Soccer, religion, politics. Day-in, day-out, these are the things that are debated along the boot-shaped peninsula that is Italy. But one thing causes more debate in Rome than any of these topical three. The age-old carbonara. How it’s made, where it’s best eaten, the number of eggs, pancetta (from the pork belly) vs guanciale (from the pork cheek), spaghetti or rigatoni, Pecorino Romano and/or Parmigiano Reggiano, whole eggs or a mix of whites and yolk. I could go on.
Even just talking to a Roman about an instalment of the dish with cream or onion or garlic is blasphemy. Aside from the pasta, my view (quite the local common) is that it should contain 4 ingredients: eggs (including some extra yolk), guanciale, pecorino romano and black pepper. And in case you’re wondering, if I had to have my last carbonara ever – I would choose rigatoni.
Here are 6 places in Rome where you can sample some (just some) great ones – and while nothing beats the classic, I’ve included some quirky entries too so that there’s something for everyone!
My favourite and so for me, the best in Rome is at my (by now you know!) local trattoria. The experience at Da Enzo is about the decor and service as much as it is about the food. For me, it’s that authentic Roman trattoria experience you just can’t beat. Their carbonara is rich and as egg-heavy as it should be, with crispy chunks of guanciale. (Via dei Vascellari 29, website)
Carbonara with a view
Flavio al Velavevodetto
Built inside Monte Testaccio (a former dumping ground for amphorae – the terra-cotta like pot pieces goods were transported in Ancient Rome), Flavio is another truly Roman experience. The carbonara is served with rigatoni and you’ll want to go back for more. (Via di Monte Testaccio 97, website)
Speaking of fan clubs, I’m also part of the Romeo Chef & Baker one too (Cristina Bowerman in general)! Here in an uber-modern venue, ahead of Rome times you get access to the Michelin Star chef’s creations without completely breaking the bank. The pork for this one is from the renowned butcher, Macelleria Fracassi and the Pecorino Romano from Castel Gandolfo (in the Castelli Romani). It’s silky smooth and quite addictive. (Piazza dell’Emporio 28, website)
Seu Illuminati Pizzeria
Young and talented, Pier Daniele Seu has a box at the Termini Station, Mercato Centrale and now finally a pizza restaurant of his own. This is gourmet pizza that will blow your mind (all the classics plus a flirtatious play with other) and the carbonara supplì is crumbed and fried to perfection with guanciale and a creamy egg and pecorino filling, is simply to die for.(Via Angelo Bargoni 10, website)
On a pizza?
I’m a big fan of Stefano Callegari. There I said it! How can you not admire someone who stuffs burrata into pizza bianca? I love his Trapizzino but his Pizzeria in Piazza Zama area is on my very-much-approved list too! And here you can combine your love for pizza and carbonara – match made in heaven? (Via Siria 1, website)
For Carbonara in your pasta not tossed through your pasta, Propaganda by the Colosseum serve up a decadent tortelli dish (larger than your average tortellini) stuffed with carbonara sauce and topped with extra crispy guanciale. Divine. (Via Claudia 15, website)
Mama Eat Roma
I’m not a celiac and therefore I generally enjoy my food with gluten! But if you and gluten don’t get along, there’s no reason to miss out on a carbonara while in Rome. Mama Eat in the Piazza San Cosimato area of Trastevere has two kitchens and so provide a clean and real gluten-free experience (in addition to pasta, pizza and street-food too). (Via di San Cosimato 7, website)
A whole carbonara menu
In a brand new spacious venue on Via Natale del Grande, Eggs continue to punch out dishes with you guessed it – prized quality eggs. With an interesting selection of starters including fried carbonara on a stick, check out their menu page dedicated to the roman classic. In addition to the classic, variations include caramelised onion, zucchini flowers, black truffle and velvety rich ‘nduja and stracciatella. (Via Natale del Grande 52, website)
Signing off from Trastevere (a little peckish now!)