If La Tagliatella at the EpiCentre offers 14 pastas, 15 sauces and the option of four additional toppings, how many possible combinations is that?
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D) 1,037 too many, because mix-and-match with pasta is Just. So. Wrong.
Answer: Is it too obvious?
And that’s not the only way in which this place – the uptown outpost of a chain of more than 150 sites in Spain, France, Andorra, China, Germany, India and the United States, according to its website – is a weird sort of SAT-prep exercise.
Here’s the math portion of the test:
• What fraction of the pizzas with Italian names include Swiss cheese, chorizo or ham? Answer: 10/15. That of course can be reduced, and should be.
• Identify the percentage of “salads” that prominently feature shrimp, scallops or crab. Answer: 60 percent.
• How many kinds of wrong are the fried gnocchi? Answer: n24.
Let’s take a break between sections to note how warm and down-to-earth the staff is. Amiable, personable and personal, these are folks working hard to be welcoming and accommodating. How I wish they had more to work with, and/or an appropriate venue for their style, which would be something less Speed Street and something more, say, warm.
Decor is what the website describes as “heavily wooded to look like a Northern Italian home”: That, here, means massively detailed woodwork with lots and lots and lots of lighting (multi-shaded chandeliers, sconces, pendants, lamps, recessed); photos in massive and massively gilded frames to look, presumably, like a Northern Italian family; at least one relief map of Italy; big tufted booths and faux wine barrels and the names of pasta shapes written on walls in curling script.
Which brings us to the verbal portion:
• When fresh pasta arrives clammy – but not with clams – is that a metaphor or a simile? Answer: Neither. Just an accurate adjective.
• How do you pronounce “tagliatella”? Answer: Not the way anyone who answered the phone did, several times. (Which is puzzling. Choosing a reasonably challenging Italian word as the name of the place would seem to indicate an interest in the language. It’s not Luce, which has stumped many a fine Charlotte diner, but it’s kind of hard for anyone to get their tongue around tal-lee-yah-tay-lah. But shouldn’t at least the staff be taught to do it?)
• Can it be grammatically correct for a place serving pastas and pizzas, etc., to say it has “a concept like no other”? Answer: Yes.
But La Tagliatella doesn’t follow through with that. It’s a Poland-based international chain’s version of “Italian” cuisine, in which ingredients and/or techniques are substituted with abandon (and are the worse for it, in my experience), the dining room is dressed in glitz and servers are nice but not equipped with any niceties.