I’m trying to entice you to read this post by being up front with you–there’s a GIVEAWAY involved today! And everyone loves free things, so read on!
A few weeks ago, I was invited to La Tagliatella’s media night. La Taligatella, an international chain (boasting restaurants in Spain, France, Poland, India, China and the United States), recently opened in Charlotte in the ever changing, ever growing Epicentre (minor tangent–why does it cost $10 to park in the Epicenter?!? Get on the free valet bandwagon, Epicentre! Or validate parking! Related to this tangent, one of the first questions my date for the evening, Emily (a Charlotte native, and yes I am using parenthesis within parenthesis) ask our lovely hosts and bartender when we arrived was if La Tagliatella validates parking. Which they do not, but we encouraged them to look into it. End rant).
Back on track, I graciously accepted the invitation to check out La Tagliatella’s new space and taste some of their featured dishes. Emily and I hiked up Fourth Street after work the day of the event (hike is the correct term in this scenario when it’s hot and you have to walk uphill in a dress but need to avoid being sweaty and winded and just look naturally put together). We were prompt (we’re lawyers after all) and were greeted at the door by smiling, welcoming, friendly faces and were given name tags and media packets. The decor is rich–dark wood, deep reds, leather, gold accents and vintage chandeliers–and these grand qualities put La Tagliatella’s look on par with several other Epicentre establishments. Because we were the first to arrive, we beelined straight to the bar (had to rehydrate after our hike) and waited for a few other food bloggers to show up before being seated. Our bartender (now I am so mad at myself for forgetting her name) was absolutely fabulous; she was extremely knowledgeable about their cocktail list as well as beer and wine offerings, and was incredibly friendly and attentive. We both started with a signature cocktail, the Pastrocchio di Mora (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Tuaca, fresh lemon, blackberries, mint) for me and the Limoncello Collins ( gin, Limoncello di Capri, simple syrup, basil) for Emily.
Both were delicious and refreshing. We spoke with Stacey (the brand’s Global Director of Buzz–what a sweet job title) and Daniel (Charlotte’s General Manager). A few of my local bloggy friends trickled in, and we snagged a sangria were promptly seated. Our waiter delivered pane de La Tagliatella (bread with olives, onions and tomatoes baked in…the onion was the best!)
and some miniature, marinated green olives for us to snack on (which were amazing and I could not stop eating) informed us that instead of the small bites they had planned, they were going to treat us to full portions of selected dishes. This was great news to me, and I said a silent prayer thanking God I had worn a stretchy, shift dress (more room for belly expansion).
Our first course was a Caesar salad, which was a bed of mixed greens topped with sole di Puglia tomatoes (named after the Italian province devoted to agriculture, wine and olive growing), anchovies, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, croutons and a Caesar dressing. I am the first one to admit I am not the biggest anchovy fan, but thought I would suck it up and try the salad with all the fixings. It was actually quite good (though I’m still not sure if tomatoes belong in a Caesar salad). The anchovies also weren’t bad, but still not my taste (they were quite salty and visually unappealing, but once I cut them up and mixed them in, they provided a salty, sea-like flavor to compliment the sweet, ripe tomatoes and make the salad more three dimensional). I did eat the whole thing, so I’m guessing I enjoyed it.
Next up was the Focaccia Ligure appetizer–a duo of focaccia breads, one topped with goat cheese, honey, bresaola, red wine and onion reduction, and crushed pistachios, and the other topped with provoletta cheese, duck ham, arugula and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I thought both of these were delicious; I can’t say no to carbs, and then definitely cannot say no to carbs topped with with salty, creamy goat cheese, balanced by something sweet and topped with salt cured beef. Yum. On top of that, I can’t say no to arugula, cheese, more cheese, and though I’ve never had duck ham before, I can say it won’t be my last time (think proscuitto, but sliced from duck breast). This dish was one of my favorites, and was a great dish to share with our table of five (I was the beneficiary of Emily’s dislike of both bresaola and duck ham, and I wasn’t complaining).
After the olives, the salad, and the bread, I was starting to feel a bit full, but nothing was going to stop me. Next up was the Tagliatella Pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella, fried eggplant, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a drizzle of honey and aceto balsamico. I was a little hesitant about an eggplant topped pizza, but once I had a bite, I had to eat my words.
The pizza was fine; I would say the crust, sauce, cheese combination was average and nothing special. The standout of this pizza, which I feared would be the downfall, was definitely the eggplant. It was sliced thinly, was super crisp, did not get soggy at all from the sauce, cheese or drizzle, and was just innovative and great. I was apprehensive because of my experiences with eggplant soaking up all the moisture it can with anything it comes into contact with, but who would have thought eggplant on a pizza would be good? It was.
Now after having carbs, on carbs, on carbs (plus a salad), it was time for more carbs. Pasta was up next, and we got to try two. La Tagliatella has tons of pasta options; it’s a build your own concept where you choose the pasta, the sauce, and the proteins. You can choose from fresh pasta (which we were told by our waiter is not made in house because there is not enough room, but made from scratch and then shipped to La Tagliatella locations), stuffed pasta, dried pasta, and then choose from 15 different sauces and a variety of proteins. Our pastas were selected for us, thankfully, or I would have been there all evening trying to make a decision. First, we tried the Pappardelle with Parmigiano and Truffle–pasta with a light cream sauce with black truffle, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a fried egg.
This was delicious, but it was lacking in truffle flavor. Also, the sauce had some difficulty sticking to the pasta, so many of my first bites were plain, but as I got down to the bottom of the dish, I tried to scoop up extra sauce where I could. Plus, anything that involves exploding egg yolk has my vote, and I thought the egg was cooked well and provided an additional, exciting touch of color and flavor.
We also got to try a stuffed pasta, the Tortollone, filled with mozzarella, tomato and basil in a Calabrese sauce (sole di Puglia tomatoes, balsamic onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil and Grana Padano cheese). I preferred the papparadelle dish, however, the stuffed pasta was good and garlicky, but nothing to write home about.
At this point I felt like a balloon, or one of those cartoon characters had a bad run in with dynamite. But there’s always room for dessert! We got to taste the Bocconcino (cheesecake with caramel custard and Torta Rocher (chocolate and hazelnut cake). I loved the Bocconcino; it was a rich, creamy cheesecake, covered in a sweet caramel custard blanket. It was smooth and melted in my mouth and I would have eaten the whole thing (even considering how full I was) but had to share with my dining companions. The Torta Rocher was also good, chocolately with flecks of hazelnut, but I’m not my mother’s daughter and don’t really like chocolate. Chocolate lovers will delight in this dessert.
I had a delightful time with Emily, my bloggy friends, gorging myself and chatting with the staff and folks behind the scene at La Tagliatella (although my kickball team did not appreciate my sluggishness afterwards). While it does have some heavy Italian competition in the Charlotte dining scene (two of my favorites are Mama Ricotta’s and Portofino’s) I would recommend checking it out if you work in Uptown (it seems like a good lunch option), enjoy happy hour (appetizer and pizza deals at the bar) or if you like choices, carbohydrates, and specialty cocktails (even if you aren’t going to stay for dinner, it’s worth stopping in and grabbing a cocktail at the bar).
Okay, here’s what you’ve been waiting for. Lucky for you fair readers, I have a coupon for a free focaccia ligure with the purchase of two entrees to be used before October 31, 2013, and I’m giving it away to you!!! To enter, comment on this post and tell me what you would order to accompany your focaccia ligure. You can get additional entries by following me on Twitter and liking me on Facebook and then tweeting or commenting that you did!
(many thanks to Stacey and Daniel for the wonderful evening at Media Night!)
map & more
*The meal described in this review was complimentary