Posso avere italiane?
Now, I know I could be quite facetious to a fault, Indeed, in certain situations I am quite particular and unyielding, I expect and will not settle for anything less.
I was in Leeds for the night and I decided to go out for a meal, of all the possible cuisines I could choose from I suddenly had a craving palate for Italian fare and so I went on adventure seeking one such place.
The first restaurant I called at, the maitre d’ could not make up his mind about whether he had a table or not and I was not ready to stand there looking forlorn, so I made my excuses and left.
A long walk through the shopping precinct that was closing for the day, I came up to a major street known as the Headway, out of the corner of my eye I saw an Italian restaurant that had a sign that it was family-run, I should have followed my instinct then and crossed the road, but I thought I would explorer further.
Into a shopping mall I went and up the escalator to what I now know is a restaurant chain - Prezzo, I stepped in got a table for one, ordered drinks, an entree and the plat principal. The drinks and the king prawns in a spicy tomato sauce with a garnishing of rocket leaves went down well and then my spaghetti carbonara arrived.
This is not spaghetti
At first glimpse, it did not look right, the spaghetti looked bloated and swollen and as I stuck my fork in it, there was no telling that it had been overcooked. I always have my spaghetti al dente, this looked like it could be used to hang wallpaper, it was slightly more consistent than starch. I remembered that I did not allow such a culinary faux pas to go unchallenged in a South African hotel restaurant, I certainly was not going to let this pass for food in a restaurant with pretentions to Italian fare.
So I asked that they make amends and so the plate was taken away and some five minutes later a fresh plate of spaghetti carbonara arrived, but it was only marginally better, I was done with this nonsense.
A concerned waitress came by to ask if I will try something else, but I was of the opinion that if they could not cut the muster with the fundamentals of Italian cooking making allowances for more complex fare will just be more foolish of me.
I was done
I called for the bill and when the card machine suggested I offer a gratuity, I had to apologise to the waitress that whilst the service was good enough, my experience had been a complete let-down and it was that they failed woefully at the rudiments of pasta cooking.
She then suggested that the English do not like their pasta al dente, though earlier I was told that the pasta is first cooked in the morning and then recooked for meals, either which way the mass production ethos of delivering pasta before a demand is made for it and made a mockery of Prezzo's Italian cuisine credentials.
The challenge at Da Mario
I paid up for a rotten meal and walked up the road back to this family-run outfit called Da Mario where I told the maitre d’ that I had just come from an Italian restaurant that did not know how to make spaghetti. He took it as a dare and found me a table promising they will do a better job. I guess it was cheeky of me to ask if the restaurant was indeed a real Italian restaurant.
They found out they had run out of the pate I ordered for my starter and rather than opt for another choice, I asked that the main course be served. The maitre d’ then came to me and asked if they should start making my pasta and I gave the go-ahead.
When it arrived, it was al dente alright, probably almost too crunchy, but it was a lot better than that soaked pasty stuff I was offered at Prezzo. Served in a deep dish, I rolled the spaghetti along the side of the dish, because Italians never use a spoon to hold the pasta to the fork - sacrilege!
I savoured and finished my meal, happy that I had had something really nice, paid up and left. I am just not going to stand for soggy overcooked pasta and definitely not in a restaurant that suggests it knows something about Italian food. On this occasion, Prezzo failed to impress twice and it is unlikely my idle legs will beat a path to that establishment ever again.