The One Pasta Dish Stanley Tucci Won't Eat In The US

Anyone who has seen an episode of "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy," on CNN knows that Stanley Tucci is not easily ruffled. He looks eternally cool with his black-framed glasses, perfectly tailored suits, and crisp white shirts (often with not one, not two, but three or more buttons undone). One can imagine Tucci saying something like, "Pardon me, but I believe your shoe is on fire," with the same velvety purr and unperturbed affectation as, "I'll have the sparkling water, please." But as cool, calm, and collected as the Tooch may appear, there is one thing by which he cannot abide: a poorly executed pasta dish.

And can you blame him? Tucci came by his love of Italian cooking organically, having grown up in an Italian-American home that was likely filled with culinary delights from the Old Country. The New York Times described his mother as "an excellent cook." He was the kid in school whose lunch box was filled with savory bites of eggplant parmesan while the other children in his class happily munched on their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And as he has honed his appreciation for Italian cuisine, so too has he established certain rules. Tucci has rules about hosting, rules about how to make a Negroni, and even a rule about a pasta dish he refuses to eat outside of Italy itself.

A cheeky pasta dish

Pasta carbonara, the silky, creamy creation most often associated with Roman cuisine, can take many forms. The New York Times cheekily describes the dish as "a deli egg-bacon-and-cheese-on-a-roll that has been pasta-fied, fancified, fetishized and turned into an Italian tradition that, like many inviolate Italian traditions, is actually far less old than the Mayflower." Legend has it that the dish – which is, at its most basic, pasta, eggs, cheese, and pork – was invented in Rome in the 1940s when American soldiers stationed in Italy sought to marry the local pasta with a good, old-fashioned American breakfast of bacon and eggs (per Italy Magazine). Variations abound, with many recipes calling for cream to achieve the desired consistency.

But for Stanley Tucci, there can only be one carbonara, and ordering it outside of Italy itself is futile. "It has to do with the quality of the ingredients and an understanding of the dish itself," Tucci told Business Insider. "Italians, Romans know that better than anyone when it comes to this dish." In an essential difference between Italy's take and a pasta carbonara recipe you might find elsewhere, the cured pork used in the Roman version is guanciale, meat from the cheek or jowl of the animal. "It is special because of the pork cheek and the way it is cured," Tucci explained. "Also the freshness of the eggs and the high quality of the Durham wheat pasta." And if that's good enough for the Tooch, it's good enough for us.