Craving some noodly goodness? A world of toothsome noodles is available right here in the country’s breadbasket.
127 Iowa Ave., Iowa City
It can be challenging to find excellent macaroni and cheese at restaurants. Even the most standard elbow macaroni is delicious smothered in synthetic “cheez” sauce, but restaurants shouldn’t be so formulaic, especially when there’s so much that can be done to make the dish superlative. The chefs at Atlas have figured out the formula: a blend of mozzarella, fontina, parmesan and gruyere, topped with just enough roasted tomato to cut through the richness of the creamy topping. It’s decadent, but not cloying, and as comforting as Grandma’s.
1801 2nd St. #200, Coralville
Sweet potato vermicelli appears in another of the city’s standout noodle dishes: the warishita sukiyaki at Three Samurai. Served in a clay pot with a lid, this soothing bowl of light, savory broth is rich with noodles, halibut, mussels, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, tofu and tender, slightly bitter chrysanthemum leaves. There are other noodle standouts at Three Samurai, like pho and seafood ramen, but the delicate flavors and balance of the warishita sukiyaki make it an addictive favorite.
201 S. Clinton St., Iowa City
Despite the fact that it’s open only for lunch, only on weekdays and only when school is in session, Seoul Grill is thought by many to be among the best restaurants in Iowa City. The spicy seafood noodle soup, known as jam bong, is a highlight. Their selection of ramen and japchae, or sweet potato vermicelli, are also all succulent and complexly spiced. Don’t be discouraged by how busy the restaurant always is; lines move quickly.
Basta Pizzeria Ristorante
121 Iowa Ave., Iowa City
Of course, some of us call our grandmother “Nonna,” and we may find more nostalgic nurturing in the pasta dishes at Basta. On Sundays only, just like at Nonna’s, Basta serves spaghetti and meatballs. The house-made pasta is a little thicker than you might expect spaghetti to be, giving it an extra-hearty bite, and the meatballs are savory, tender and tasty, with a hint of spice. If you can’t make it there on Sunday, the spaghetti Bolognese is a regular menu item and a reasonable substitute, and all the pastas are made in house, so any one of them is a safe bet.
Zaza’s Pasta Shop and Italian Market
201 3rd Ave SW Cedar Rapids | zazaspastas.com
If you’re looking for homemade pasta that you can cook in your own cucina, head to Zaza’s Pasta, which features a variety of fresh pasta and other Italian grocery favorites.