Unravelling a handy guide to finding good Pasta Carbonara in Mzansi

Pasta alla Carbonara is a simple Italian dish made from fresh ingredients and steeped in lots of tradition. Chef Claudio Uccello from Napoli (owner of Fumo Ristorante and chef for the Italian Mission to South Africa) explains that the dish derives its name from the charcoal used by workmen to prepare this meal outdoors. Recently, a more controversial origin story for Pasta alla Carbonara has emerged from the Italian economic historian Alberto Gandi, who studies food myths and how traditions start. He believes that Carbonara may have originated in 1944 when American soldiers brought their egg and bacon rations to Italian chefs to augment the simple pasta dishes served from meagre wartime stocks.

Whatever the origins, Pasta alla Carbonara is traditionally prepared using eggs, hard cheese and cured pork, and seasoned with black pepper.

Let us explore some of the interesting places to enjoy Pasta alla Carbonara dishes in South Africa, in all their varying forms. Compare, find your favourites and above all enjoy!

The Italian Club, Groenkloof, Pretoria

Home of Italian community life, culture and sport in Pretoria since 1950, the restaurant at the Italian Club prides itself on serving simple and fresh Italian food. Here, the Spaghetti Carbonara is served with egg and pancetta.

Forti Bistro, Brooklyn, Pretoria

Chef Fortunato heads up the successful chain of Forti restaurants in Pretoria. He serves an egg-based Pasta alla Carbonara with Parmesan, bacon and olive oil. Cream is optional but frowned upon. This is a good garlic-free lunch option.

La Pentola, Riviera (Pretoria) and Hermanus (Western Cape)

Returning to the simplicity and authenticity of Italian cuisine, chef Shane believes that one of the best kept secrets at La Pentola is their Pasta Carbonara, which is made with flavourful guanciale (pork jowl), fresh-farm eggs, 18-month-old Parmesan, a touch of fresh cream and some freshly ground pepper, and then tossed through spaghetti.

Modena Italian Eatery, Parkhurst, Johannesburg

Modena is proud of their fresh, homemade pasta. They follow a traditional egg-based recipe with guanciale, Parmesan and black pepper. Modena adds an extra layer of umami goodness by topping their Spaghetti alla Carbonara with cured egg yolk shavings.

Gemelli, Bryanston, Johannesburg

You have two options for your Carbonara at Gemelli. Go the traditional route or try the Carbonara di Gemelli – pancetta coppata, sofrito, egg yolk, cream, Parmigiano and crispy pancetta crumbs.

Al Firenze, Glen Ashley, Durban

Al Firenze combines eggs, cream and pancetta to deliver a rich and satisfying Pasta alla Carbonara, to the taste of their clientele.

Osteria Tarantino, De Waterkant, Cape Town

Just in case you were wondering, the owner is an actual relative of Quenton Tarantino. They also stay close to the traditional method of serving their Carbonara (salt and pepper, olive oil, Parmesan, eggs and pancetta). It is served on pappardelle pasta.

Magica Roma, Pinelands, Cape Town

Bacon, cream and Parmesan on linguine – not completely traditional, but very delicious.

Cousins Trattoria, Barrack Street, Cape Town

Tagliatelle Carbonara made with egg, Parmesan and guanciale.

Il Leone Mastrantonio, Green Point, Cape Town

Try the Bucatini alla Carbonara, prepared using a blend of bacon, egg and cream to achieve a silky coating packed with flavour.

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