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9 Restaurant Chains That Serve the Best Vodka Sauce Pasta Dishes

A little kick, a little cream, a dose of tomato—no matter how it's made, these spots make it best.
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Pasta bolognese is great, fettuccine Alfredo is excellent, but there's nothing quite like a well-made pasta alla vodka. Whether added to penne or tossed with rigatoni, vodka sauce often packs a kick that few other tomato-based sauces can match. Presumably, that's because of its unique combination of ingredients. Usually, that includes crushed tomatoes, heavy cream, garlic, onions, and of course, vodka. Often times, it also gets a dose of chilies. Some restaurants even throw in crispy pancetta or Italian sausage, too.

The origins of this popular pasta dish are murky. According to the New York Times, some believe that Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi created the dish in the 1970s. He has a recipe for a version of it in his cookbook, "L'Abbuffone." Others think it first popped up at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy, per Bon Appetit. No matter its origins, one thing's for sure—vodka sauce is a sensation.

You can always whip up your own vodka sauce at home, but why not enjoy it at restaurants that have spent years perfecting their variations? From a high-end Italian eatery 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.

Brio Italian Grille Pasta alla Vodka

Brio Italian Grille pasta alla vodka
Brio Italian Grille/Facebook
Per item: 1,080 calories, 63 g fat, (32 g saturated fat), 1,770 mg sodium, 83 g total carbs (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 33 g protein

Brio Italian Grille takes Italian-American dining to a whole new level. The beloved restaurant chain—started more than 30 years ago in Columbus, Ohio—is lauded for its upscale dining rooms and for using only the freshest ingredients. One must-have dish on its menu is the pasta alla vodka, an exciting option made with ricotta-filled pasta, spicy tomato cream sauce, and crispy pancetta.

"I'm obsessed with the pasta alla vodka," one Yelp commenter shared, while another quipped, "Love this place! The pasta alla vodka is my go-to! Mmmmm, so delicious."

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Carrabba's Shrimp and Scallop Linguine alla Vodka

Shrimp & Scallop Linguine Alla Vodka at Carrabba's
Carrabba's Italian Grill/Facebook
Per item: 1,040 calories, 33 g fat, (12 g saturated fat), 1,960 mg sodium, 119 g total carbs (9 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 49 g protein

Hungry diners can count on Carrabba's for a memorable pasta alla vodka. This satisfying dish has the perfect balance of taste and texture and is made using a combination of sautéed shrimp, sea scallops, fresh basil, and the chain's rich and creamy tomato vodka sauce. Maybe one of the most recognizable U.S. Italian restaurant chains, Carrabba's has more than 200 locations in dozens of states, including New York, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee, and Florida.

The Cheesecake Factory Spicy Rigatoni Vodka

cheesecake factory rigatoni vodka
The Cheesecake Factory
Per item: 1,080 calories, 71 g fat, (27 g saturated fat), 2,890 mg sodium, 86 g total carbs (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 the chain is excellent at but also lunch and dinner dishes. The next time you stop by one of its locations for a meal, forgo the usual Glamburger or fettuccine Alfredo and instead order a heaping plate of spicy rigatoni vodka, which one Yelp reviewer describes as "a savory dish cooked to perfection."

Offered as one of the chain's dozen-plus pasta options, this dish is made using high-quality rigatoni pasta tossed in a creamy, spicy vodka sauce and combined with juicy Italian cherry tomatoes, parmesan, fresh basil, and crisp pancetta.

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Il Fornaio Rigatoni alla Vodka

Il Fornaio rigatoni alla vodka
Il Fornaio/Facebook

Known for using fresh ingredients, higher-end Italian chain Il Fornaio has one of the best pasta alla vodka dishes on the market. This dish has rigatoni, perfectly cooked bacon, a rich vodka cream tomato sauce, and a subtly salty Grana Padano cheese. "Hands down the best Italian restaurant ever!" one Yelp reviewer shared. "The food is always perfect. I've tried lots of alla vodka recipes, and I always return to this one."

Il Fornaio's roots date back to the 1970s, and it currently has about 20 locations, mainly in California and Las Vegas.

Carbone Spicy Rigatoni Vodka

Carbone spicy rigatoni vodka
Major Food Group/Facebook

There's a reason why Carbone's spicy rigatoni vodka is praised so widely—it's out of this world. The upscale restaurant's world-famous spicy vodka sauce is crafted with 100% imported Italian tomatoes, Calabrian chili, onions, garlic, sea salt, black pepper, vodka, and a dash of sugar. It's so popular that Carbone now offers a jarred version of the sauce you can order online and have delivered to your door.

"Spicy Rigatoni was the absolute best thing I had," one Yelp reviewer posted. "I don't like spicy food but this was out of this world." Carbone has locations in New York City, Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Riyadh, and Doha.

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Carmine's Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka at Carmine's
Carmine's Italian Restaurant – Times Square/Facebook

Whether for lunch (with plenty of leftovers) or for dinner to celebrate a special occasion, Carmine's is always a good idea. The buzzy Italian restaurant chain is known for its bustling yet cozy atmosphere and family-style menu. It also has a delicious penne alla vodka that's worth trying.

Carmine's version is everything a penne alla vodka should be—it's filling, creamy, and has a kick. It's made with chopped plum tomatoes seamlessly combined with cream, Romano cheese, sautéed onions, garlic, and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes. "The Penne alla Vodka here was outstanding," one Yelp reviewer reported. "Perfectly cooked pasta with a creamy, flavorful vodka sauce that had just the right kick. Beautifully presented and seasoned to perfection, it's a must-try at this charming restaurant. A delightful culinary experience."

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La Pecora Bianca Rigatoni alla Vodka

Rigatoni with vodka sauce at La Pecora Bianca
La Pecora Bianca/Facebook

La Pecora Bianca is another upscale Italian restaurant chain to try. Known for its high-quality recipes and sleek and stylish dining rooms, La Pecora Bianca delivers mouthwatering 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 the already delicious dish to the next level. La Pecora Bianca has seven locations in New York City, including Midtown, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and Soho.

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Grand Lux Cafe Spicy Vodka Pasta

grand lux cafe spicy vodka pasta
Grand Lux Café

It's no surprise that Grand Lux Cafe makes a pretty great pasta alla vodka dish—the national chain was started by the founders of the Cheesecake Factory. And just like the Cheesecake Factory, Grand Lux Cafe makes a spicy vodka sauce. It's also prepared with rigatoni, parmesan, and pancetta, and Grand Lux Cafe's version has Italian sausage, too.

"My Hubby had the spicy vodka pasta. Vodka sauce (red & white), rigatoni & spicy sausage. Holy cow! So creamy! The sauce was amazing!" one Yelp reviewer shared.

Buca di Beppo Penne alla Vodka

buca di beppo penne alla vodka
Buca di Beppo

Another Italian restaurant chain that makes a flavorful penne alla vodka is Buca di Beppo. This popular dish is made with penne tossed in a smooth, creamy vodka rosa sauce and mixed with garlic and crushed red pepper. It's so good that one Yelp reviewer shared that the penne alla vodka is "their best" dishes to order at Buca di Beppo and is "yummy as hell."

Buca di Beppo, which means "Joe's small place" in Italian, was founded in 1993 and began in the basement of an apartment building in Minneapolis. Today, it has around 70 locations throughout the country and is famous for its family-style dining and warm decor.

Brittany Natale
Brittany Natale is a food and lifestyle writer. Read more about Brittany