David Downie: Guanciale: An Obituary and a Homage to Rome’s Jowl Bacon, Part 1

By Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Permalink

by David Downie

Click here to read part 2

The inimitable guanciale — Italian “jowl bacon” — made for over half a century by the Carilli brothers in Rome is dead. Long live Rome’s guanciale!

Purists insist that without guanciale it’s impossible to make the true versions of the pasta sauces carbonara (olive oil, butter or lard, eggs, black pepper, pork jowl, and pecorino romano), gricia (subtract the eggs and black pepper, add hot chili and wine), or Food Wine Rome (add tomatoes to gricia).

But guanciale also finds its way onto bruschetta and into soups as well as myriad other pasta sauces, vegetable medleys, frittatas, poultry, beef, and pork. To my knowledge, the only course of a Roman meal in which guanciale does not appear is dessert.

C’ho passione! C’ho passione!” — “I’m passionate, I’m passionate!” sang white-haired pork butcher Salvatore Carilli when I interviewed him a few years back.  When I asked him about the trade his  family has been in for more generations than he can tell me, with paternal pride, the wiry and excitable Carilli, the eldest at 72 of three butcher brothers, thrust a wizened, pepper-dusted, triangular two-kilo hog jowl into my hands. He had cured it in dry salt and air-dried it for months.

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