Pasta Carbonara Is Still Tearing Us Apart

A London restaurant stopped serving the popular Italian dish due to constant modification requests.

The argument over what pasta dishes should and should not be is one that rages endlessly. People fight over which recipes are most "authentic," which types of pasta to use for specific dishes, and so on. The resulting squabbles can get pretty heated, but for some reason, pasta carbonara seems to whip up the biggest frenzy. Business Insider reports that London restaurant Bottega Prelibato has stopped serving carbonara altogether, frustrated by customers' constant requests to modify the dish.

What is pasta carbonara?

At the center of this fuss is a dish you often see at Italian restaurants, pasta carbonara. The typical recipe includes egg yolks, black pepper, Pecorino cheese, and guanciale, or cured pork cheek. Slight variations on the dish aren't uncommon; you'll occasionally see bacon subbed in for the guanciale, which can be hard to find in some places. Cooking techniques can vary, too, but otherwise, most versions of the recipe don't deviate too much from the traditional one.

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Why a London restaurant stopped serving carbonara

Getting into minor squabbles over what belongs in certain dishes is one thing, but London restaurant Bottega Prelibato recently took to Instagram to explain that customers not only complained about aspects of the restaurant's carbonara (too salty, not creamy enough), but they also requested some major and non-traditional changes to the dish.

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"[We] understand that not everyone shares our taste for this classic dish," the restaurant wrote on Instagram. "Some of you have asked us to add cream, mushrooms, chicken, or other ingredients to our carbonara... [W]e respect your preferences, but we are not willing to compromise on our quality and authenticity." Because of the constant issues surrounding the requests, along with people's complaints that the result wasn't to their liking, the restaurant simply nixed it from the menu altogether.

Making minor tweaks to a dish is one thing, but restaurant patrons are usually expected only to make modifications in specific scenarios. Allergies, dietary restrictions, swapping in a side dish for an upcharge—these are all things that the restaurant can typically handle, unless the menu specifies otherwise. Adding atypical ingredients to a dish just for the sake of it, meanwhile, turns it into something else completely, and your assessment of the dish becomes affected by the modifications you made, not just what the restaurant hoped to serve you in the first place.

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Cream, mushrooms, and chicken are simply not part of a standard carbonara. And you can feel free to add that kind of stuff at home, but if you're going to a restaurant that specializes in this pasta, then asking for fundamental changes to the dish sort of defeats the purpose of the restaurant producing what it believes is an authentic version.

"We still have many other delicious dishes on our menu, and we are always looking for new ways to surprise and delight you," wrote Bottega Prelibato on Instagram.

I generally think fighting about pasta is silly, but in this case, I understand why the restaurant is throwing in the (kitchen) towel on this one. Sure, tastes are subjective. But a restaurant has the right to produce a dish only as advertised, because that's the one they know they can stand behind. If you only want a version that you've doctored up, maybe your efforts are better spent elsewhere.

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