Dear Mr. Gold:
Spaghetti carbonara, of course, is the best food in the world, all that is holy in the universe — cheese, eggs, bacon, pasta — combined into a single, perfect dish. In Rome, you can find decent spaghetti carbonara anywhere. Even in New York you can find the real stuff, except when the kitchen at Lupa tells you that they won’t make it even though they definitely have all the ingredients in the kitchen. I really hate that. But what I hate even more is the carbonara in Los Angeles, which is almost unrecognizable. I mean, if I wanted a plate of pasta with cream and peas, which I don’t, I would ask for it. Is a decent bowl of carbonara too much to ask?
I hate peas in spaghetti carbonara as much as you do. Cream is a crime against nature. And I suspect I am even pickier about the meat in the dish than you are. Bacon is usually too sweet and smoky; pancetta is better (although most American pancettas are too hammy for my taste); and the best of all is guanciale, Roman-style cured hog jowl, whose fat has exactly the right pungency for the dish. Gino Angelini actually cures his own guanciale, which he serves at both La Terza and Trattoria Angelini, although not, as far as I can tell, actually in his spaghetti carbonara, which is excellent. Still, I am partial to the gamy, austere spaghetti carbonara at Enoteca Drago, made with pancetta, pecorino and Latini pasta, which is plain but just gooey enough, and goes perfectly with one of the Aglianicos or Rosso Coneros on the restaurant’s huge by-the-glass wine list. 410 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 786-8236.
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