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Best spaghetti carbonara?

Came back recently from a visit to Rome, where I tried spaghetti carbonara for the first time. It was the best meal of my entire multi-country European excursion - something about the al dente pasta and the texture of the dry egg, cheese, and pepper made my taste buds tingle! Now that I am back in CA, I have since ordered it whenever I've seen it on a menu but have been extremely disappointed - every place seems to make it with cream, making an incredibly oily and heavy dish. Are there any locations in the Bay that make spaghetti carbonara the way they do it in Rome?

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  1. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...

    If you are a capable home cook this recipe will leave you happy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Brandon Nelson

      Perhaps that recipe won't make the OP happy because it has cream and onions. But I agree that making carbonara at home is easier than finding a consistently good restaurant version.

      Find a recipe that calls for eggs, guanciale (cured hog jowl), and pecorino romano cheese -- no cream, onions, Parmesan, or peas. Guanciale can be hard to find, but Lucca's on Valencia stocks it now, and some of the artisan curers (Fatted Calf, Boccalone) have it as well. Guanciale and grated romano cheese both freeze well, so stock up and you'll always be able to make carbonara at home on short notice.

      Among local restaurants, I can think of two Roman places: SPQR and Chiaroscuro. In my one visit there long ago, and some others' experiences, pastas were SPQR's weak point. I haven't been to Chiaroscuro, but their online menu says they use pancetta in carbonara which would rule it out for me. Oddly, they use guanciale in amatriciana, so why not also use it in carbonara?

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      Lucca Ravioli
      1100 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    2. Do they make it with pancetta or guanciale?

      1. SPQR and Ideale are the two Roman restaurants (that I know of) in San Francisco. Have you tried them?

        1. This is one of those dishes that I never order at a restaurant. It's so easy to make at home to your own taste. Restaurants tend to add all sorts of odd things to carbonara that are totally uncalled for.

          1. the closest to the carbonara I had in Rome is Marcella Hazan's version in the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - no cream, no butter. It is incredibly good. . more so if you use guanciale, the best spaghetti and the best eggs possibly. Freshly grated cheese is a must as well. It is really very, very delicious and will transport you back to Rome. :)

            3 Replies
            1. re: pastryqueen

              I've made Marcella's carbonara sauce several times (except I've never made it with salted pork jowl). It's very good, but frankly I prefer the sauce "American style" with cream (as it is prepared in almost all of Italy except for Rome). I recommend (to everyone except the OP) trying the version at Venezia in Berkeley, especially for lunch when the price is extremely reasonable.

              1. re: pastryqueen

                Carbonara without butter is just plain wrong.

                1. re: pastryqueen

                  I second the recommendation of Marcella's recipe. It really is not difficult to make at home, and it's hard to find a restaurant on this continent whose offering rivals the taste of the homemade version. (Marcella dislikes using bacon, but try it with some of the artisanal bacon available in the Bay Area...!)