The carbonara conundrum  – Dirty Gnocchi, Cardiff indoor market

I am a self righteous prig when it come to one of Italy’s most well known dishes, the (spaghetti) carbonara. Whilst I have not a jot of Italian blood in me, I feel the Italians pain at the bastardisation of their beloved food (don’t get me started on bloody pineapple on a pizza) around the world.

To me a carbonara should have a mere 5 ingredients being:

  • Spaghetti (can live with tagliatelle at a push)
  • Guinciale (pancetta if needs must, as guinciale can be tricky to get hold of – actually it is surprisingly easy to make at home)
  • Pecorino Romano (parmesan, if you must – in both cases non – veggie due to the animal rennet requirement);
  • Black pepper; and
  • Egg yolks.

That is it and nothing more should be added (bar from perhaps a smidgen of the pasta water to loosen it all up if needed) and if you put cream in it then that is just dandy, but don’t call it a carbonara because it ain’t one.

I love the simplicity of a carbonara and it is a stable in the SF household, for when we need something quick and easy for dinner (i.e. when it is my turn to cook). It is perhaps a microcosm of Italian cuisine, which has at it heart simplicity through the use of just a few top notch ingredients. A carbonara is definitely not something to be mucked about with by adding more (unnecessary) stuff (which, in any event, disqualify it from being one).

This brings me to Dirty Gnocchi, the newest addition to the burgeoning food offering at Cardiff’s indoor market.

Having already established themselves in the rather impressive Newport Market (puts Cardiff to shame),

this seems a natural move.

The menu

gives equal billing to both their signature dirty gnocchi and to cheese wheel pasta (the latter certainly catches the eye). 

I am mildly surprise that Environmental Health Stormtroopers (“Has that been cooked on the Aldaraan setting of the Death Star?”) haven’t Order 66’d the place on the basis of the wheel, but understand they have been in and given it a “may the four be with you” rating.

The menu all sounded quite promising, bar from the nutella gnocchi which is clearly the work of the devil. Why Italians, who seem to generally have such impeccable taste, love the filthy stuff (nutella not gnocchi) is quite beyond me (perhaps it is better in Italy – certainly not taking the risk of finding out).

Pedant mode was fully engaged by the reference to “choice of toppings” – I mean a carbonara is not a topping is it. Also why the reference to smoked bacon carbonara  rather than just carbonara, as it either is one or it isn’t.

Notwithstanding this I thought I would give it a go, even though I doubted it would be (to my purist/pedant heart) a carbonara. My rationale was “Well if it is nice then that’s fine and dandy (and I can call it a carnonara in any event)”.

What arrived was a decent sized portion (for the £7.50 price tag) and actually very filling.

Nicely cooked pasta, which had a good cheesy hit to it from it’s merry-go-round on the cheese wheel.

The bacon also had a good flavour to it and was nice and tender, but was cut a bit too chunky and looked a bit anemic.

Despite its rather unappetizing look the bacon actually tasted very nice, but the fat could and should have been crisper.

No idea what purpose the whispy bits of greenery garnish served, but I rarely do understand the ongoing garnish fetish in cartering!

Would have been better with the bacon crisped up and the garnish consigned to the bin, but I still enjoyed it.

Ex work wife (Rachel – we had to divorce, due to me leaving the work in question, but have remain good friends despite me getting no alimony payments from her 🤷) had the OG dirty gnocchi.

This was advertised as having chilli and paprika in it. Rachel is even more of a chilli wuss than me and even she didn’t detect any of either said chilli or paprika. The gnocchi was good as was the cheese sauce and it came with a punchy aioli, but she said she marked it down as the bacon was overly flabby and it was all lacking in the spicing referred to on the menu. It was good, but could have been great was her verdict.

The last of our party, a fellow escapee from where Rachel alone (out of the three of us) now works (he seems to have morphed into Head of the Universe in his current role, but remains the same down to earth,  good egg he was when lower down the pecking order – aways nice when people progress to the upper echelons without disappearing up their posteriors) had the dirty bolognese,

which he seemed to enjoy and said as much (he was more interested in catching up on the goss. if truth be told).

The verdict

I enjoyed my meal at Dirty Gnocchi more here than my first try of their wares at Newport Market. The pasta dish I had was pretty tasty and fair value for the quantity. Few teething issue, with the bacon in two of the dishes a bit flabby and odd looking and a lack of advertised spicing in one, which is all forgivable as they are newly set up at this pitch and I am sure these small issues will be ironed out in due course.

Was what I had a carbonara? Personally I don’t think so, with just too many ticks in the carnonara boxes for that. It was perfectly nice though and made for a very pleasant mid week lunch.

Decent addition to Cardiff Market I would say (which is coming along nicely, but still a fair way behind Newport Market on the food to eat in/ take out front) and certainly somewhere to add to the places I will frequent again in my increasingly infrequent trips into the city centre.

One point to note is space is a bit tight as the Tea Pot Cafe doesn’t’ let Dirty Gnocchi denizens sit in their zealously guarded space opposite (signs are up threatening hellfire and damnation if you do). I wonder if they (Dirty Gnocchi that is) will expand into Tokyo Nights’ Space (whom I believe are moving at some point to a bigger pitch in the market). My advice is if it is rammed downstairs just take you very portable pasta upstairs, where there is plenty of sitting.


Address:  Ground Floor, Hayes entrance (just down from Tea Pop Cafe) Cardiff Market, CF10 1AU



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s