There’s always a discussion in chez Westgarth about pasta and how to serve it. I love a bit of pasta with lashings of bolognese sauce. Likewise with lasagne – for me, it has to be loaded with sauce. Dripping. Floating in pools of passata. Laura, being half Sicilian, despises this approach. She’s taken to speaking like Don Corleone, only in a far less threatening way, to intimidate me about my pasta preference. The traditional Sicilian way is by cooking the pasta in salted water, draining it dry, adding a ladle-full to the pan to coat the pasta then serving up. Plenty of pasta, just a bit of sauce – enough to keep you interested.
It’s fair to say this argument is never settled in-house, so when La Tagliata – our favourite Italian restaurant in London – invited us down to a private dining evening to try out and shape their new menu, it was an opportunity for Laura to convince me the Italian way was best. No more sloppy, pub-style lasagna.
To be fair to the Italians, they sure know how to cook. La Tagliata is our favourite Italian restaurant not least because it reminds Laura of her mum’s fine cooking. And it’s round the corner from Liverpool Street, which is perfect for our busy schedules, being a decent jaunt from Chelmsford. Oh, and it has some awesome wine. And a because the decor is like eating at Nonna’s house. Basically, it’s London’s own little Italy.
Arriving at the event, we met with the owners and the lovely Katy, of Little Miss Katy fame before taking our seats at our favourite table. Sipping on some much-needed wine, we munched our way through some of La Tagliata’s finest starters, including many meats, many bruschetti, and many olives (yuk) before settling down to help decide the new menu.
And here’s where fine Italian cooking meets favourite restaurant. There was a choice of light and fluffy Gnocchi con Asparagi, Gorgonzola e Pistacchi (gnocchi with asparagus, roasted pistachio with gorgonzola and fresh cream) or Tagliatelle al Pesto Siciliano (homemade egg pasta with fresh tomatoes, pine nuts, almonds, fresh ricotta and fresh basil).
We delved in, lapping up our plates and enjoying the range of summery, earthy flavours. Then, the question. Which one was best. Basically, I knew how my parents felt when I’d always ask them which child they prefer (me, ahem). Both dishes were tasty. Both dishes were well presented. Both dishes I finished, and Laura’s for good measure. But deciding was tough. HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY MAKE ME CHOOSE?
The promise of La Tagliata’s famous Tiramisu and salted caramel pannacotta helped. It really did. Italian desserts are always worth the wait, always sweet and delicious. Laura sneakily swiped the last few spoonfuls of pannacotta from the other table, saying it was all she’d been thinking of for weeks on end. That’s no exaggeration, many a time we’ve popped in for a sweet treat and coffee before heading home.
With a glassful of grappa and an espresso to go, we said goodbye to the team and other diners and made our merry way home. And so, to the winner. Head to the restaurant and order the Gnocchi. Not because I helped to choose it. Alright, maybe a bit because of that. But because it’s about as close to real, hearty, home-cooked Italian food as you’re going to get. And not at all because Laura was right – the Italian way is the best.
La Tagliata // 11 Sandy’s Row, London E1 7HW // book