Pasta Bolognese is great, fettuccine Alfredo is great, but nothing beats a well-made vodka pasta. Whether added to penne or mixed with rigatoni, vodka sauce often packs a punch that few other tomato-based sauces can match. Presumably, this is because of its unique combination of ingredients. Usually this includes crushed tomatoes, heavy cream, garlic, onions and of course vodka. Often he also gets a dose of chili peppers. Some restaurants even offer crispy pancetta or Italian sausage.
The origins of this popular pasta dish are obscure. According to New York Times, some believe that Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi created this dish in the 1970s. He has a recipe for a version in his cookbook, “L’Abbuffone.” Others believe it first appeared at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy, according to Enjoy your food. Whatever its origin, one thing is certain: vodka sauce is a sensation.
You can always make your own vodka sauce at home, but why not enjoy it at restaurants that have spent years perfecting their variations? From an upscale Italian restaurant famous for its spicy rigatoni vodka to an easy-to-find chain that makes its version of the dish with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, here are nine restaurant chains that serve the best vodka sauce.
1. Brio Italian Pasta with Vodka
By object: 1,080 calories, 63 g fat (32 g saturated fat), 1,770 mg sodium, 83 g total carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 33 g protein
Brio Italian Grille takes Italian-American cuisine to a whole new level. The beloved restaurant chain, established more than 30 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, is praised for its upscale dining rooms and using only the freshest ingredients. One of the must-try dishes on its menu is the Vodka Pasta, an exciting option made with ricotta-filled pasta, spicy tomato cream sauce and crispy pancetta.
“I’m obsessed with the vodka pasta,” one Yelp reviewer shared, while another joked, “I love this place! The vodka pasta is my favorite! Mmmmm, it’s so delicious .”
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2. Linguine with shrimp and scallops from Carrabba with vodka
By object: 1,040 calories, 33 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1,960 mg sodium, 119 g total carbohydrates (9 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 49 g protein
Hungry diners can count on Carrabba’s for memorable vodka pasta. This satisfying dish has the perfect balance of taste and texture and is made with a combination of sautéed shrimp, sea scallops, fresh basil and the chain’s rich and creamy tomato vodka sauce. Perhaps one of the best-known Italian restaurant chains in the United States, Carrabba’s has more than 200 locations in dozens of states, including New York, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and Florida.
3. Spicy Vodka Rigatoni from Cheesecake Factory
By object: 1,080 calories, 71 g fat (27 g saturated fat), 2,890 mg sodium, 86 g total carbohydrates (9 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 22 g protein
If you’re familiar with the Cheesecake Factory, you know that it’s not just cheesecake that the chain is great at, but also lunch and dinner items. The next time you stop at one of its restaurants for a meal, forgo the usual Glamburger or fettuccine Alfredo and instead order a plate heaped with spicy vodka rigatoni, which one Yelp reviewer describes as “a tasty dish cooked Perfectly “.
Offered as one of the chain’s dozen pasta options, this dish is made with high-quality rigatoni pasta tossed in a creamy, spicy vodka sauce and combined with juicy Italian cherry tomatoes, parmesan, fresh basil and crispy pancetta.
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4. Il Fornaio Rigatoni with Vodka
Known for using fresh ingredients, upscale Italian chain Il Fornaio offers one of the best vodka pasta dishes around. This dish features rigatoni, perfectly cooked bacon, a rich vodka cream tomato sauce, and subtly salty Grana Padano cheese. “This is hands down the best Italian restaurant ever!” shared one Yelp reviewer. “The food is always perfect. I’ve tried a lot of vodka recipes and I always come back to this one.”
Il Fornaio’s roots date back to the 1970s and it currently has around 20 locations, primarily in California and Las Vegas.
5. Carbone Spicy Rigatoni Vodka
There’s a reason Carbone’s spicy rigatoni vodka is so widely praised: it’s out of this world. The upscale restaurant’s world-famous spicy vodka sauce is made with 100% imported Italian tomatoes, Calabrian chili, onions, garlic, sea salt, black pepper, vodka and a pinch of sugar. It’s so popular that Carbone now offers a jarred version of the sauce that you can order online and have delivered to your door.
“The spicy Rigatoni was the best thing I had,” posted one Yelp reviewer. “I don’t like spicy food but this was out of this world.” Carbone has locations in New York, Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Riyadh and Doha.
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6. Penne with Vodka from Carmine
Whether it’s lunch (with lots of leftovers) or dinner to celebrate a special occasion, Carmine’s is always a good idea. The bustling Italian restaurant chain is known for its lively but cozy atmosphere and family-style menu. They also have a delicious penne alla vodka which is worth trying.
Carmine’s version is everything a penne alla vodka should be: it’s hearty, creamy, and packs a punch. It’s made with chopped Italian tomatoes perfectly combined with cream, Romano cheese, sautéed onions, garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. “The Penne alla Vodka here was exceptional,” reported one Yelp reviewer. “Perfectly cooked pasta with a creamy, flavorful vodka sauce that had just the right amount of flavor. Beautifully presented and seasoned to perfection, it’s a must-try at this lovely restaurant. A delicious dining experience.”
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7. White sheep rigatoni with vodka
La Pecora Bianca is another upscale Italian restaurant chain to try. Known for its high-quality recipes and elegant, stylish dining rooms, La Pecora Bianca offers mouth-watering menu options including whipped ricotta with truffle honey, roasted eggplant with Castelvetrano olives and rigatoni alla vodka, of course .
The restaurant’s version is topped with stracciatella, taking this already delicious dish to the next level. La Pecora Bianca has seven locations in New York City, including Midtown, the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side and Soho.
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8. Grand Lux Café Spicy Vodka Pasta
It’s no surprise that the Grand Lux Café makes a very good vodka pasta dish: the national chain was created by the founders of the Cheesecake Factory. And just like the Cheesecake Factory, the Grand Lux Café makes a spicy vodka sauce. It’s also made with rigatoni, parmesan, and pancetta, and Grand Lux Cafe’s version also has Italian sausage.
“My husband had the spicy vodka pasta. Vodka sauce (red and white), rigatoni and spicy sausage. Holy cow! So creamy! The sauce was amazing!” shared one Yelp reviewer.
9. Buca di Beppo Penne with Vodka
Buca di Beppo is another Italian restaurant chain that makes tasty penne alla vodka. This popular dish features penne tossed in a smooth, creamy vodka rosa sauce and tossed with garlic and crushed red pepper. It’s so good that one Yelp reviewer shared that the penne alla vodka is “their best” thing to order at Buca di Beppo and is “delicious as hell.”
Buca di Beppo, meaning “Joe’s Little House” in Italian, was founded in 1993 and started in the basement of a building in Minneapolis. Today, it has around 70 locations across the country and is famous for its home-style cooking and cozy decor.