There was a time when I thought bacon was the perfect pork product. Then I moved to Rome and discovered guanciale. While bacon comes from the sides or belly of the pig, guanciale is the cured pork jowl. It is used in lots of dishes in Lazio, the most famous being carbonara and amatriciana, where it lends its delicate flavor and plenty of fat. I like carbonara well enough but if I had to choose one guanciale laden dish, it would be bucatini all’amatriciana, thick spaghetti with a guanciale, tomato, and pecorino sauce. There is just something about the way that the pork fat mingles with the tomato sauce and coats the pasta that I find irresistible.

Yesterday, I took some friends to Roscioli on Via dei Giubbinari in Rome for dinner and they ordered mezze maniche all’amatriciana that came with big crispy jowl cubes mixed into the slightly sweet tomato sauce. While I personally prefer thinner slivers of guanciale in my pasta, Roscioli’s rendition of this typical laziale dish isn’t half bad. In fact, it inspired us to buy a slab of quality guanciale, fine pecorino, and some nice durum wheat pasta trafilata al bronzo from Roscioli’s deli to take home. With ingredients this good, it is hard to go wrong.

2016-01-08T12:26:11+00:00 April 17th, 2009|Categories: Food & Wine, Gastronomic Traditions, Pork, Rome & Lazio|22 Comments


  1. Michael Housewright April 17, 2009 at 1:43 am - Reply

    Will be in Rome May 10-14 and want to eat authentic and within reason on price. I am food geek to the max and all of my travels revolve around food. I am the wine and travel director for a new wine retail shop and enoteca in Houston TX. http://www.blockwineco.com

  2. Miss Expatria April 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    Just had carbonara with some great chunks of guanciale at Taverna Romana in Monti, always a delight. Breakfast of champions!

  3. Tom April 17, 2009 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Michael–if you are looking for authentic cuccina romana, then you must try Checchino dal 1887. Buon appetito!


  4. Angela K. Nickerson April 17, 2009 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    Oh, I had fabulous buccatini with guanciale at a great place in Trastevere… what was it called? Argh! At any rate, now I am really hungry! 🙂

  5. Michael Housewright April 18, 2009 at 6:07 am - Reply

    Hi Tom,
    I have read about Checcino for years and although it looks fabulous the wine prices alone send me back pedaling. When I am in Rome I want to eat well for a good price and I expect wine to be on par with what I would pay retail. While I realize times have changed in Italy I am still confident that no gastro driven Roman is going to plop down a 3 times markup on vino even if the place is silly good. Where is the good food being prepared outside the kitchen of some Nonna who is challenging the laws of nature? Thanks for your suggestion Tom and I will keep it in mind when someone on an expense account wants to treat.

  6. Katie April 18, 2009 at 10:03 am - Reply

    @Angela I like the amatriciana at Il Comparone in Trastevere. Da Augusto does a really stripped down version but that place is a destination more for nostalgia of old school osterie than for the quality of its food.

    @Tom Checchino is THE best and my favorite restaurant in Rome. But plan on dropping 60 euros pp for a full meal. Where do you go for home cooking in a less formal setting?

  7. Katie April 18, 2009 at 10:18 am - Reply

    @Michael, Checchino is certainly more expensive but it sources its materials in a way that few places in Testaccio bother to do anymore. And it is one of a handful of places in the entire city that has a somm (the owner). For an amazing meal Checchino is where its at, but if you are looking for something that feels more like someones kitchen, you should try Settimio on Via del Pellegrino or Augustarello in Testaccio.

    Settimio is run by a couple (husband at the front of the house, wife in the kitchen). You have to ring to get in. They have a few first courses and 5-6 second courses daily and once they run out, thats it. The kitchen looks like someone’s house for sure. You will pay around e35 (beverages excluded) for a full meal. Dont count on a stellar wine selection.

    Augustarello is even better and a full meal will cost around e30-35. It has quite a good selection of wine though you wont find any bargains. They do not have a house wine. Their basic cesanese-merlot blend is not great and costs 12 euros for a .75L bottle. The food here is fantastic though and there is a homey ambience.

    In Rome, the local wines are mediocre at best, with a few exceptions, but that is what Romans expect at osterie and trattorie. If they want to drink great wine, they will go to an enoteca. I have posted on my favorites here. Now if you really want something rustic and inexpensive, head out to a fraschetta in the Castelli Romani. I love going to Ariccia for porchetta, pecorino, mozzarella, salumi, prosciutto and coppiette, all served with lazio’s answer to lambrusco, Romanella.

  8. Michael Housewright April 18, 2009 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Thanks for setting me straight on Checcino and I will have to try it. (kudo to Tom as well) Believe me we are not afraid to spend money for excellence as we eat out 25+ times a month at home and it is our great passion.
    I went to college at The University of Dallas and spent time on their campus in Marino and I love the wines of the Castelli Romani. I also think Cesanese is THE up and coming grape variety from Italy and so I will be very happy to resume my search for one or two excellent producers to export to my new shop in the US. I am hoping to taste through quite a few of the local wines and also get a bit of background on the local wine geography.
    Wine with character at a good price is my search in Europe on this 1 month stint coming up as we are adopting a bit of the Garagiste retail model to bring undiscovered gems to our clients in the US. However, there is always a time for a bottle of Giacosa, Soldera, or Gravner and having access to that as well is fabulous. Thanks for taking the time to respond and I will certainly be building our dining itinerary.

  9. Marion April 19, 2009 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    This was the most delicious pasta dish that has ever passed my lips. The cubed chunks of bacon were so crunchy and flavorful and the sauce was just thick enough that the bacon stuck to it. The half-sized rigatoni was a perfect match for the sauce and bacon, not to mention the dousing of cheese on top. I have dreamt about this L’Amatriciana every night since.

    Can’t wait to TRY to make this in the US, thanks to the ingredients given to me by Katie! (no, I did not smuggle a chunk of bacon home in my boots)

  10. Katie April 20, 2009 at 12:00 am - Reply

    @Marion ha! i could you imagine getting stopped by customs officials and trying to explain why you have a lb of smoked pork jowl in your shoe? I cant wait to hear how the amatriciana experiment goes. let me know if you need any pointers but i doubt you will. Maureen Fant’s cookbook i sent you is the best. Come back soon!

  11. gillian April 20, 2009 at 9:45 am - Reply

    2 places that are high on the slick & chic factor…but…i have had consistently good amatriciana

    gusto -of the many choices here, i prefer the casual osteria side
    Piazza Augusto Imperatore 9 06 3226273
    Palatium – I have also had a delicious meal-sized puntarelle here with whole,fresh, fried anchovies
    via frattina 94 06-692-02-132

  12. Katie April 20, 2009 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    @gillian you are right! osteria della frezza at gusto is the ONLY place in that godforsaken compound to eat. The rest of it is AWFUL. I dont know how they get away with it, and dont even get me started on those bastards at ReCafe across the piazza. just because they are Neapolitan doesnt mean the pizza they make can be called la vera pizza napoletana. Its sacrilege! I guess what I am saying is that Rome’s “see and be seen places” suck and no one who likes good food should go to them. Palatium is fabulous. Ive never had any hot meals there, just salumi e formaggi. ill have to check it out. Thanks!

  13. Tom April 27, 2009 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    Katie–the three times I’ve been to Rome, I’ve not had the nerve (my Italian is not very good) to try the the very informal home-cooking style of places you mentioned a few posts back. I’m hoping that by my trip in December I will have a better command of the language and try a couple of these places. Perhaps if you are in Rome around Christmas-time we can meet up. I believe my partner and I are going to try to connect with Petulia when we are there.

  14. Katie April 27, 2009 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    @Tom I know what you mean. I used to be intimidated when I first started coming to Italy. Then i realized you dont have to speak Italian to get by in these places. Yes, it helps, but food is an international language and if you know the key words for what you really like or what you dont like, you should be good to go. Don’t know if I will be in Rome in December but ill keep ya posted. Ciao!

  15. Gastro1 July 2, 2009 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Katie totally agree about Checchino dal 1887 it’s one of my must go to tables in Rome along with Piperno.

    BTW love your blog !

  16. Daily Food Photo: Guanciale February 23, 2010 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    […] Whenever I see a huge slab of guanciale, the cured jowl of a pig used in classic Roman pasta dishes, I always wonder to myself, “How could something that size come from a pig’s face?” I guess I don’t see pigs half as often as I think about eating them and I must forget what beasts they are. When they are full grown, most breeds are just absolutely huge. This weekend I happened upon some pigs in Mudchute Farm, a 32-acre park near Canary Wharf in London. One had particularly developed mandibles and I couldn’t help asking myself another question, “Does this pig know how sad it is that he will never become part of a plate of amatriciana?” […]

  17. pat womack April 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    i know guanciale is in italy. i want to find it in houston, texas. does anyone know where? some dumb recipe maker at the houston chronicle included this ingredient which i can’t find a single person who knows anything about. what is a substitute?
    pat womack

    • Katie April 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      you can use pancetta (unsmoked bacon)

  18. […] things. If you get the suppli’, cacio e unto (essentially la gricia, pictured above), and l’amatricana you won’t want to eat them anywhere else. I would encourage any visitor to Rome to order […]

  19. […] near pure guanciale diet one week in November, and a general, unrelenting obsession with carbonara, amatriciana and gricia. I thought reflecting on some of the best pork moments of this year might help me cope […]

  20. L’Asino d’Oro Reopens in Monti February 16, 2011 at 4:41 am - Reply

    […] lombrichelli, hand rolled noodles, with guanciale, tomato and ricotta (€9). This creamy twist on amatriciana tasted lighter than it looked and didn’t have that oppressive oiliness that so many […]

  21. […] Parla (2010) says that “if you get the suppli’, cacio e unto and l’amatricana you won’t want to eat them anywhere else. I would encourage any visitor to Rome to order those […]

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