A few months ago, Brian Laird, the former executive chef of Barolo Grill, was flipping burgers at Rockbar. But he soon moved on to Sketch, where he's returned to his Italian cooking roots, turning out bowls of majestic housemade pastas, including pasta puttanesca — which, if you didn't already know, was allegedly invented by prostitutes, who relied on the sauce's come-hither perfume to lure customers. But when you order Laird's puttanesca, you're getting a lot more than that: His textured, chunky sauce, flecked with red-chile flakes, tangled with capers and olives and scented with garlic and a whisper of anchovies, is better than most sex. And so is the rest of the fare he turns out at Sketch. This isn't your standard neighborhood Italian joint; it's much, much better.
Readers' Choice: Carmine's on Penn