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Off the menu requests and a bit too much attitude...

Off the menu requests and a bit too much attitude...
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  • Off the menu requests and a bit too much attitude...

    Post #1 - September 12th, 2004, 11:07 pm
    Post #1 - September 12th, 2004, 11:07 pm Post #1 - September 12th, 2004, 11:07 pm
    We were in the mood for some red tablecloth Italian last night, and to be more specific, I was in the mood for a plate of spaghetti carbonara.

    Should have been a no brainer, right?
    I had heard and read good things about La Scarola. We arrived early, and just a few tables were occupied.

    We were seated and given menus and bread. No carbonara on the menu. Shouldn't be too big a problem, right? A little cream, some bacon or pancetta, or proscuitto, and I would've been pleased,

    Our waiter returned with Donna's wine and asked if we were ready to order. In my most charming voice, I asked if the kitchen could do a spaghetti carbonara for me. The waiter said he would have to ask the chef. Said waiter returned a few minutes later, and said they could not do it because they didn't have the ingredients. HUH? I was amazed. Looked at the menu some more, but nothing else would do. You know the feeling.

    I waved the waiter over, put down a ten to cover the glass of wine and bread, and told him we would be leaving, and that I was pretty amazed that such a simple request for a common, not to mention classic preparation could not be done. I sarcastically suggested they must be out of heavy cream. At that point, the chef (who had been sitting two tables away with some friends) walked over and pretty rudely wished us a good night.

    We decided to give Cannella's on Grand a try, maybe seven or eight blocks to the west, half a block up from Bari.

    To make a long story short, the carbonara wasn't a problem (also not on the menu) at Cannella's and it was pretty darn good in fact. They used proscuitto, not my first choice for this dish, but the pasta was nicely al dente, the sauce was good, and the portion was good enough for two people. A better rendition in fact, than I had last month at the much acclaimed Bruna's.

    Was this an unreasonable request on my part? It's not like I marched in and demanded Saddle of Veal Orloff or something for crying out loud.

    I'm sure that the kitchen at La Scarola does a fine job, but we won't be going back to find out.
    Last edited by Evil Ronnie on September 13th, 2004, 8:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #2 - September 12th, 2004, 11:23 pm
    Post #2 - September 12th, 2004, 11:23 pm Post #2 - September 12th, 2004, 11:23 pm
    Evil,

    I'm not sure if it's an unreasonable request. Really, I just don't know. I do know that I would not have the cojones to make an "off menu" request like that, even at a place that I knew and that knew me. I admire you for doing so, but I just couldn't do it.

    I've only been to La Scarola once or twice, and I have no allegiance to it, but I wonder if it's possible that they were out of both pancetta and prosciutto and just couldn't pull it off.

    If the chef was rude, that's another issue. You mentioned you were "sarcastic," so maybe that cranked him up a little.

    Realizing I've been no help whatsover,

    Hammond
  • Post #3 - September 13th, 2004, 12:05 am
    Post #3 - September 13th, 2004, 12:05 am Post #3 - September 13th, 2004, 12:05 am
    Dave,

    I don't hesitate to ask is because it really is no big deal. And this isn't because I'm bombarded on a daily basis with requests for special items and I'm looking for payback.

    I'm happy that Cannella's did it for me. The waiter got a great tip and I'll be back next time I'm in the mood.
    "Bass Trombone is the Lead Trumpet of the Deep."
    Rick Hammett
  • Post #4 - September 13th, 2004, 2:12 am
    Post #4 - September 13th, 2004, 2:12 am Post #4 - September 13th, 2004, 2:12 am
    Evil Ronnie:

    From the standpoint of restaurant etiquette, insofar as that exists beyond the more basic rules of civil behaviour, I don't know whether such a request might be considered out of line. But at the level of common sense and considering what spaghetti alla carbonara is and what sort of a place it holds in Italian restaurant cuisine specifically and Italian cuisine in general, I don't think it at all out of line to request it. I find Cannella's reaction to the request far more understandable than that of La Scarola's.

    I also can't imagine an Italian restaurant being out of the ingredients that go into carbonara. Indeed, the dish, though generally considered Roman in origin, is nowadays thought of by Italians in general as one of the basic options for a spaghettata, that is, a quick, often late night, spur-of-the-moment meal that involves a preparation of spaghetti that is easy to make and for which the ingredients are pretty much always on hand.

    How many of us all could, if we so chose, get up and go make the dish right now? I could (if a substitution of Kurowski's Polish slab bacon would be permitted*) and I would say that it would be possible for me to do so a fair amount of the time -- and mine is not a restaurant kitchen. Now, if La Scarola is indeed a restaurant, how could they not have eggs on hand? Or not have cream? And how many Italian restaurants worth their weight in salt, don't have a salted and cured pork product on hand that would fit the bill here? No guanciale? Okay, sure, I'll buy that... But no pancetta? Not even prosciutto? Very strange... quasi incredibile...

    Maybe... and I hesitate to suggest this but... maybe the chef, at least the one on duty at that time, just plain old didn't know how to make carbonara. I thought I had heard the head-chef at La Scarola is not Italian -- I believe I heard he's Mexican -- but one would think that a professional chef from anywhere who works at an Italian restaurant would have eaten and made the dish at some point in the course of his training. But could it be that the head-chef was not there and some underling, taught to execute the menu dishes but not trained in Italian cooking, was in charge? That too seems strange for a Saturday night...

    Or maybe they were out of spaghetti... ( :shock: :( :lol: :twisted: :roll: :wink: )

    Anyway, I believe Mugs has had good experiences at Cannella but otherwise I don't recall seeing much about it on LTH or CH... How was the rest of the meal there? What sort of a menu do they have?

    I have also heard good things about La Scarola but also some less good things... I haven't been to either... Maybe I should get out more...

    Antonius

    * I think Kurowski's bacon would do a fine job in a pinch. It's not overly smokey and, at least the slices I got, have much more meat than fat.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #5 - September 13th, 2004, 7:27 am
    Post #5 - September 13th, 2004, 7:27 am Post #5 - September 13th, 2004, 7:27 am
    I know nothing about this restaurant, but do know more than a few chefs with an excess of ego. The refusal to accommodate your reasonable request and his haughty attitude are telling: "I have put all my considerable creative powers into a menu which reflects my unique approach to Italian cuisine. If you don't want to enjoy my brilliance, then you should go somewhere else."

    On the other hand, if I had my heart dead-set on a certain dish, I might call ahead or at least inquire before being seated.

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #6 - September 13th, 2004, 7:55 am
    Post #6 - September 13th, 2004, 7:55 am Post #6 - September 13th, 2004, 7:55 am
    ER, thanks for the story. It is very telling about La Scarola, especially given how they try to affect the airs of long there neighborhood joint. It's not like you asked for a timpano.

    There seems two aspects to your story. One, the restaurant seemed incapable of improvising, and perhaps as suggested above, the crew only knew how to make the menu dishes. Second, and this is something I've been on a high-horse before, it seems that Chicago Italian restaurants, with the exception of a few newer places like Merlo and Folia, seem so out of touch with actual Italian food. That one would typically find all sorts of pasta "creations" with tons of ingredients (one bound to be mushrooms of some sort), yet one hardly ever sees the actually pasta sauces of Italy, which are typically simple preparations like carbonara.

    Two final points, related but un-related to the theme of the post:

    1) Is Boca de la verita still there on the Lincoln Sq strip? I thought I heard it closed. Anyways, they had a good carbonara, at least they did years ago.

    2) Oddly enough, since we got this great thick bacon from Green City Market, I've been angling to have the Condiment Queen make me carbonara. We had the pasturized eggs* in the house for ages to make it happen, but we never pulled the trigger. I have to say, having been reading recipes for carbonara a lot, including David Downie's Cooking the Roman Way (2002). Downie notes that there is much discussion in Rome as to the origin of spaghetti alla carbonara, but that the only thing Romans agree on is that cream has no place in carbonara.

    [Hey, I gotta run, I'll get back to the egg question in another post]

    Rob
  • Post #7 - September 13th, 2004, 7:56 am
    Post #7 - September 13th, 2004, 7:56 am Post #7 - September 13th, 2004, 7:56 am
    I don't know that I'd ever go so far as to ask for a completely different dish than what's on the menu. I'd have no qualms about asking for a different sauce that's already on the menu, or swap vegetables or even the meat present.

    I can't recall ever doing that in an Italian or continental restaurant, but it's almost expected in Chinese: "Can you do Mu Shu with beef instead of pork?" Of course they can, but a Chinese kitchen is set up more for component parts than whole dishes.

    Not being a big smoked pork product fan (bacon is for breakfast, in my opnion, and keep it the heck away from my hamburgers, please. Ok, go ahead and crumble it on my salad, I guess), I never order carbonara, but my wife is a big fan of the version at Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston.
  • Post #8 - September 13th, 2004, 8:00 am
    Post #8 - September 13th, 2004, 8:00 am Post #8 - September 13th, 2004, 8:00 am
    Vital Information wrote:1) Is Boca de la verita still there on the Lincoln Sq strip? I thought I heard it closed. Anyways, they had a good carbonara, at least they did years ago.


    I walked by a week ago and they were certainly open and doing a brisk business.
  • Post #9 - September 13th, 2004, 8:03 am
    Post #9 - September 13th, 2004, 8:03 am Post #9 - September 13th, 2004, 8:03 am
    Vital Information wrote:Downie notes that there is much discussion in Rome as to the origin of spaghetti alla carbonara, but that the only thing Romans agree on is that cream has no place in carbonara.

    I'm trying to remember where I heard about the origin of the dish (I fear it may have been in fiction, one of Tim Powers' books most likely) was that it was a dish made on the run by the Carbonari, Italian revolutionaries that grew out of the charcoal-burning guild (hence the name). Eggs and bacon with pasta could be made quickly, cheaply and with pilfered ingredients while hiding out.
  • Post #10 - September 13th, 2004, 8:06 am
    Post #10 - September 13th, 2004, 8:06 am Post #10 - September 13th, 2004, 8:06 am
    Antonius wrote:From the standpoint of restaurant etiquette, insofar as that exists beyond the more basic rules of civil behaviour, I don't know whether such a request might be considered out of line.

    Antonius, you've been away from Jersey too long.
    I have fond memories of restaurants reciting menus; menus were something you heard, not read. Pasta specials at Italian restaurants were the types of fresh pasta they prepared for the evening along with their suggestion of a sauce to serve with it, with the expectation that you could request a different sauce. The menu was more of an open-ended dialogue with the waiter rather than dishes set in stone. I have never been turned down by requesting a different sauce, but on the other hand I haven't tried this at Italian restaurants in Chicago. In fact, I would be grateful to find pasta that isn't out of a box and with a red sauce that isn't sweet.

    On a side note, I did not like my one and only pasta experience at Cannella's, though the waiter was nice.

    Based on a tip on here from JimInLoganSquare I ordered tacos al pastor from Taqueria Moran, which is off the menu. I was amazed how good they were considering it's not even on the menu and they don't have an al pastor spit.
    there's food, and then there's food
  • Post #11 - September 13th, 2004, 9:34 am
    Post #11 - September 13th, 2004, 9:34 am Post #11 - September 13th, 2004, 9:34 am
    Bill/SFNM wrote: The refusal to accommodate your reasonable request and his haughty attitude are telling: "I have put all my considerable creative powers into a menu which reflects my unique approach to Italian cuisine. If you don't want to enjoy my brilliance, then you should go somewhere else."
    Bill/SFNM


    Attitude is a mistake endemic to inexperienced restaurant people. Restaurant pro's know that making both charwomen and CEO's comfortable is the professionals' true art.

    IMHO, you were dissed by beginners. So have some compassion.

    Recently in NYC I went for lunch back at the same restaurant I had eaten dinner at with a business party of eight the night before. Why return, with so many other choices to be had? Well, it was cold, and wet, and I just wanted that feeling of eating at 'home'.

    Il Menestrello is a small midtown place. Its family run, has very good quality cuisine (which I freely and happily admit is aging) and refined classic service. Going in, you know right away that it ain't cheap.

    I asked if it was possible to get just rapini, beans and sausage. The elderly captain did a bare double take, then repeated my request--twice to be sure he understood.

    The dish was superb. Imported cannelini beans, superb sausage, impeccably fresh reggiano parmesan from the wheel grated tableside, even the garlic cooked just right.

    When the check came, the tab read $26.75 for rapini and beans. I folded up the bill, and couldn't stop laughing. I had been charged up the a$$, but could not argue as I had gotten exactly what I wanted.

    I tipped well (cost of being a regular) and left, still laughing.
    Chicago is my spiritual chow home
  • Post #12 - September 13th, 2004, 9:38 am
    Post #12 - September 13th, 2004, 9:38 am Post #12 - September 13th, 2004, 9:38 am
    As VI said, in Rome especially but Italy more generally, cream is not used in spaghetti alla carbonara; I didn't want to go into that issue because ER's request was for the variant, very widespread these days in restaurants both in this country and also in Europe, that includes cream. I myself, whose family comes from the zone of the west coast of Italy that has one foot in the world of Roman/Laziale cuisine and the other in that of Neapolitan/Campanian cuisine, have transgressed a few times (in my wild, frivolous youth) by adding a little cream... It's pretty damn good, though not perhaps all that easy on the arteries... But, indeed, the traditional way includes no cream... And, just to sound like a broken record, NO GARLIC...

    JoelF mentioned smoked pork products and there too we should remember that the traditional pork products used for this and related pasta dishes in Rome/Lazio are guanciale and pancetta (and in a pinch prosciutto), which are salt cured and not smoked. I have made carbonara with smoked bacon and the result is hardly revolting, but if the bacon is very smokey, that flavour tends to dominate too much if you use much meat. That's why I noted above that the Kurowski's bacon I got was not extremely strong in the smoke flavour and could be pressed into service for an emergency spaghettata; the less smokey the bacon for this dish (or, say, an improvised alla Matriciana), the better.

    I agree with Rob that there is in some ways too much fantasia in pasta preparations in this country. Italian cuisine certainly allows for and even celebrates creativity in the kitchen, especially in the realm of pasta dishes, but strictly speaking, and certainly in Italy, you can't put garlic in a dish with tomatoes and pancetta (or guanciale) and onion and call it alla Matriciana. That dish is what it is, and in Lazio and environs, it's never made with garlic. There are plenty of other such dishes which for Italians allow a certain amount of variation along well-defined parameters but which in their restaurant presentation in the States (and by extension in American home-cooking), have been seriously altered in (from an Italian perspective) unacceptable ways, almost always in the direction of adding ingredients.

    At some point, one can say this is "living cuisine", that "the recipes are being adapted to new settings and are being transformed", and at some point maybe that becomes a completely reasonable argument. But so long as there is an older tradition, whence sprung a dish and its name, and further that dish is still very widely consumed, I find it hard to think of restaurant usurpations of old names as a genuine culinary development that has supplanted the old traditional way of doing and naming things.

    In the case of carbonara, the addition of cream has become so widespread that I think in most Americans' (and northern Europeans') minds, that combination is expected. In a better world, it should probably have a different name -- let's have a contest to come up with one...

    My suggestion... spaghetti alla cardiologa... And please pass the pecorino!...*

    In any event, I still think Ron's request was hardly unreasonable in a place calling itself La Scarola.

    Antonius

    * I have wondered in the past whether the addition of a touch of cream (which I have seen in Italy, though not in Rome or elsewhere Lazio) is a way of avoiding the problem of the eggs seizing up too much. One approach to that problem is to pretend that the eggs cook sufficiently from the heat of the pasta off any heat; this is a suggestion I heard from non-Italian television chefs. I gave it a try and in my experience, that method results in uncooked eggs with a texturally displeasing sliminess. My old Roman (with recipes in dialect) cookbook specifically says that one should combine spaghetti and guanciale and beaten eggs over heat precisely in order to cook the eggs but I have found that one must also add a little liquid (nowadays I use the pasta cooking-water but I have done this with cream) and stir vigorously and not keep the pan on the heat very long to avoid getting little clumps of egg. Tempering the eggs apart before adding them to the spaghetti in the pan is also a way to achieve a smooth but cooked egg-sauce and one done very easily if one is using the pasta cooking water. Using a little (heated) cream in this way, as opposed to drowning the dish in an egg-cream sauce, strikes me as a non-canonical but hardly absurd adaptation, whatever one should then call the dish.

    Editing: correction of typos
    Last edited by Antonius on September 13th, 2004, 3:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #13 - September 13th, 2004, 9:38 am
    Post #13 - September 13th, 2004, 9:38 am Post #13 - September 13th, 2004, 9:38 am
    Ronnie's story seems like the equivalent of going into a piano bar, requesting "Stardust" and being told the piano player doesn't have the sheet music with him. No way.

    I cannot imagine, under the circs., that this was in any way an unreasonable request. It's not like going into Moto and asking if they could just do a quick BLT. As VI pointed out, the whole deal with Scarola is that it's an old-fashioned, neighborhood place - honest food, nothing too fancy, etc. To ask for something from the very core of the tradition they represent - in addition, something utterly simple - seems to me like something they should have been pleased to step up and prove their credentials by providing.

    By comparison - last year I was at La Donna with a large group (I know, I know. Lots of issues there. Not my favorite place by a long shot. Nevertheless - there we were.) There were about 8 iof us. One of our number asked, spontaneously, if they could possibly do a puttanesca for him, though it was not on the menu. (Keep in mind this is a bit more of a stretch than carbonara.) The waiter asked, and the kitchen responded with not a hint of a problem. And it was one of the best dishes of the evening.

    If opera singers can fly around the world on a moment's notice to sub for ailing colleagues in major roles, I don't see why a cook worth his salt (as it were), can't turn out a simple classic on request.

    Scellerato!
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #14 - September 13th, 2004, 10:02 am
    Post #14 - September 13th, 2004, 10:02 am Post #14 - September 13th, 2004, 10:02 am
    I have no problem making simple requests, especially when they're simple. I never expect to hear a negative response to my simple requests, but when I do I usually just let it go and move on to something else. As Bill/SFNM said, if I am so dead-set on a dish, I'd make sure the place had it or could prepare it before I sat down.

    One situation in which I couldn't "move on" was at Tank Sushi on Lincoln. I've had mostly favorable experiences at Tank (when dining during non-peak hours). On one visit, Ms. EC and I had a taste for a simple Unagi-Kappa Maki (eel & cucumber) in addition to the rest of our meal. Tank's menu does not include such a simple roll on their menu. I politely asked the waiter if the chef could prepare this simple item (as the ingredients were obviously on hand).

    The waiter looked at me as if I was speaking Greek and had grown a second head. He continuously repeated that it "was not on the menu". I told him that I understood that, but I'm sure the chef could accomodate this simple request. He kept acting confused and probably asked me three times to describe this roll. Finally I went to talk to the sushi chef myself. He was much easier to talk to, but I felt overall that I had been asked to beg for my request, which left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I certainly do chalk this particular experience up to inexperience of the waitstaff, as Steve Drucker mentioned.
  • Post #15 - September 13th, 2004, 10:11 am
    Post #15 - September 13th, 2004, 10:11 am Post #15 - September 13th, 2004, 10:11 am
    Ronnie, I think the request was a no brainer, and should have been accomodated. I'd bet a close look at the menu would reveal all of the ingredients for a simple carbonara. My guess is that the kitchen was on cruise control. The head chef/owner guy, Mexican though he is, no doubt could have done it. I'm thinking he wasn't there. If he was the guy that gave you the attitude, then I'd suggest success has spoiled him.

    I'm king of off-the-menu ordering. I come close to abusing the privilege at times, but it is a privilege I think I have earned in some places where I am a regular, or a semi-regular. My main off-the-menu tends to be veal Milanesa. Sabatino's, for example, has a knockout veal chop. Massive, fatty and delicious. Every so often, the waiter asks how I'd like it done. I answer, pounded thin, coated in breadcrumbs and fried in some olive oil. It's a luxury item, and they are usually happy to do it.

    As for carbonara off the menu, or any other basic pasta, we always have good luck at Stefani's on Fullerton.
  • Post #16 - September 13th, 2004, 10:28 am
    Post #16 - September 13th, 2004, 10:28 am Post #16 - September 13th, 2004, 10:28 am
    eatchicago wrote:The waiter looked at me as if I was speaking Greek and had grown a second head...


    EC:

    Great line...

    Rich4 wrote:Antonius, you've been away from Jersey too long.


    Rich:

    Sometimes I feel that way too but there some people back in Jersey who still think it hasn't been long enough.

    I still don't know what general restaurant etiquette in this matter is supposed to be but, as I said, I don't think Ron's request was odd at all in the context of an Italian restaurant. Whether there is a set and printed menu or not, any real Italian restaurant can and should be able to execute any of the basic, now pan-Italian quick pasta dishes in a reasonable way... Alla puttanesca? Who wouldn't have olives and capers and anchovies on hand? Aglio e olio, cacio e pepe, carbonara, matriciana, con le alice... These all just involve things that should always be on hand.

    I really suspect the people at La Scarola just didn't know how to do it, which says something about the operation as a whole. I've heard (maybe on Check Please? or maybe from people who have been there) the ingredients they use for some basic Italian dish and it struck me as completely off target.... some sort of fusional dish is what it sounded like but inappropriately bearing a traditional Italian name.

    The last time I had an experience where I asked for something off the menu in an Italian restaurant was great. It was in the Netherlands, in a place run by Sardinians. The menu was just standard Italian-restaurant food for a non-Italian audience. I asked them if they'd do some Sardinian things for me and they were delighted. Great meal, cheap... I have to find my notes on what it was I actually ate but it was simple stuff.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #17 - September 13th, 2004, 10:32 am
    Post #17 - September 13th, 2004, 10:32 am Post #17 - September 13th, 2004, 10:32 am
    mrbarolo wrote:Ronnie's story seems like the equivalent of going into a piano bar, requesting "Stardust" and being told the piano player doesn't have the sheet music with him. No way.


    Well put!!

    :P

    Getting back to the egg question. One could possibly (possibly) make the argument that the kitchen was not willing to make a dish that essentially involves raw eggs, as the warming up the eggs take in the classic preperation does not cook the eggs enough to kill various bacteria that could be present in raw eggs (leaving aside the question of how much risk per se are repersented in raw eggs). Perhaps, after calling their lawyers, La Scarola decided to decline Evil Ronnie's request.

    Me, I am pretty confident in eating raw eggs, especially if fresh, but as pasturizing them has pretty much no effect for a dish like carbonara, I feel if I can get them (any Domminicks), why not use them and mitigate the risk.

    Rob
  • Post #18 - September 13th, 2004, 10:39 am
    Post #18 - September 13th, 2004, 10:39 am Post #18 - September 13th, 2004, 10:39 am
    Next time ask for curry or Thai fried chicken and see what happens.
  • Post #19 - September 13th, 2004, 10:42 am
    Post #19 - September 13th, 2004, 10:42 am Post #19 - September 13th, 2004, 10:42 am
    Vital Information wrote:
    Getting back to the egg question. One could possibly (possibly) make the argument that the kitchen was not willing to make a dish that essentially involves raw eggs, as the warming up the eggs take in the classic preperation does not cook the eggs enough to kill various bacteria that could be present in raw eggs (leaving aside the question of how much risk per se are repersented in raw eggs). Perhaps, after calling their lawyers, La Scarola decided to decline Evil Ronnie's request.

    Rob


    First, Ronnie, I agree this was a very simple request of an Italian restaurant. I understand your craving, I have also had a carbonara jones which would accept no substitute.

    Rob, if the raw eggs were the problem, wouldn't they have just explained they had concerns? I don't think that was the issue.

    Best,
    Al
  • Post #20 - September 13th, 2004, 11:02 am
    Post #20 - September 13th, 2004, 11:02 am Post #20 - September 13th, 2004, 11:02 am
    Evil Ronnie wrote:Was this an unreasonable request on my part?

    Evil,

    Does not seem unreasonable to me. You want to see unreasonable, go to my parents favorite Florida deli at lunchtime. :)

    This discussion has 'done flung a craving' for carbonara on me. Which, for me, means Marcella Hazan's carbonara recipe. No cream, but I just may add a bit tonight to be contrary. :)

    Enjoy,
    Gary
  • Post #21 - September 13th, 2004, 11:09 am
    Post #21 - September 13th, 2004, 11:09 am Post #21 - September 13th, 2004, 11:09 am
    VI wrote:Getting back to the egg question. One could possibly (possibly) make the argument that the kitchen was not willing to make a dish that essentially involves raw eggs, as the warming up the eggs take in the classic preperation does not cook the eggs enough to kill various bacteria that could be present in raw eggs (leaving aside the question of how much risk per se are repersented in raw eggs). Perhaps, after calling their lawyers, La Scarola decided to decline Evil Ronnie's request.


    Rob:

    I've got to go with my relatives, my old Roman cookbook and my own gut-feeling regarding how the old-timers do things and what works in spaghetti cookery.

    My feeling is the raw-egg approach is an innovation and not the real traditional way of doing it. And frankly, I just can't imagine my relatives taking to the texture and the idea of essentially raw egg on their spaghetti.

    To me, this is a dish that is a classic example of the deceptive simplicity of Italian cooking. The key is to get the eggs reasonably cooked without turning them into scrambled eggs. In the footnote to my first post in this thread, I conjecture that adding a little cream (which, again, I have seen in Italy, though not in Rome) is a sort of short cut or little trick to make the task of achieving a creamy rather than lumpy sauce easier. I find tempering the egg with hot pasta cooking water works well too and then cooking the pasta together with the egg-mixture briefly and at low heat and/or intermittant heat with vigorous mixing does the trick. And it is a trick.

    On the other hand, I won't claim that I know the essentially raw egg approach to be unacceptable to some Italians. Perhaps it's a new take on the old dish, but I feel pretty certain that the old timers did it as I describe above. On the other hand, you might still be right that from a legal standpoint: even cooked in the way I describe, the eggs might well be 'under the legal limit' as far as the lawyers are concerned.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #22 - September 13th, 2004, 11:12 am
    Post #22 - September 13th, 2004, 11:12 am Post #22 - September 13th, 2004, 11:12 am
    Gary,

    I also use Marcella's recipe, no cream.



    Ronnie,

    I forgot to mention, while it is not a textbook recipe since it uses bacon (instead of pancetta) and includes peas, Stefani's on Fullerton sure does take care of a carbonara craving. While at a previous job, a sales rep used to take us there regularly for lunch. After the ordering it there for the first time, I made it my usual order.

    Cheers,
    Al
  • Post #23 - September 13th, 2004, 1:08 pm
    Post #23 - September 13th, 2004, 1:08 pm Post #23 - September 13th, 2004, 1:08 pm
    Al Ehrhardt wrote:I forgot to mention, while it is not a textbook recipe since it uses bacon (instead of pancetta) and includes peas, Stefani's on Fullerton sure does take care of a carbonara craving.

    Peas! I knew somebody did it. In fact, I think the first recipe I saw for Carbonara had peas, came out of, get this, a comic book: American Flagg! by Howard Chaykin from First Comics (headquartered in Evanston, and Chaykin lived around the block from me at the time in the mid-80's). The comic actually had a couple recipes over the four or so years it was in print.
  • Post #24 - September 13th, 2004, 2:22 pm
    Post #24 - September 13th, 2004, 2:22 pm Post #24 - September 13th, 2004, 2:22 pm
    Laying down a 10 and running for the door seems kind of attitudinal in and of itself. If you were so hasty to do that, don't you think maybe you come off as demanding in your request? I mean you really couldn't find anything else on that menu that would have met your interest?
  • Post #25 - September 13th, 2004, 2:30 pm
    Post #25 - September 13th, 2004, 2:30 pm Post #25 - September 13th, 2004, 2:30 pm
    Al Ehrhardt wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:
    Getting back to the egg question. One could possibly (possibly) make the argument that the kitchen was not willing to make a dish that essentially involves raw eggs, as the warming up the eggs take in the classic preperation does not cook the eggs enough to kill various bacteria that could be present in raw eggs (leaving aside the question of how much risk per se are repersented in raw eggs). Perhaps, after calling their lawyers, La Scarola decided to decline Evil Ronnie's request.

    Rob


    Rob, if the raw eggs were the problem, wouldn't they have just explained they had concerns? I don't think that was the issue.

    Best,
    Al


    :twisted: 8)
  • Post #26 - September 13th, 2004, 2:58 pm
    Post #26 - September 13th, 2004, 2:58 pm Post #26 - September 13th, 2004, 2:58 pm
    MJN wrote:Laying down a 10 and running for the door seems kind of attitudinal in and of itself. If you were so hasty to do that, don't you think maybe you come off as demanding in your request? I mean you really couldn't find anything else on that menu that would have met your interest?

    If an Italian restaurant could not accomodate a request for Carbonara, I would also be suspect of other dishes that would come out of their kitchen. Maybe they don't make their own sauces. Maybe they don't use fresh ingredients. Maybe their cook does not know how to cook Italian food. Attitude? Maybe, but the alternative of suffering through bad food is worse.
    there's food, and then there's food
  • Post #27 - September 13th, 2004, 3:12 pm
    Post #27 - September 13th, 2004, 3:12 pm Post #27 - September 13th, 2004, 3:12 pm
    I really think the implication must be that they -- i.e. whoever was working at the moment -- didn't know how to execute the dish, which is indeed a bad sign. But I've kind of been waiting for some fan or fans of La Scarola to plead their case here. Do they execute traditional Italian dishes in a traditional and good way? Or is it more of 'alla fantasia del cuoco' sort of a place, but where the cook doesn't really have a broad background in Italian cuisine.

    A name of a restaurant can and should give some hint of what's to be expected... And 'La Scarola' doesn't say 'fusion' to me; it says simple, basic, real Italian food... not kiwi ravioli with a chipotle vinaigrette sauce squirted out of a bottle, or, for that matter, chicken scampi alfredo, but beans and greens and anchovies and artichokes and, if you want it, carbonara.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #28 - September 13th, 2004, 3:14 pm
    Post #28 - September 13th, 2004, 3:14 pm Post #28 - September 13th, 2004, 3:14 pm
    MJN,

    I didn't want chicken Vesuvio strips over linguini with peas :lol:

    I didn't want Pasta Ponzio (chicken strips with roasted peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and white wine sauce, over linguini...or any thing else). :cry:

    And I know myself well enough that when I don't satisfy a craving so strong, I'll be making my own carbonara at midnight! :oops:

    I'm sitting there, starting to fume, knowing I'll find a reason to hate my meal if I stay. So I decided to pay for the wine/ bread/ water, regroup, and get rid of my Jones. And I believe it was La Scarola management who showed attitude with that lame excuse of lack of ingredients. Tell me no, no way in hell, whatever, but please don't insult me with that ingredient stuff.

    Antonius and mrbarolo, you guys hit it right on the head :twisted:
    Last edited by Evil Ronnie on September 13th, 2004, 3:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.
  • Post #29 - September 13th, 2004, 4:13 pm
    Post #29 - September 13th, 2004, 4:13 pm Post #29 - September 13th, 2004, 4:13 pm
    Vital Information wrote:Getting back to the egg question. One could possibly (possibly) make the argument that the kitchen was not willing to make a dish that essentially involves raw eggs, as the warming up the eggs take in the classic preperation does not cook the eggs enough to kill various bacteria that could be present in raw eggs (leaving aside the question of how much risk per se are repersented in raw eggs). Perhaps, after calling their lawyers, La Scarola decided to decline Evil Ronnie's request.



    VI,
    As you and others are aware I used to be part of the management team at a well bashed chain seafood place. There, we made our own mayo for use on sandwiches, tartar and most of the dressings. This mayo was made with raw, unpastuerized eggs, and we made no comment of this on the menu. We did comment on the menu about the dangers of eating raw oysters though. Thus, I don't think that the raw eggs really would be an issue because the lawers for the above mentioned restaurant were a pain in the ass.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #30 - September 13th, 2004, 4:25 pm
    Post #30 - September 13th, 2004, 4:25 pm Post #30 - September 13th, 2004, 4:25 pm
    Antonius: So, when you use the pasta water - do you beat some water into the raw egg, and add that mixture to the noodles in the pan, or do you put raw egg and noodles in the pan, and add a bit of water to them then?

    I always thought that the heat of the noodles just out of the pot was sufficient to cook the egg a bit and avoid a "raw" egg sauce, but if you get a creamier effect this way, I'd like to try it.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."

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