by Kara Kimbrough
Unbelievably, an area known for seafood and steaks contains a surprising number of restaurants serving above-average Italian fare. In this case, I’m referring to authentic, creative pasta dishes, not just pizza, found in south Mississippi. I believe pasta sometimes gets overlooked in our state’s southern region. So, I’m sharing a few of my favorite places to dine when a craving for pasta can’t be denied.
Cruising into downtown Gulfport near mealtime, a frequent first stop is often Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria. Located a stone’s throw from U.S. 49, the cozy eatery serves wood-fired, innovative pizzas, but don’t forget to peruse the pasta. Spaghetti with meat sauce or meatballs, linguini with clam sauce, blackened shrimp alfredo and lasagna with meat sauce are just a few of the delicious offerings.
A little further east in Biloxi, The Sicilian II sounds like a Godfather movie spinoff. In reality, it’s one of the most popular Italian joints on the Coast. Like Tony’s, it’s known for pizza, but you’ll miss out if you skip over pasta. Who can resist a dish called “Great, Great, Great Grandma’s Lasagna?” Does the recipe come from the Old Country? I’m not sure, but after one bite, I really don’t care. Other can’t-miss dishes are pasta primavera, cacciatore, stuffed manicotti and the irresistible Alfonso.
I often wonder if Stalla, the Beau Rivage’s Italian eatery (pictured right), gets overlooked by its popular steakhouse, BR Prime. If you’ve never been to Stalla, it’s time to rectify the situation. Inspired by the northern Italian countryside, Stalla’s menu and décor are reminiscent of Old World-style restaurants in New York's Little Italy. Steaks, seafood and other dishes are offered, but it’s the handmade ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and shrimp scampi that have given Stalla a well-deserved reputation as one of the Coast’s premier pasta destinations.
Picayune may not be on your culinary radar, but it should be. The city located west of the Gulf Coast is filled with family-owned restaurants offering delicious food. Italian Grill & Pizzeria is one that serves an admirable array of pasta dishes. A favorite dish is ravioli with meatballs or sausage. Other choices include penne carbonara, shrimp scampi, spaghetti with meatballs and in an ode to the city’s proximity to NOLA, Cajun crawfish jubilee.
Last, make your way north and stop by Hattiesburg’s Tabella. Tabella, pictured right, does many things well, but perhaps nothing is better, at least in my opinion, as chicken Parmesan served on a bed of spaghetti and marinara. Pasta Bolognese, six-cheese ravioli, garlic shrimp pasta and fettuccini alfredo with shrimp are offered along with many classic Italian dishes.
Don’t forget to check dining options and hours of operation before visiting any restaurant during these challenging times. Check back next week for pasta standouts in North Mississippi.