Favorite Dishes #67: Cacio e Pepe at Upland


Although Justin Smillie labels his creation a “grown-up mac ‘n’ cheese,” the head chef at Upland is merely being modest. The only similarity between his cacio e pepe and the classic cuisine of childhood is unmistakable comfort. A menu staple since the establishment opened in October, the $17 pasta dish incorporates bucatini — a thick, hollow spaghetti noodle — into a simple medley of black pepper, pecorino, and parmesan. Minimal ingredients, maximum flavor.

To give the starch its smooth, creamy coating, it’s whipped, to order, in a bath of butter, pasta water, and the two Italian cheeses. It hits the bowl immediately thereafter, doctored only by the addition of pecorino shavings and cracked peppercorns. On the tongue, it delivers a precious, understated tang and space. The true marvel of the dish, however, is the textural contrast of chewy, al dente pasta against the lush backdrop of its sauce.

Inspired by the fare of Rome, the uncomplicated yet elegant cacio e pepe at Upland echoes what Italian chefs have been demonstrating for generations: that less is more.

The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
#86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
#85: Shelsky’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich
#85: Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
#84: Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
#83: Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding With Candied Violets
#82: Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
#81: Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream
#80: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie
#79: Delmar Pizzeria’s Pizza
#78: Cafe Cluny’s Avocado Toast
#77: Brooklyn Star’s Cinnamon Bun
#76: Pork Belly Cotton Candy at Carnem
#75: Ippudo’s Pork Buns
#74: Mission Chinese Food’s Oil-Cured Anchovies
#73: Johnnycakes at LoLo’s Seafood Shack
#72: The Starving Artists Steak at Belle Reve
#71: The Spotted Pig’s Gnudi
#70: Xi’an Famous Foods’ Tiger Vegetable Salad
#69: Crème Brûlée Truffle at Kee’s Chocolates
#68: Pok Pok’s Muu Paa Kham Wong