La Perla is a typical Marchigiani restaurant. It’s not in a picturesque setting. The restaurant itself is not picturesque (high ceilings, unadorned white walls, cold floors, bare furnishings). The atmosphere is, well there almost isn’t one. But what they get up to in the kitchen can bring tears of joy.
It is the classic Italian cooking rule of simplicity. They have good ingredients that really taste. They prepare everything by hand, fresh, right here right now. They don’t spread themselves thin by offering a squillion choices – they have the confidence to say ‘Here is what is good today’ based on the fresh ingredients they have, and maybe who is in the kitchen and maybe what they feel like. The customer doesn’t always have to be right. Sometimes a bit of unapologetic, proud and informed leadership is so much better for everyone. And the La Perla tagliatelle could end wars.
It’s very thin, much thinner than what might be called tagliatelle in a British supermarket. I’d say the strands are roughly 2millimetres wide. It is delicate. It melts in your mouth. And it really tastes of something – subtly of course but the wheat, the egg, the fields – somehow it is all there. And here’s another amazing thing – the tagliatelle isn’t just a conduit, an excuse, a blank canvas for sauce in the way it so often is outside Italy. In London I have been given pasta dishes which are pretty much 50% pasta and 50% sauce. No no no no no. Here the dish is 90% pasta and 10% sauce, the sauce just nudging a mouthful of the pasta a bit more in one direction or another. And an almost sauceless mouthful bringing not a feeling of having been short-changed, but one of extreme pleasure. It is as different from foreign tagliatelle as instant coffee is from a freshly brewed Italian espresso.
And the real beauty is the bill. A total La Perla three course lunch with wine costs about what two humdrum starters would set you back in Blighty.
Note to self: must make more time to go out for lunch. If everyone else thinks we are ‘living the dream’ we might as well try and prove them right.