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Three Shades of Carbonara

Sara Deseran | August 5, 2013 | Story Restaurants

While these three purist chefs would never do something as gauche as add cream, they still tweak the dish to meet their platonic ideal of authenticity.

The Extremist: Cotogna
Chef Michael Tusk’s explanation of his carbonara was an email-page long. We bring it to you in brief: Only half-inch-long lardons of guanciale—“I don’t like thicker or smaller pieces”— will do. That, and Verrigni, a smooth gold-die extruded spaghetti and a blend of whole eggs and yolks. Tellicherry peppercorns are ground by hand in a mortar, and the pasta is done in 8½ minutes, at which point it’s cooked together for another few minutes with a little pasta water, Sini Fulvi pecorino, and eggs. 490 Pacific Ave. (at Montgomery St.), 415-775-8508

The Riffer: Locanda
Locanda’s carbonara is made with egg yolks, pecorino romano, and guanciale rendered in its own fat until crisp. But its secret is “guanciale water” made by boiling the skin of the guanciale for “extra swininess.” An onion petal, a fresh bay leaf, and a splash of white wine are also involved. Chef Anthony Strong swears that, barring the swine swill, “it’s the exact method that was used at San Cesareo, one of the places I worked outside Rome.” The pasta is house-extruded (copper die), egg-based rigatoni. 557 Valencia St. (near 16th St.), 415-863-6800

The Classic: 54 Mint
Once the guanciale is crisped in olive oil, chef Mattia Marcelli adds a bit of water “to make the sauce a little creamy without butter or cream.” To that, an egg whisked with pecorino cheese and ground black pepper is added. This is all tossed with Rustichella D’Abruzzo spaghetti (cooked for 9½ minutes). Freshly grated pecorino and freshly ground black pepper are sprinkled on top. 16 Mint Plaza (near Jessie st.), 415-543-5100

Originally published in the September 2013 issue of San Francisco

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