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May 15, 2013 02:29 PM

Pesto at Restaurants-- Just about all add Cream!!!

This is a wonderful dish from North Western Italy, Pesto. Basil, olive oil, and Pine nuts. Blended together for a coarse blend, not too pureed.

It's not that common an item in Ital-American restos here, but the ones that do have it invariably add cream! Why??!! This makes for a rather disgusting and gloppy mess, IMO. I would rather not have to go to Italy to get this prepared the correct way.

Anyhbody finding the same problem with Pesto?

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  1. I've never had a pesto with cream. It's a common special in many NJ Italian restaurants. They do usually add garlic to your ingredient list, but never cream.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MGZ

      I just realized you're in NJ too. Where are you finding cream in pesto?

      1. re: MGZ

        You've had cream, believe me. You've had cream in your restaurant pesto. They even do it is a majority of restos in NYC!

        1. re: lemarais

          Again, you get this information where?

        2. re: MGZ

          Also, usually has parmesan cheese.

        3. I've never had cream in pesto anywhere. (I also agree with MGZ that it usually has garlic.)

          However, I have seen restaurants offer a "pesto cream sauce" -- which is adding pesto TO cream. But that's intended to be different than the pesto itself.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eamcd

            Yea, I've seen a lot of dishes labeled "pesto cream sauce" and even jars of it in the store but have never ordered pesto which seemed to have cream in it.

          2. Where is "here"? Because I've not seen it that way anywhere (even Panera serves a passable traditional pesto).

            1. Well, it's not that common to find Pesto in NJ Ital Americans, but these places proudly advertise it WITH cream!

              Banchetto Feast-- Westwood
              Arturo's-- Midland Park
              Francesca's-- Glen Rock
              I even was on the UWS last week, and found a place that has it-- Bellini-- menu says "with cream" AAargh.

              So of the one in 10 Ital-Amer restos that serve the dish, I would dare to say that 90% add cream. But make me wrong. Tell me where I can get great Pesto!

              12 Replies
              1. re: lemarais

                Maybe go to Italian restaurants rather than Italian-American ones. Kinda like the difference between Chinese and Chinese-American.

                1. re: c oliver

                  There are NO Italian restaurants on this side of the Atlantic.

                  1. re: lemarais

                    What on earth does that mean? Of course, there are. Can a country or regional food not have GREAT representation in a country other than their home country? Of course, they can and do. Are you saying that there are no French, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian, etc. outside of their particular countries? Poppycock :)

                    1. re: lemarais


                      If what you are sayin' is that there are "NO Italian restaurants on this side of the Atlantic" because this is not Italy, I admit that I respect the play on words. Otherwise, can you please explain what you mean to us? Are you asserting that there is no place in, let's say, Manhattan, that doesn't serve "authentic" Italian food?

                      Now, I know that what is "authentic" is impossible to define. Moreover, if we're gonna talk indigenous, then I s'pose any Italian food that involves a tomato or a chile is definitely not "authentic", right?

                      1. re: MGZ

                        Out of thousands of Italian Americans, less than half a dozen serve anything resembling "authentic" cuisine actually served in Italy. Authentic is easy to define. It's a dish actually served in a restaurant on the other side of the "pond". Example:

                        Please tell me where I can get some of these menu items here:




                        But that's OK. I'll take my flight to get "authentic". All I want is pesto and Carbonara made without cream!!

                        1. re: lemarais

                          Fewer than half a dozen? Where do you get that number? Citation please. Try this on for size:


                          Sorry they don't have anything as pedestrian as pesto Genovese (pesto alone just means anything that is pounded) or pasta carbonara. It's Sardinian. Does that count as Italian?

                          1. re: lemarais

                            We've been to Italy five times and know well the difference between Italian American food and food as prepared in Italy. We have found quite a few restaurants in NYC, San Francisco and other cities throughout the US that cook many items similar to those on the menus you cite. We have had many stateside carbonaras made without cream.

                            In fact, you started a post on the Manhattan boards @lemarais asking where to find carbonara without cream and many of us gave you good suggestions. Seems like you are more interested in carping about the subject than actually eating the dish.


                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              Upon perusing OPs history, he had this complaint on the Manhattan board some months ago. Despite CHs recs of various places, he pretty much stuck to his claim.

                              I think Ruth Lafler's explanation below is a good one.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I've edited my post after remembering this @c oliver. Our posts must have crossed. ;)

                        2. re: lemarais

                          And no French, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, etc. etc. etc.

                          That's just silly.

                      2. re: lemarais

                        Banchetto Feast seems to be a chain restaurant. I am looking at the menu and I do NOT see pesto with cream. Here is their description of their pesto:

                        PESTO 11.95/15.95

                        I looked at the Arturo's menu. There is a "house made fresh pasta with creamy basil pesto sauce" though perhaps that means consistency rather than ingredients.

                        The Bellini menu says: Fusili al Pesto:
                        Fresh Pesto of Basil, Garlic, Cheese, Olive Oil & touch of Cream

                        And indeed, Francesca's says: Penne pasta in a fresh basil, parmesan pesto cream sauce

                        I never heard of pesto with cream so I googled it and apparently, it is a common variant. Who knew?

                        My question to you is why don't you order something else if you don't like pesto that is made with cream?

                        1. re: Just Visiting

                          Where are those restaurants? If in NJ, perhaps as was mentioned it got bastardized along the way.

                          I was also thinking about high end restaurants which seem not to routinely have either dish. Perhaps cause they're looking for something more cutting edge or higher priced. In the case of carbonara, I bet many would be willing to fix it as they like have the ingredients on hand. They might not want to mess with making a single serving of pesto. Just a thought or two.

                      3. I've never ever had pesto with cream at a restaurant