Breakfast Spaghetti with Bacon, Egg and Cheese
In south Brooklyn, about 10 minutes from Coney Island, there’s a neighborhood called Marine Park (that you’ve never heard of). That’s where I grew up. Whenever somebody got married, didn’t OD and survived a birthday, or somehow managed to graduate, you’d gather your friends and family to celebrate at Gargiulo’s. The Italian restaurant and catering hall is a marble palace and one of New York’s oldest red-sauce joints. It hasn’t changed much since 1907, though the servers now take orders with iPads.
Brooklynites love to sugarcoat—or glamorize—any vague connection to the Mafia. (My grandmother was a neighbor of Vinny “The Chin” Gigante. Even she told me, “The family’s not bad. The brother’s a priest and his mother’s an angel.”) As a kid, I heard whispers about an off-menu breakfast plate at Gargiulo’s called the “Wiseguy Breakfast” or “Spaghetti with Bacon and Eggs”. This is not to be confused with Spaghetti Carbonara, which is clearly a dinner food. See, gangsters don’t keep banker’s hours. They wake up whenever they want, so a made guy might be hungry for breakfast sometime after noon. And that guy might go to Gargiulo’s, give the waiter a wink, and enjoy the most Italian-American interpretation of a the classic bacon, egg, and cheese you can imagine.
Three of my friends claim to have ordered this dish, but they talk a lot of shit. Ricky Viola, who I have known since I was 13 years old, is legit, and he described it as “breakfast, but with spaghetti. And the spaghetti is coated in bacon grease.” I had to have it. (I eat mostly vegetarian but whaddaya gonna do? This is research.)
There’s just one problem—I’m no gangster. Worse, to the untrained eye, I look like an overgrown hipster. Tattoos, thick-framed glasses, a beard, the whole nine. So when I ordered the “the spaghetti with bacon and eggs”, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the waiter stared at me like I asked to sleep with his wife. He continued to rattle off specials. I asked again, and he said, “We no have that”. Like Jesus Christ, I was denied three times; like a real wiseguy, he refused to rat. Either that, or this dish is an urban legend.
The only thing to do was: go to my kitchen, and refuse to leave until I made the best breakfast spaghetti you’ll ever eat.
10 strips of bacon (I used vegetarian “bacon”; you can use whatever kind you want)
12 oz. spaghetti (about ¾ of a box)
1 Cup cheddar cheese (you want this to closely resemble a NYC bacon, egg, and cheese)
2 Tbsp butter
1 C pasta cooking water
Salt and pepper
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
Get a big pot of salty water boiling. Add your pasta and cook for one minute less than the box instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.
Line a cold nonstick pan with your bacon slices. Cook that over medium-low heat. When the bacon starts curling, give it a flip. Keep doing that until you’ve got your bacon the way you like it. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Keep the pan greasy.
Return the pasta to the pot, and heat over medium. Add the cheese, butter, water, and a punch (that’s like 3 pinches) of salt and pepper. Stir that up until it melts and becomes a sauce. Take it off the heat and stir in the egg yolks to make the sauce richer. Add the bacon to the pot and mix well.
Meanwhile, fry two eggs in a small pan.
Divide the pasta into two bowls. Top with an egg. Hit it with a little Tabasco sauce to get that authentic NYC deli bacon, egg, and cheese flavor. Mangia!