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ISO the REAL Pasta alla Carbonara

Why is it almost IMPOSSIBLE to find a real Carbonara? That's pasta with pancetta (or guanciale) eggs (cooked on the hot pasta) and grated parmesan or romano cheese. That's it. NO CREAM. Simple simple. Anyone know if there's a place in NY that makes it with the traditional recipe?

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  1. Lupa has the best carbonara IMO.

    1. The carbonara at Otto is terrific. There's a generous amount of guanciale and the pasta is nicely al dente. (Assuming you like that - I do.) Peppery too.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Bob Martinez

        Agree. My friend had it when we ate there last week. It was perfect.

        1. re: Bob Martinez

          ohh ill have to try i was actually thinking about this dish the other day...i havent had it in a very long time

        2. I agree with the two places mentioned, Lupa and Otto. If you are going to red sauce Italian-American restaurants, you will get the stuff you are not looking for. You need to go to a restaurant that cooks in the style of Italy.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ttoommyy

            I could be mistaken and it's been a while since I have been to Otto, but don't they use green onions in their Carbonara?

            1. re: fourunder

              They may have, but that is not a deal breaker for me. As long as the sauce is nothing more than eggs, cheese and pasta water, and the dish has a good amount of black pepper, green onions are fine.

              If you click Bob Martinez' link up above, you will see what Otto's carbonara looks like. I don;t see any obvious green onions in it.

              1. re: ttoommyy

                Looking at the picture, there does not appear to be any scallions, but I semi recalled the dish included them....and looking at the menu, it includes it as an ingredient.

          2. I heard they serve it in both Northern and Southern Italian restaurants.

            1. I think Morandi makes it the way you like it.
              However, i was reading this article and there are disagreements about what should be in carbonara. Some say guanciale not pancetta, some say no peas, some say in the North they use cream, etc They quote a few chefs Lidia , Batali, more

              2 Replies
              1. re: foodwhisperer

                You don't have to go any further than this site to read disagreements on what Carbonara should be. The following thread shows the passion others have and how they feel about the subject.


                In the following link Sophia Loren says they use cream in Italy...if she made it for me...I would eat it happily and acknowledge it to be authentic.


              2. If you're willing to go to the Bronx, Tra Di Noi on 187th makes a killer, authentic Carbonara.

                1. OK. I'll just have to close my eyes and envision a great plate of Carbonara while sitting outside on the Campo de' Fiori. I've been unable to find this dish anywhere in Italy but Rome and environs. (Lazio) Looks like May-June.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lemarais

                    What is wrong with trying it at Lupa or Otto? A few of us seem to think it is pretty authentic. I've had it at both and in Italy and they all compare favorably.

                    1. re: lemarais

                      Like many people have said, open your eyes to Lupa or Otto. Both serve delicious & authentic Carbonara. No need to close your eyes and pretend you're in Italy, it's here in NYC.

                    2. Rana at the Chelsea market has a bangin version in their brunch menu.

                      1. Antica Pesa in Williamsburg

                        1. Try Lavo (58th and Madison) - they have a VERY good carbonara

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Nomski

                            Lavo's menu lists "pancetta, prosciutto, bacon, onions, light cream sauce" as the ingredients in their carbonara. The OP is looking for a more authentic carbonara; "NO CREAM" as stated in his first post. Also, an authentic carbonarra would never have all 3 of those meats in it.

                            It's all for naught anyway, the OP has only checked in to this thread once and then only to resign himself to having carbonara in Italy and not take any of our suggestions. Oh well.

                          2. Prune does it like this on their brunch menu: it's terrific.

                            1. It's great how people make unfounded assumptions. I was just a bit forlorn about the idea that out of thousands and thousands of "Italian" restaurants in NYC, only 2 make the real Carbonara, with only guanciale (or pancetta) beaten eggs, and cheese. That's it.

                              Why the cream? Do Americans want cream so badly? I think rather it makes up for a dish that they can't make well, the eggs are tricky to get right without scrambling.

                              Oh yes, I've discovered in Queens, Manducatis, with an absolutely authentic Carbonara! (Sounds Greek but they are Sicilian).

                              16 Replies
                                1. re: lemarais

                                  Fornino in Park Slope, has in big letters next to the Carbonara on the menu, NO CREAM ADDED, and authentic next to that. However, they serve it with peas ( some say that's not authentic) , they also serve it with a fried egg on top. what's up with that? I have read in Northern Italy cream is often used in this dish. I

                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                    Personally...I'd rather have the cream than over salted pasta water....but then, I am an American and proud of it.

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      But the dishes that use cream don't even taste like carbonara.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        First,It was a joke.....Second, it was in defense of you, and your previous comments above... and then about the OP passing judgement on participants in this thread about assumptions and Americans...finally, it was in response to foodwhisperer about reading how cream is often used in Northern Italy.

                                        I would note though, that given a poor limp version made authentically....or one closer to an alfredo version. I would prefer the latter.

                                        1. re: fourunder

                                          I can confirm that in northern Italy they do not use cream.. Unless you go to some tourist trap/chain food place were they don't care about their cooking.
                                          Cream on a carbonara it's indeed an American thing...

                                          1. re: alepenazzi

                                            Sorry to disagree ....however Ive already researched the subject and provided a link above to contradict it's only an American thing.....but is indeed an Italian thing as well....and that Italians also dispute the original ingredients and recipe.

                                            Unless you go to some tourist trap/chain food place were they don't care about their cooking.....


                                            Doesn't that pretty much confirm it exists in Italy by your own words?

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              It definitely isn't an Italian thing meaning that in Italy a true carbonara is made without cream by definition. Nobody will argue with that.
                                              There might be people that put cream on it but it's their personal take on the carbonara, and many restaurants might try to accommodate the tourists by giving them something they are more used to (you find cream on a carbonara in France and Spain as well..).
                                              I doesn't matter if it is south or north Italy.

                                              1. re: alepenazzi

                                                If it exists in Italy...then it's an Italian thing. Even Italians cannot agree on what the origins are....which hold true for just about any dish you can think of, regardless of origin or country...just like how Carbonara is prepared here in the States.....Some have cream and some don't...but they are both American preparations....just as any version with cream made in Italy is an Italian preparation....like it or not.

                                                The people that put cream in it are the cooks...not the eaters or tourist. People travel to Italy to experience what they believe to be authentic preparations. Is it your contention that Italians like to deceive the tourists so they can go back home and announce on Chowhound they do in fact use cream in Carbonara?.

                                                I've pointed this out before...Sophia Loren has gone on record saying she has had it made with cream in Rome. She's probably older than you and remembers it well... and also knows a thing a two about the subject. I doubt she would make it up, being she published her cookbook with cream as an ingredient for her recipe based on her experience.

                                                We can agree to disagree on this.

                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  Let's agree to disagree then because being Italian and having lived in Italy for the first 30 years of my life I've never had a carbonara with cream, I've only heard of it in some chain restaurants on the highways where dishes are not exactly meant to give great foodie memories to the tourists passing by.

                                                  I'm not surprised Sophia Loren enjoyed it with cream, as I've said many Italians have their take on the plate, but I have to repeat myself in saying that nobody in Italy would argue that the original carbonara isn't made with cream.

                                                  1. re: alepenazzi

                                                    So in Italy.....no locals eat in chains?....do you have to show your passport to enter a Chain?

                                                    Thanks...but since it is generally agreed the dish had rural and peasant beginnings....I seriously doubt anyone can know what is truly definitive to the first dish made......

                                                    I don't really believe just because someone can claim to have lived in Italy and never had cream in it is an end to the argument.

                                                    So, I guess you also believe the Italians invented pasta.....

                                                    : 0 )

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      ??? Why wouldn't an Italian eat in a chain?
                                                      I never said that Italians only eat it without cream.. I said that there are people and cooks that make it with cream but they are all fully aware that cream was not part of the original recipe.
                                                      It's like putting mushrooms in a bolognese sauce... Someone does that, but that doesn't mean that we don't know the original recipe of the bolognese...

                                                      Carbonara with cream it's like bolognese with mushrooms. If you put cream in it it's not a carbonara anymore, it's a "carbonara with cream". We can argue about it for ever as we can't be sure of anything but dying, but you can ask to any Italian who knows the basics of cooking and he will tell you that.

                                                      Pasta was born when men started harvesting, in china it developed from rice and in the Mediterranean region from wheat, I don't know how it is related though.

                                          2. re: fourunder

                                            Sorry; could not tell you were joking.

                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                              No problem.....blame menton......

                                    2. re: lemarais

                                      The cream is a substitute for raw egg, which can be a subject of controversy.

                                      1. re: lemarais

                                        Just so you know, "manducatis" is Latin for "you shall eat."

                                      2. It is on the menu at Marseilles on 9th Ave as having guanciale, eggs, pecorino and pepper. I have not eaten this dish, but the menu at least matches your description.

                                        1. Why not just make it yourself? I've never ordered Spaghetti alla Carbonara in a restaurant. Made it last week with guanciale from Dickson's farm stand, eggs from Tello, just wonderful. Good pasta, Parmeggiano Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano are easy to find as well. When the dish comes out perfect it's so satisfying, and you can make it exactly to your liking.