It’s 6:15 p.m. and I find myself in St. James. What to do?
Hightail it to Kitchen a Trattoria, the budget-friendly BYOB Italian restaurant whose no-reservation policy usually means a wait for a table. As it happens, I snagged the last table, sat down and then checked my wallet for cash: Kitchen A Trattoria doesn’t take credit cards.
First up, spaghetti carbonara. Now I am a hidebound traditionalist when it comes to this classic Roman dish. When I make it at home it contains nothing more than pancetta (or, when I can get it, guanciale, the cured pig jowl that they use in Rome) rendered in a little olive oil, eggs, pepper and grated cheese. The trick to carbonara is to use the heat of the pasta to cook the eggs. The finished dish has no sauce per se, just a veil of creamy eggs that helps the chunks of cured pork and cheese adhere to the pasta.
Kitchen A Trattoria takes a less orthodox approach, adding onions and parsley to a rich, eggy sauce (wine-based perhaps?). Well, reasonable people can disagree, and this was a very good bowl of pasta—although the pasta was a bit overdone.
The highlight of the meal was the string-bean side dish, perfectly cooked beans sauteed with thinly sliced garlic that had not been allowed to brown at all. An object lesson in vegetable cookery.
Kitchen A Trattoria is at 532 North Country Rd., Saint James, 631-862-0151.