Wednesday, September 11, 2013

La Tagliatella - Uptown

This past Wednesday, I was invited to a media night dinner at the Epicentre's new Italian restaurant, La Tagliatella. Although there are over 135 La Tagliatella restaurants throughout the world (the majority of which are located in Spain), Charlotte's new site is only the third American location (the other two are in Atlanta and Arlington). I'd been planning to check out La Tagliatella for a while, so I grabbed my friend, Noora, and we skedaddled over to the Epicentre after work. 

Sangria!
The first thing we noticed was the restaurant's awesome patio. I'm pretty obsessed with porches and all things al fresco-related, so I got really excited when I noticed that La Tagliatella has a large, covered outdoor seating area that, through a set of really big windows, opens up to the back of the bar area. The interior of the restaurant seemed very fancy-Italian-castle rather than Italian-grandma's-kitchen and was decorated with lots of red, gold, dark wood, and ornate fixtures.

Our first move was to check out the bar. When we're together, Noora and I can definitely pound some grape, but the bar list proved itself too intriguing to pass up and we both decided to start with one of La Tagliatella's specialty cocktails. I ordered a glass of the Sangria Emilia and Noora opted to try the Pisa Pescha Bellini. The sangria, which can also be ordered by the pitcher, consisted of a blend of cabernet sauvignon, blood orange syrup, pineapple juice, brandy, and fresh blackberries. I don't think I've ever had pineapple juice in my sangria before, but it was really good and provided a bit of extra sweetness that counterbalanced the tartness of the berries. Noora's bellini played up the lemon more than the peach flavors, making it a refreshing, light way to prep our palates for some rich food. Both drinks will definitely be on my re-order list, especially if I return on a Saturday or Sunday, when they are on special for $3 a glass.

Dish of miniature olives (top) and
Caesar salad (bottom)

After sipping our cocktails for a bit, we were led to a table and told that the food would be brought out shortly. While we waited, Noora started to munch on a dish of miniature green olives and, despite my hatred of all things olive-y, I apprehensively joined suit. Much to my surprise, I didn't hate them -I guess their cute, tiny shape and very mild flavor won me over. Whether or not I've turned over a new olive-eating leaf or I was just feeling in-the-Italian-spirit, we polished off our dish just in time to get our first course.

The first thing we tried was La Tagliatella's version of a Caesar Salad, which consists of mixed greens topped with sole di Puglia tomatoes, anchovies, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, and croutons. While I feared that the combo of ingredients would be a little bizarre (I'm used to a standard romaine-cheese-dressing mix), the souped up Caesar salad was really good! I especially enjoyed the tomatoes, which were sweet and soft, but still had enough structure to keep from dripping apart on my fork. I cut each of my sardines into smaller pieces so that I wouldn't have any bites that were too fishy, but I enjoyed their presence in the salad (even though they look like hairy, brown flatworms).

The Focaccia Ligure included 2 varieties of
focaccia: goat cheese/bresaola(bottom)
& duck ham/provoletta (top)

The next thing we tried was the Focaccia Ligure appetizer, which consists of two focaccias; the first is topped with goat cheese, honey, bresaola, red wine and onion reduction, and crushed pistachios, and the second is topped with provoletta cheese, duck ham, arugula and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. In general, Noora's not a huge duck fan and I generally prefer my waterfowl when it's stuffed with some combination of bacon, cream cheese, and jalapeƱos, but we both really enjoyed the duck ham variety. The bread itself was salty and oily, but it wasn't overwhelming in combination with the rich ingredients. I really appreciated the arugula for the freshness it brought to the dish, which was otherwise very focused on the strong flavors of the dried meats. I'm not certain that I've ever tried bresaola before, but it's essentially a prosciutto-like meat that's made from beef. It was really good, especially in combination with the red wine and onion reduction. This appetizer is a good bet if you want to try a few different flavors, but there are a number of other tasty-sounding options, including three different types of carpaccios, Handcrafted Meatballs, and the Torre di Pisa, which consists of sauteed eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes layered with mozzarella and black olive pate (I'm counting on my newly-discovered tolerance of olives to pull through if I try that dish!).

Tortellone with Calabrese Sauce (top) &
Pappardelle with Parmigiano & Truffle
Light Cream Sauce (bottom)

When we are about halfway through with our focaccias, the pasta course arrived. By this point, our little table was packed with plates and we had to send our salads away in order to clear up some valuable real estate. La Tagliatella's menu is pretty interesting in that the pasta dishes are all presented in a build-your-own-dish format, where the pairings are priced based on your choice of sauce and additional protein items. There are five fresh pastas, six stuffed pastas (both of the aforementioned are handcrafted), and three dried pastas from which to choose a base. Then you have to pick from fifteen sauce choices, which are divided into tomato, olive oil, light cream, and cream categories. Finally, you can add meatballs, chicken, shrimp, or salmon to your dish for an additional cost. I'm no mathlete, but if I'm channeling seventh grade correctly, there are a total of 1,050 possible pasta/sauce/protein options. Holy carbohydrates! 

We were served the Tortellone stuffed pasta with the Calabrese olive oil sauce and the Pappardelle fresh pasta with the Parmigiano and Truffle light cream sauce. Noora and I were split, as I preferred the Tortellone while she favored the Pappardelle. I'll talk about my favorite first since I'm the blogger here! The Tortellones were filled with mozzarella, tomato, and basil and the Calabrese sauce consisted of Sole di Puglia tomatoes, balsamic onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, and Grana Padano cheese. Just as I loved them in the Caesar salad, the tomatoes were my favorite part in this pasta. They were soft, sweet and dripping with rich, garlicky flavor. The pine nuts were few and far between, but were a tasty little treasure when I could dig one up. Then there was more garlic -there had to be at least four whole cloves thinly sliced into the sauce. While my breath left something to be desired, the pasta did not. Noora's preferred pasta dish consisted of thick tagliatelle pasta (it was so fresh that we could see on the edges where it had been cut) topped with a cream sauce, black truffles, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, a soft-cooked fried egg, and a little scoop of black caviar. The yolk-covered bites were my favorite part and we both had a really hard time avoiding cleaning our plates.

Salume Pizza (top) & La Tagliatella Pizza (bottom)

Since I hadn't eaten enough yet (sarcasm), we were brought a Tagliatella Pizza to share. During dinner hours, the pizzas are full-sized but at lunch and happy hour, the pizzas are smaller (probably 10-ish inches). The pizzas are served uncut, so I hacked away at it (my carving skills aren't so fabulous) and wriggled off a piece to try. Our pizza was topped with tomato, mozzarella, fried eggplant, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a drizzle of honey and aceto balsamico. We both thought it was very tasty, but I was surprised by the sweetness of the tomato sauce (not to mention the balsamic-honey drizzle). My favorite part was the fried eggplant. I'm used to a thick, meaty cut of eggplant, but this was sliced so thinly, it was crispy and reminded me of a really big chip. Combined with the delicious, thin crust, the pizza had a great bite to it (I really hate mushy, limp pizza) and is a good veggie-based option. I ended up talking to the General Manager, Daniel, for a while about his favorite pizza, and I was lucky enough to be able to try that one too! The Salume pizza is topped with tomato, mozzarella, chorizo, a fresh cracked egg, and oregano. Just as Daniel had predicted, I liked the Salume even more than the Tagliatella. I'm a sucker for chorizo and runny egg yolks... I also learned that the restaurant has happy hour in the bar and patio areas from 4 PM to 7 PM on Monday through Friday and from 11:30 AM through 4:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday. During those times, there are appetizer specials and eight of La Tagliatella's most popular pizzas are sold for only $5.

Bocconcino (back) and Torta Rocher (front)
The night concluded when we were brought a plate of half-sized portions of two of La Tagliatella's most popular desserts, the Bocconcino and Torta Rocher. In general, I'm not a dessert girl, but I continued the binge fest and enthusiastically dug into both. The Torta Rocher reminded me of a cross between a chocolate mousse cheesecake and a Ferrero Rocher (go figure!). The milk chocolate was silky smooth and flecked with pieces of hazelnut. I really enjoyed it but both Noora and I preferred the Bocconcino, which consisted of a layer of rich, creamy cheesecake topped with a layer of super sweet caramel custard. Since I usually shy away from sweets, I wouldn't have assumed that a flan-like cheesecake would be my favorite dish. I guess this whole experience taught me that I should order outside my comfort zone a little more often. 

Overall, Noora and I were really impressed with the food, service, and overall experience. We both left La Tagliatella stuffed, but excited to return. 


La Tagliatella on Urbanspoon

NOTE: the meal described in this review was complimentary

2 comments:

  1. I have never heard of this place, but now I'll have to check it out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've passed by the one in ATL many times -- since it got your stamp of approval, I'll definitely check it out!

    ReplyDelete