There was a time when Pino Luongo was at the top of the food chain in New York’s restaurant world. He arrived here from his native Italy in 1981. And after a brief stint working for other people, he opened Il Cantinori (Tel: 212 673 6044) 32 East 10th St, New York NY 10003) in Greenwich Village. He was basically responsible for introducing New Yorkers to Northern Italian cooking, specifically that of his native Tuscany. And it took hold to such an extent, it looked for a time as if Red Sauce Italian cooking, the staple of Italian American Restaurants, was done for.
I remember his Le Madre, long gone from 7th Avenue in Chelsea. It was staffed entirely by Italian women. Le Madre means The Mothers in Italian. Whether they all were Mothers is questionable but the women brought homespun Italian home cooking to the table. And it was wildly popular. In working on this post, I read that over the years Pino has opened 16 restaurants. But now, he is down to running one: Centolire (TEL: 212-734-7711) at 1167 Madison Avenue between 85th & 86th Streets. (I have a sneaking suspicion I know why: Years ago, I had a truly wretched experience at his Hamptons outpost for which we received neither an apology nor any acknowledgment.
Nevertheless, when I saw a recipe that Florence Fabricant had adapted from a meal she’d had at Centolire, it looked intriguing enough to try. It combines the classic Carbonara replacing pancetta with enough sausage to make the dish hearty, and cheese and eggs to make it satisfyingly rich. True to Mr. Luogo’s long-standing affinity for an Italian Grandmother’s unwritten recipes, Ms. Fabricant said she felt ‘at ease adjusting…to my taste.” I, however, left her recipe intact.
Recipe for Spaghetti with Sausage alla Carbonara, courtesy of Florence Fabricant.
Time: 45 minutes
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 1/2teaspoons pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt 1 pound spaghetti
3 large eggs
1/4 cup pecorino Romano.
1. Remove casings from sausage. Using a knife, a fork or your hands on a cutting board, break meat into small pieces. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook on medium-low just until translucent.
2. Add sausage, mashing and breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it is uniformly crumbly and has lost its pinkness. Stir in the pepper and bay leaves. Add wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and discard bay leaves. Season meat to taste with salt.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente, 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large serving bowl with hot water or warm it in a low oven. Lightly beat the eggs in a small dish. Just before pasta is done, return pan with sausage to low heat. When pasta is done, slowly beat about a tablespoon of pasta water into eggs. Then drain the pasta.
4. Transfer sausage to warm serving bowl. Pour spaghetti on top and toss it with the sausage, slowly adding the beaten eggs. Add salt to taste and fold in the pecorino.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.