There was a time when Italian chef Luciano Monosilio felt quite upset about being called the “King of Carbonara.” “I spend a great amount of time creating new recipes,” he tells ANCX at a recent luncheon held at a mano Italian restaurant in BGC, “but all the people were asking me about was my carbonara.”
The Michelin-starred chef later realized that the title brings with it a kind of power, a great opportunity to popularize one of Rome's most iconic dishes. Now, he is happy and proud that his restaurant, Luciano Cucina Italiana, is known in Rome as the “house of carbonara.” “People come to my restaurant for my carbonara,” he says without a trace of resentment.
a mano owner, Amado Fores, says he first met the Italian when he visited Rome in 2016, during the canonization of Mother Teresa. While there, the young future restaurateur took the time to do his own research, looking for the best carbonara. Luciano was still working for another restaurant but even then, says Amado, “I really loved his carbonara.” A couple of years later, the chef opened Luciano Cucina Italiana at the Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo.
Amado and Margarita eventually forged a friendship with Luciano, which led to his recent visit to the Philippines.
“Instead of wanting to relax, he preferred to work,” shares Amado of his friend. “We worked on improving all our pastas. He shared mostly tips and tricks to achieve consistency.” Luciano advised the restaurant a mano to use a different pasta. “It’s tweaking current menu items more than making new ones,” offers Amado.
At the a mano media luncheon, Luciano spoke about Italian cooking in general, not only about the pasta dish most associated with him. “Italian cuisine is not anymore about the recipe. In Italy we have different towns, and the same recipe is replicated using a different system, method. Everyone has their own system to make the same recipe.” What’s important, he says, are the Italian flavors, achieved with the use of quality Mediterranean ingredients.
In “My Italy with Margarita,” Luciano shares that his way of cooking carbonara is more contemporary, but he still uses traditional ingredients. It took him two years to perfect his recipe. He uses a guanciale cured for about four months. The egg yolks he uses have that golden orangey color, thanks to the chicken’s diet of corn and carrots.
Here’s how to cook carbonara, the Luciano way: Remove the thick skin and all the pepper coating the guanciale; then cut the meat into small cubes. Using an iron pan, fry the guanciale in its own fat until golden brown. Set aside and let it cool while you make the egg sauce.
For the egg sauce: Put the yolks in a bowl (1 yolk for every 19 grams of pasta), season with black pepper, and mix. Add 1 part of Grana Padano and 2 parts Pecorino Romano DOP and until well-blended.
Add in the pasta (which should have been pre-cooked, removed from heat just before it’s al dente), add some pasta water, and cook—not in direct heat but in a bain-marie or double boiler. Luciano says he prefers to do it this way so he can control the temperature. Add the guanciale to the egg sauce and mix. Serve in a plate, and top with cheese and a sprinkle of black pepper.
The secret to making the best carbonara, Luciano tells us, is practice. “You have to do it many times [to be able to perfect it]. You have to cook it slowly in a bain-marie,” he says.
At the luncheon, we were able to sample Luciano's creamy, decadent carbonara, made extra delightful by the crunchy guanciale. It’s really exceptional. The attendees raved about his Piedmontese Beef Tartare, too, another classic Italian dish. The chef introduced another way of enjoying pasta through his Pasta Lollipop (Truffle Pasta Croquette served with Truffle Bechamel). There’s also the Pici Cacio e Pepe, and the Tortelloni “Margarita,” which he named after his good friend Margarita who “loves Italy so much.”
Luciano also presented his grandmother's lamb and potatoes, and as finale, delighted us with two fantastic desserts: the classic Sicilian cannolo and his own version of tiramisu, with crunchy dark chocolate, coffee, and creamy mascarpone sauce.
If you’re looking for reasons to visit Rome, then Luciano Monosilio is one good reason to add to your list.