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Jun 24, 2010 05:16 PM

What's the deal with Pasta Carbonara in Houston?

Most of the Italian joints I've seen don't serve it, which is another complaint entirely. But of the few who claim to (I've been to 4 or 5 so far) *all of them* served it with an Alfredo sauce, not the delicious egg sauce I expected. A couple topped that by using American bacon. Other than the wrong sauce and meat, it's exactly like Carbonara. Ignorance or malice?

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  1. I can not agree with you more. I never had "real" egg york sauce in my town, Houston... yet.

    1. Damian's @ 3011 Smith

      Spaghetti Carbonara
      pancetta, onion, parmesean and cream finished with egg $15

      This might do til the real thing comes along.l They should be using Pecorino Romano cheese and the creaminess should come from the cheese and egg but...

      1 Reply
      1. I doubt it's malice! Hahah! Against whom? More likely it's what sells. At any up scale Italian place in Houston, you can no doubt request it and the chef will probably kiss your cheek.

        1. I really love the Spaghetti Carbonara (with pancetta and egg) from Patrenella's on Jackson Hill. It was here that I fell in love with the dish and it is a true traditional style.

          Patrenella's Cafe
          813 Jackson Hill St, Houston, TX 77007

          2 Replies
          1. re: hnbtaz

            I must say that Patrenella's which I love, has the worst Carbonara I have had, the egg was scrambled all through the dish. Valentino's at Hotel Derek is pretty widely known to make the best in town. They use the correct meat, Guanciale(cured pork jowl), instead of pancetta, and they use egg. They make it as a small portion or as an entree portion, it's excellent and I haven't ever had scrambled pieces of egg in mine, it's always cooked just right. But I still love Patrenella's

            Patrenella's Cafe
            813 Jackson Hill St, Houston, TX 77007

            1. re: MrTuffy

              MrTuffy, hate to hear you didn't like Patrenella's version. I didn't have the issue of the egg scrambling.

              Interesting point - I'm fresh from 2 weeks in Italy. While dining in a local foodie-friend's home in Scarperia (Tuscany), they actually showed me how they locally cook the dish: pancetta, eggs, a mixture of parmesan and romano cheeses and parsley. Maybe it's not the way an american chef would make it but for me I like their authentic italian version. Fantastic. (see pic of the amazing pancetta from the local butcher)

              Patrenella's Cafe
              813 Jackson Hill St, Houston, TX 77007

          2. Marcella Hazan has a quote in her book claiming that Spaghetti Carbonara was created by the locals at the request of American servicemen wanting to use bacon and eggs in a pasta sauce - and as such smoked bacon would be more appropriate than pancetta. Unverifiable.

            That said, carbonara is so easy to make at home that it's barely worth dealing with the terrible creamy resto versions.


            2 Replies
            1. re: mtlalex

              Of bacon, Marcella says, its "smoky accents tend to weary the palate." When I make it at home using bacon, I parboil the bacon first to get rid of the smoke.

              Something to consider.

              1. re: Jaymes

                Agreed. I usually use pancetta. The interesting point being that bacon is not necessarily "unauthentic".