Sorry, fried-chicken sandwich—only a few short months into the new year and you've already been dethroned as New York's trendiest dish. And by, surprisingly, one of the simplest, most ancient flavor combinations of all time: cacio e pepe. Literally translated as "cheese and pepper," the Roman pasta classic comprises literally that, and it's its inherent simplicity that has New York chefs gunning to adapt and expand on the recipe.
The most ballyhooed update, and rightfully so, has been the ceci e pepe at Momofuku Nishi (I personally dubbed it "New York's best new pasta" in my review of the place), which swaps out the traditional pecorino romano for a proprietary fermented chickpea hozon. But that Changian change-up is but one of many new-school, spaghetti-free riffs that have been popping up around NYC.
Cacio e pepe orzo at Quality Eats
Chef Ryan Bartlow folds the classic cheese-and-pepper pairing with rice-like orzo for a creamy crock at this Greenwich Village steakhouse.
Cacio e pepe fritelle at Lilia
There are pastas aplenty at Missy Robbins's Williamsburg newcomer, but the Michelin-starred chef bucks tradition by turning the dish into a fritter starter sporting a melty core of parmesan and pepper.
Shiitake cacio e pepi at Nix
John Fraser is making sure vegans aren't left out of the cacio e pepe trend, offering this dairy-free version built with shiitake mushrooms and salsify in heirloom polenta.
Sweet potato cavatelli cacio e pepi at 00+Co
Matthew Kenney's plant-based pizza operation also offers up a vegetarian variety, folding yam-imbued cavatelli in a cacio e pepe sauce with wild arugula and dehydrated olives.