your pasta, your server will bring some amazingly addictive garlic bread to your table. It's tough to resist, and you don't have to resist entirely, but make sure you save some room for the pasta. Try the gnocchi at Mangia Bene. These little potato dumplings are served in a pesto sauce that you'll crave long after you've eaten here.

Carbonara Trattoria
(credit: Carbonara Trattoria)

Carbonara Trattoria
111 Avenida Del Mar Suite B
San Clemente, CA 92672
(949) 366-1040

If you're looking for a good Italian place to take a date, Carbonara is a good candidate. It is a very intimate dining room in downtown San Clemente with an ambiance that would be great for a date. What sets this place apart is that in addition to all of the classic pasta dishes, it features a half-dozen pasta dishes with seafood, from shrimp to salmon. If you like seafood, you can't go wrong with one of those dishes. However, if you want to keep it simple, try the pasta alla vodka.

Related: Best Comfort Food In Orange County

Casanova Ristorante
(credit: Casanova Ristorante)

Casanova Ristorante
33585 Del Obispo St. #C and #D
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 496-0992

Casanova's ambiance makes it a really good place to bring a date. This restaurant offers all of the standards as well as a few dishes with seafood, including one with shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari for the true seafood lover. The location makes it easy to head down to Dana Point Harbor to take a stroll after your pasta of choice. The lasagna here is good, but if you like mushrooms, try the ravioli ai funghi porcini.

Prego Ristorante
18420 Von Karman Ave.
Irvine CA 92612
(949) 553-1333

When asked which pasta dishes she recommended, the bartender here immediately pointed out three menu items where the pasta is made right in the restaurant. That is the best reason to go to Prego. After all, if you are in the mood for pasta, you can't beat pasta that is made fresh in the place where you're eating. If you visit Prego, try the pappardelle (one of the fresh pastas) with scallops, mushrooms and asparagus in a cream sauce.

Gary Schwind is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on

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