We’re always trying to find the best restaurants for every occasion, whether it’s as simple as a second date spot, or something a little more obscure - like where to take your uncle to tell him it was you who broke his VCR 17 years ago. Sometimes though, it’s as simple as wanting to walk in somewhere with a few friends for a reasonably-priced bowl of pasta and maybe a few glasses of wine. It’s spawned a category of restaurants we’re calling “Nice-Looking Places To Eat Pasta With Your Friends On A Tuesday” (NLPTEPWYFOAT), and Cry Baby Pasta is pretty much a perfect example of one.
Unlike a lot of places that fit in this category - namely restaurants with stark white walls and lots of hanging plants - Cry Baby has a bit more personality. This Queen Village Italian spot looks like your casual neighborhood place became moderately amused by ’80s rock and roll and decided to invest in things like leather jacket-printed wallpaper and a banner with “I’m so tired of being good” printed in black gothic script. Everything on the menu is around $20 or less, which means you won’t face a flurry of angry texts at its suggestion, and it also has a great natural wine list and cocktail menu.
There’s also just an energy in the room that makes you want to come back here over and over again. Cry Baby has that incredibly hard to find mix of full but not annoyingly crowded, and loud enough that the table next to you can’t hear your entire debate on whether Kendall Jenner should be allowed at Sixers games, but quiet enough that you can hear both sides of the argument and come to a rational conclusion.
While you probably go to a place like Cry Baby more to get caught up on your friends’ current life drama than for the food, you’ll still get a very solid meal here. The entire bruschetta section is great, with toppings like mozzarella and honey or mushroom and smoked ricotta on thick squares of fluffy sourdough toast. And the chicken rigatoni pasta, covered in a slightly spicy vodka sauce and topped with chicken and pancetta, is perfectly al dente and easily the best pasta on the menu. Round your order out with a couple of plates to share - the fritto misto and tortellini en brodo are our favorites - and you’re set.
But like your former roommate’s choice in life partners, not everything you can pick from here is a hit - like a bland bowl of cacio e pepe and branzino that doesn’t need to be topped with clams. Regardless of the occasional miss though, Cry Baby is a place you’ll find yourself regularly recommending when your friends ask if you want to grab dinner. Just make sure to order enough wine so they’re less judgmental when you tell them about the time you jammed a peanut butter sandwich into your uncle’s VCR.
There’s not much in this soup except for a few tiny tortellinis sitting at the bottom of the broth bowl, but it’s a good way to start your meal and we think it might possess special healing powers if you have a particularly bad cold.
Maybe it’s the hazelnut dressing, the celery pieces, or the gorgonzola cheese, but the arugula salad kind of tastes like Thanksgiving. And even if that brings up negative memories of great aunts blaming outrageous comments on it being a “different time,” it’s still a salad that we like very much.
Get these if you want something small to split, but it’s one of those dishes that you forget about seconds after it’s cleared from your table.
If you like to start a meal with a big plate of fried calamari, the fritto misto is a solid pick. It comes with calamari, shrimp, and smelts, all perfectly crispy and served with a lemon-dill aioli.
All of the bruschette are perfect for sharing, but this is one of our favorites. It’s a fluffy square of sourdough topped with creamy smoked ricotta and a pile of buttery mushrooms, and you need it on your table.
The other must-order bruschetta is the one topped with buffalo mozzarella and basil honey. We could come here and just order 10 of these for our full dinner. Although we probably won’t, because of social constructs.
Cacio e pepe is one of those pasta dishes that’s generally tough to mess up. However, this one just isn’t great. It’s kind of bland and dry, and there’s not nearly enough cheese involved. There are better options in their pasta section than this one.
Get the orecchiette if you’re someone who grew up ordering spaghetti with butter at every restaurant you went to. It’s kind of a grown up version, with a light, buttery sauce, broccoli rabe, and some breadcrumbs on top.
The rigatoni is far and away the best pasta on the menu. It’s topped with a slightly spicy vodka sauce, smoked chicken, and pancetta, and if you live nearby, this is likely going to become your weekly order.
The tagliatelle is classic, with a simple bolognese ragu and topped with some shaved parmesan. But sometimes that’s exactly what you need when you’re at dinner with a group of people who all constantly think it’s their turn to monopolize the conversation.