Pasta Showdown: The Search For The Best Ravioli In Bensonhurst

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Each of our neighborhood’s longtime pasta makers claims to make “the best ravioli in Bensonhurst,” and, incredibly, they all speak the truth.

An enthusiastic team of foodies, plus a handful of their ravioli-chomping offspring, gathered in the garden of Homestretch Pub (214 Kings Highway) on Sunday, September 20, to settle a heated pasta controversy that has divided our community — and the commenters on Bensonhurst Bean’s Facebook page — for far too long.

But as we sampled three classic cheese-and-marinara versions of the Italian comfort food in a blind taste test, we discovered that “best” is a pretty subjective term, and ravioli preferences are deeply personal and visceral for many.

“I’m going to find out which one B is and stop there on the way home to buy some ravioli to go,” said Stacey, who trekked out from Ditmas Park for the tasting.

“I would eat all of these cold out of the fridge,” declared another taste-tester.

All three contenders — Papa Pasquale’s Ravioli and Pasta, Pastosa, and Queen Anne’s Ravioli and Macaroni — were winners at Sunday’s event in one category or another. After all, there is a reason that these three businesses have survived and thrived in Bensonhurst, despite demographic shifts, for more than three generations.

Though all three dishes looked identical, each pasta had unique qualities that set it apart from the rest, making it difficult for our pasta experts, young and old, to select a favorite. Still, for the sake of scientific inquiry, we had to choose one, so we developed a fool-proof strategy for determining which of Bensonhurst’s famed ravioli brands truly is best.

The Contenders

1. Papa Pasquale’s Ravioli and Pasta (7817 15th Avenue)

Renown for its “five cheese” ravioli, Papa Pasquale’s version of the dish was rated #1 by Zagat. The family-run manufacturer has been a staple in Dyker Heights for more than 50 years. The old-school Italian eatery has also gotten shout outs in the press for its famous sandwiches, which are the subject of this still-running, awesome Papa Pasquale’s commercial.

Here’s the legend behind the ravioli, as told so many times by Papa Pasquale himself and published on the pasta producer’s website:

In 1938, a poor Italian immigrant named Pasquale Lorina arrived at the shores of NYC from Sicily. ALL Pasquale had was a satchel of clothes, and a book filled with his grandmother’s recipes, which she forced him to take. Pasquale found work in an Italian grocery store on Elizabeth Street, in New York’s “Little Italy” section. As he worked hard, he got married and saved his money. One day he decided to read through his grandmother’s recipe book. THERE IT WAS “RAVIOLI”. He remembered how all his family and friends adored her ravioli. In 1943, Pasquale decided to take a chance and open a small pasta shop in Brooklyn. The ravioli caught on among the neighborhood and his business grew. Three generations later, the quality, perfection, and tradition continue. Now run by his family, every batch is checked for its consistency. The Lorina family didn’t stop at ravioli; they searched that book and began to produce other Italian favorites. Grandpa is long gone, but as his grandson states “I am sure he is looking down, and smiling every day!” Let us feed your family!!!!

2. Pastosa (7425 New Utrecht Avenue)

The Ajello family has been operating Pastosa’s flagship store on New Utrecht Avenue for more than four generations. The company was founded by Grandpa Anthony Ajello, who got his start as a salesman for the Polly-O Italian Cheese Company. Neighbors swear by company’s bountiful selection of ready-made foods, which make Pastosa a one-stop shop if you’re looking to cater a party.

Pastosa is notable, not just for its many years as a fixture in a once Italian-dominated neighborhood, but for its proven ability to adapt and expand to a national level as Bensonhurst’s demographics have changed. Read our coverage of Pastosa’s expansion onto the national pasta scene here.

3. Queen Anne’s Ravioli and Macaroni (7205 18th Avenue)

Founded by Alfredo Ferrara, an Italian immigrant, Queen Ann Ravioli and Macaroni has been serving up its old-fashioned, rustic pastas since 1972. For more than 40 years and three generations, the pasta-maker has remained a small, family-operated business in the heart of Bensonhurst’s 18th Avenue that continues to produce gourmet pasta products daily, utilizing only the freshest and finest ingredients.

Queen Anne’s Old World pasta machines, which are long discontinued here in the United States, lend the ravioli a rustica touch, which holds the sauce together, according to owner George Switzer:

Finally, an honorable mention should go to the pasta of Gravesend’s Dairy Maid (216 Avenue U), which so many of our neighbors swear by, but they unfortunately don’t cater, so could not be included in this very scientific ravioli study.

The Method

Taste testers were handed worksheets and asked to rank ravioli from 1 to 5 (1 = blech, 5 = YES) in four categories: sauce, filling, texture, and dough-to-filling ratio.

Since all the pastas looked identically round and were identified only as A, B, and C, pasta tasters drew lines on their plates to distinguish which rav was which.

After collecting the worksheets, we noticed a pattern emerging between kid and adult tasters, so we decided to divide the results according to age bracket. Then, to determine which pastas were the favored in each criteria, we added up and averaged the scores for each category.

A few caveats to keep in mind:

  • Papa Pasquale’s ravioli were the only ones to be delivered al dente and cold. While we resauced and reheated the overstuffed shells, many of our ravenous taste tasters didn’t wait long enough for the pasta to be ready.
  • In addition, Pastosa was the only company to serve its ravioli with toppings of thick, shaved Parmesan cheese and fresh basil, which clearly enhanced the deep-red sauce.
  • These slight distinctions in presentation and cooking may have influenced the results.

The Results

So what was the verdict? Ultimately, all three pastas were addictive, and creamy, and delicious, and it was an extremely tough call.

Taste testers said they found it difficult to judge Papa Pasquale’s against the others since it was only heated at room temperature. But despite its disadvantages, for most, Papa Pasquale’s won in the filling category, standing out among the others for being “creamy and simple, but perfectly seasoned.”

The harshest critics by far where the 18-and-under set — who had some rough critiques regarding the temperature of Papa Pasquale’s undercooked dumplings — but for those miniature foodies among us, Queen Anne’s stood out as the hands-down favorite.

One 10-year-old taster described Queen Anne’s pasta texture as “really, really smooth,” while a particularly moody 6-year-old called it his favorite of the bunch. Even the toddlers in the crowd seemed to gravitate toward Queen Anne’s robust sauce and simple ricotta filling.

Among adults, Pastosa’s ravioli, with its “super creamy,” herb-flecked filling and complex sauce, was the overwhelming favorite.The dumpling were perfectly cooked, with just a hint of bite, and the parmesan and basil garnish took the sweet, maroon sauce to the next level. (“I would order this again and again,” said Mary. “Feels like something an Italian grandmother would serve me, and I would feel so goddamn loved!”) Queen Anne’s followed behind as a close second for the grown ups, with many favoring the tangy, basil-y tomato sauce and rich center.

Who do you think makes the best ravioli in Bensonhurst? Let us know in the comments. Also, check out more photos of Bensonhurst Bean’s official ravioli showdown below:

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  • ROSALIE907

    My family has been addicted to Pastosa Ravioli for over 40 years. To us, there is nothing better. Also I recently bought their Puttenasca sauce and,as with their other ready made sauces, it was delicious.

  • Sean F

    There should be a question on the SAT: Pastosa is to Ravioli as Olympus is to Ambrosia.

    Or Pastosa = Ravioli

    Some years ago, I was on vacation in Pennsylvania, and we ate in a small Italian restaurant. I was in the mood for ravioli, so that’s what I ordered. It was fabulous, and the chef happened to come by. I told him that I’m an Italian from Bensonhurst, and was blown away by his ravioli. He laughed, and asked if I could keep a secret – he served Pastosa ravioli exclusively, sending a guy to pick it up regularly.

    • Rachel Silberstein

      Thank you for that wonderful story, Sean!

    • ROSALIE907

      LOL and to add to my previous post, I have family living in Las Vegas and the L.A. area of California and everytime I visit I have to bring boxes of Pastosa Ravioli with me.

  • Francine Cundari

    Queen Anne is the best

  • tonigirl1113

    i only eat pappa pasquale ravs. and any fresh pasta, i think his filling is soooo creamy and fresh, so sad my hubby didnt bring any back to fla. last week,

  • Donna Petrucci Glover

    I am very lucky to have a shop here in Dallas named Jimmy’s
    that has Pastosa Ravioli, and Stuffed Shells. They are frozen, of course, but great with my mom’ sauce and meatballs. We lived close to the location on Avenue N, and moved away in the early 80s. Love having a little bit of Brooklyn close by!