The Traditional Pasta Dish Professional Chefs Love Ordering At An Italian Restaurant

Pasta is one of those foods that transcends all geographical and cultural borders. An Oxfam survey found that of all the many foods that the 16,000 participants from 17 countries liked, pasta came in the top three. In fact, even celebrities are known to break their otherwise strict diets for a big heap of the carb-laden Italian dish.

Stanley Tucci doesn't mind leftover pasta tossed in marinara sauce before hitting the bed, Hugh Jackman's cheat meals generally involve fettuccini, while Meghan Markle's travels are incomplete without pasta. Cameron Diaz and her husband Benji Madden ate so much pasta during the pandemic lockdown that she jokingly said that she was practically on a pasta diet, in an Instagram live video.

While pretty much anything flies with the rest of the world as long as it is pasta in some shape, size, and form, professional chefs are a tad more particular about their pasta dishes. In an interview with Reader's Digest, the executive chef of La Tavola Trattoria Brian Moll said that the sign of an Italian restaurant's greatness lies in its pasta. While Gabriel Israel of the New York-based Green Fig agrees, it's not just any pasta that he orders. Chef Israel looks for two things when dining at an Italian restaurant: handmade pasta and carbonara.

Professional chefs love a good carbonara

Chef Israel's meals at an Italian restaurant are rarely complete without carbonara. "I look for the eggs on top, smoked bacon, creamy sauce—everything done right. That's how I judge if it's a good spot," he tells Reader's Digest – and he isn't the only one. Carbonara is also a favorite of Rick Petralia, the corporate chef and culinary services manager of Fazoli's. "I love a traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonara. I prefer mine traditional—egg, black pepper, aged parmigiano-reggiano, and pancetta, or guanciale," Petralia explains, adding that "it's a simple dish, but when it uses high-quality ingredients, it can't be beat."

Although carbonara is now famous practically everywhere, finding a good bowl of carbonara is an entirely different story and the seemingly innocent pasta is at the center of a whole lot of controversy. Carbonara generally has five elements: pasta, eggs, pecorino cheese, guanciale, and pepper. But that hasn't stopped Italian eateries around the world from adding a splash of cream or white wine to the traditional sauce in an effort to make it their own — an effort that doesn't sit well with some Italian pasta traditionalists.

Even when chefs do agree on the five elements of a carbonara, opinions vary on whether swapping guanciale with pancetta and pecorino with Parmigiano is acceptable. This perhaps explains why professional chefs like Israel and Petralia like to order carbonara at an Italian restaurant to get a feel of just how good the eatery is.