What on Earth Is Nic Cage's Favorite Pasta Shape?

The actor claims to love "square tubes," and the mystery of what they are is haunting me.

April 20, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

It happened so fast. With the click of his cursor, Nicolas Cage ruined my life. Or at least several of my afternoons. While participating in an Ask Me Anything on Reddit on Saturday, April 9, Cage described something so unhinged, it fully consumed me. And the thing was this: “square tube pasta.”

More specifically, he wrote in response to a question about his favorite noodle shape, “I once went to an Italian restaurant in San Francisco about 25 years ago with Charlie Sheen because they had square tube pasta and he was very interested in trying square tube pasta and we did and we loved it so much we went back the next day to try it again.”

Not just square pasta, but square tube pasta. What shape is that? Does Cage have access to proprietary pasta shapes? He did get into a bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio over a dinosaur skull, after all. Is the pasta shape available to mere mortals? Did he create it with his mind?? That was it, the rest of my life had to be devoted to The Case of the Mysterious Pasta Shape that Nic Cage Loves.

I have dedicated perhaps more time than average to the study of pasta shapes through my career, travels in Italy, and trips to the grocery store while violently high. I know, for example, the Italian name for the shape of noodles in a jar of Spaghetti-Os. (It’s anelli.) I know about campanelle, those twirly trumpety ones. I know the difference between rigatoni, paccheri, calamarata, penne lisce, and penne rigate. I even watched that Quibi show where the Felix guy went to tiny towns to watch nonnas make extinct shapes by hand. And never, not one moment in my time on the earth, have I ever come close to being aware of a “square tube pasta.”

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Top Comment:
“On the website Whole Food Magazine: the Nicolas Cage Square Tube Pasta Mystery Solved said it was Paccheri! Fun article to read! ”
— VickiProffer

Dianne de Guzman, Deputy of Eater SF, tweeted about Cage’s disclosure. Someone replied that it could be chitarra. But I’ve had chitarra, and it is in no way a square tube—in fact, it’s so named because it’s made from a tool that looks like guitar strings, cutting out the noodle dough in the negative space. A tube is by definition hollow. Chitarra is like a squared-off spaghetti. No empty core to speak of.

Another Twitter user, Annemarie Dooling, replied, “Here it is. Zitoni.” But zitoni looks round as can be!

Frantic, I wrote to Vicky Bennison, creator of Pasta Grannies. She has spent many years traveling around Italy, watching locals craft obscure shapes. “Crikey!” she wrote me back. “Are you sure they weren't high on something?” I was not.

I learned through some searching that Nicolas Cage owned a Victorian mansion in Pacific Heights for 16 years until 2005, from a blog post penned by a self-professed Cage fanatic who “collect[s] facts and tidbits about him like a squirrel collects nuts.” Further sleuthing revealed the address: 1945 Franklin Street. I triangulated the area using Google maps to search for Italian restaurants that could have been open in the '90s, broadening the triangle on one side to include North Beach.

Luisa’s Ristorante, which has been open in North Beach since 1959, currently has only rounded shapes like spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, and cannelloni on their menu. Could it have been a shape on a special offer? Or a shape since retired? Luisa’s also offers manicotti, which I suppose if arranged in a weird way, could look like a large square tube. But I couldn’t imagine that a restaurant open since 1959 would get away with such a bizarre and structured arrangement of manicotti.

I called several of these restaurants, only to be met with the verbal equivalent of blank stares, before giving up and maniacally Google-ing, for the twentieth time, “square tube pasta.” Eventually, the internet shepherded me to /r/sanfrancisco, where the suggested shapes posited by users were no more helpful.

“If it turns out he just means ravioli, I would die before I stopped laughing,” wrote one.

Getty Images

I was not laughing. I was not laughing at all. I called the iconic pasta shop Raffetto’s, which has been open in New York City since 1906, or as I like to call it, “116 years before Nicolas Cage ruined my life.” The benevolent gentleman who answered the phone took a moment to process my request. “You said you’re looking to find a tube shaped pasta? That is… also a square?”

“We have tubed pasta, but we do not have square tubed pasta,” he told me, after another long pause.

“Have you ever even heard of square tube pasta?” I asked. “I haven’t, actually,” he said, with some disappointment.

I scoured Oretta Zanini De Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta. I couldn’t find a lick of square tube pasta and nearly gave up, before running one final text search in PDF.

And then—and then. The search landed me on the page for cannelloni. De Vita’s description of cannelloni points to a square tube, despite the way my eyeballs have always registered the shapes (thick, pipe-like thick straws). “It is rolled out with a rolling pin into a thin sheet, and 5-inch squares are cut from it. The squares are boiled… Filling is placed in the center of each square, and the square is rolled into a tube,” writes De Vita.

But is it really possible that Cage—a Coppola; look it up if you don’t believe me—doesn’t know the name for cannelloni? In 2022? After owning a grand home that was a stone’s throw from North Beach, San Francisco for 16 years? I couldn’t get past the fact that cannelloni only fits the bill on a technicality. What Cage described on Reddit, to me, seemed like it had to look something like this:

Ella's Mock-up of Cage's Mystery Pasta

“Contact Nicolas Cage,” I typed into Google. I had had enough. A dubious website told me that his PR is handled by Slate. I called their publicly listed number again and again, and got a machine each time, after the obligatory, offensive single ring. I sent them a Direct Message on Instagram. No answer.

I was fed up, but I was also fired up. I took to my kitchen to try to make a square tube. If cannelloni was technically a square, then so too was garganelli. I watched a YouTube video wherein Chef Michael White demonstrated how to cut out the squares and twist them around a wooden dowel.

Too late into the video, I realized I didn’t have eggs. Instead, I used tin foil to try to fashion the shape. It worked, but it did not look square at all. It looked like a witch’s pointer finger. Then I tried to fold some tin foil into a square tube, like my sketch prototype. But it occurred to me in the process that I was no longer fashioning a tube—a tube is a hollow cylinder. A square has four right angles, four equal sides. I’m not a mathematician but literally what is going on.

“Is a square tube even possible?” I screamed into the void (Google), surrounded by little bits of crumpled foil.

Apparently, a square tube is possible, and it is a key feature of many architectural structures. Probably, Cage’s Pacific Heights mansion was constructed of many, many square tubes. I bet his PR people are laughing at me from a large shiny office building made exclusively of square tubes. I myself, in all likelihood, am writing this from a post-war construction formed by thousands and thousands and thousands of completely square fucking tubes.

Just when I was ready to let Nic win, I heard again from Bennison of Pasta Grannies, the morning after a sleepless night. She shared a link to a website that sells a bronze pasta extruder with square cross-sections.

Square bronze pasta extruder.

It’s from the "i geometrici" collection and produces a noodle that looks like this:

A square tube. A noodle that is a square tube. For €28.90 (VAT included), the noodle could even be mine. The extruder sales people were calling the sq-ubes “N ° 122 Squares Quadrati.” (It should here be noted that another form of “quadrati” pasta is fairly ubiquitous, but it looks more like edgy spaghetti and you’d have to be sick to call it a “tube” in casual conversation.)

Graciously, Bennison also shared a news story in Italian from 2016, which discussed the results of a noodle-making company’s naming competition for its three new shapes.

Qubetto, Maquadro, and Pennotta.

The shapes, which differed in length, but which each were a sort of angular tube, were in fact named. More specifically, they were named Qubetto, Maquadro, and Pennotta.

The only problem? THE ONLY PROBLEM, YOU ASK? Both the extruder and the noodle shape seem to have come into existence after 1997, after the year Nic and Sheen dined out two nights in a row, enjoying their elusive and mythical treat, a treat I worry I may never know.

Cage, wherever you are, you may have bested me this round.

But if my parents forbidding me from watching Face/Off when I was six years old is any indicator, I will have the last word.

Do you know what pasta Nicolas Cage was talking about? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Allison May 6, 2022
Why didn't Nic just ask his uncle who, besides making wine, is in the pasta business? (I also heard that Uncle has tried making movies.)
Pam O. April 30, 2022
I just had paccheri which to my knowledge I never had before (possibly in Italy), and which you listed in your article. It struck me as a tube pasta which, when cooked, is a square shape. Could it be that Nic just described the pasta in a way that you interpreted differently?
Woofgang April 29, 2022
Seems entirely possible that Cage was wrong about the date. He might have gone in 1997 after the place opened rather than 1996. I can't remember what I did yesterday so my comments about previous years always being with "circa..." :-)
stephanie April 28, 2022
mitori April 28, 2022
Mezze maniche maybe?
DPBF April 28, 2022
Hah! This made ma laugh. As a chef (from the 70s till the 90s) I served quadrati in several of my restaurants back in the 1980s. Although I made my own in some of the restaurants (with a pasta die like the one shown), it also was readily available in some specialty stores. In both plain and tri-color. But I haven't seen them around in awhile.
Liz P. April 28, 2022
If the pasta is the same as what you show on the plate, it’s one of my favorites. Looks to me like mostaccioli. I might have butchered the spelling.
KB April 28, 2022
I don't care about celebs or follow them for glamor or sake of it! Thankfully, I can think on my own. Cavatappi, Lumache, Gobetti Rigati, bigger regular Macaroni (not elbow), Creste di gallo, Gemelli (in that order) for any pasta dish. Fideo, Spaghetti, Cellantani, Rigatoni for Marinara. Anelli, Ditalini, Orechiette for Soups. Malloreddus for handmade, hand-rolled pasta. Of course, Lasagna is needed for lasagna ;-P
Jessica H. April 28, 2022
But... These are not square. ;)
KB April 28, 2022
Neither is Pachcheri
Carter C. April 28, 2022
Verrigni makes them. Here is a web site:
If you source then in NYC pls let me know where. C
Dana April 28, 2022
Could it be mezzi rigatoni? Rigatoni that is half the length of regular rigatoni? That makes it a "square"ish tube -- equalish length on all sides??
DaniellaBL April 28, 2022
I was just going to say paccheri! We came back from Sicily this week and these pasta shapes were all over.
VickiProffer April 28, 2022
On the website Whole Food Magazine: the Nicolas Cage Square Tube Pasta Mystery Solved said it was Paccheri! Fun article to read!
Jessica H. April 20, 2022
Here's an update:
HalfPint April 21, 2022
Paccheri! I knew it :)
Michelle A. April 20, 2022
They were 100% not sober.
Thud April 20, 2022
Quadrata? See
Thud April 20, 2022
This looks promising:

Pasta dies intended for extrusion machines can be made for all sorts of different shapes (including at, the Eiffel Tower). Not sure why a restaurant couldn't get a custom die made for a square tube. It may not fit into some kind of lexicon of canonical pasta shapes, but seems easy to do...
HalfPint April 20, 2022
Maybe it's paccheri pasta that Nic Cage had. It's a wide tube pasta for sure, but once it's cooked, the tube flattens into squares.