Uptown Charlotte has some nice Italian places. But nothing, really, like La Tagliatella, open since early September on the first floor of the Epicentre.
As you enter for the first time, the interior makes an immediate impression. A baroque take on an old Northern Italian villa, the walls and coffered ceiling are lavishly decorated. Wood paneling creates a rich feel in several dining rooms, lit by ornate chandeliers. The welcome is equally warm. Staff is told to treat each guest as “family.”
It’s not a formal atmosphere however. A “pizzeria” as well as a “ristoranti,” La Tagliatella, named for a noodle, has a casual side, centered on an open kitchen with pizza oven and several gorgeous zinc bars. There’s intimate patio seating as well, if you want to keep an eye on the Epicentre scene.
The concept is well-honed. The La Tagliatella in Charlotte is the latest in a wildly successful family of restaurants that started back in 1991 in Spain. Today, it numbers some 150 locations around the world, including recently Bangalore, India, and Shanghai, China. Charlotte is only the fourth in the U.S. with sister stores in Atlanta and the D.C. area. The brand is popular in Europe with locations in France, Germany, and Andorra (!), and many in Spain. Some 6 million guests are welcomed yearly.
All this growth is based on the excellence and authenticity of the food served at La Tagliatella, and there the Charlotte location did not disappoint. At the restaurant’s Media Night, we had the opportunity to try several of the menu specialties and find out about the operation’s unique food sources.
The quality of the food is based directly on the principles of the owner of the original location who developed close relationships with small farmers and cheese makers in Northern Italy. Authentic recipes from the Piamonte, Liguria and Reggio Emilia regions are created using many ingredients imported from the same suppliers who stock local tables, from baby artichokes to buffalo mozzarella.
“We import something like 30 percent of our ingredients,” General Manager Daniel Gibson says. “Our tomatoes are grown in Puglia, and many of our cheeses come from Italy.” Other imports include mushrooms from Trentino, focaccia from Genoa, and variety of cured meats from around the boot.
Topping nearly every dish, huge shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano supply the perfect finishing touch. The famous parmesan ripens in caves in the Apennine Mountains for three years before earning its Denomination of Origin certificate. “The king of cheeses,” Gibson says, and the chefs don’t skimp.
No wonder the food tastes so good.
We sampled a variety of lunch-sized portions during the media preview, but none of the dinner entrees, which include pork, veal, beef, and salmon selections, moderately priced. See the list below for the dishes we did sample.
La Tagliatella North Carolina Epicentre, 210 East Trade Street Charlotte, NC 28202 (704) 900-5555 www.latagliatella.us
Click on the link below to see our list of menu items.
A chandelier at La Tagliatella
There's plenty to look at in La Tagliatella. This ornate chandelier is just one example of the lavishly decorated interior. Maps of Italy and a coat of arms decorate richly paneled walls.
Bowl of olives at La Tagliatella
Guests are greeted with bowls of olives, a nice, welcoming touch. The olives themselves are crisp and a little tart, a good stimulant for the appetite gearing up for the Italian feast to come.
Focacce Liguri at La Tagliatella
This flat bread appetizer featured a pair of preparations on slices of focaccia showcasing a variety of Italian cheeses and cured meat. Large twirls of bresaola, an air-dried beef, with goat cheese, honey, a balsamic reduction, and crushed pistachios topped one. The other, the popular favorite, featured provoletta cheese, arugula, and a slice of duck ham. Under it all, the Genoa-style focaccia slices made the perfect base - thick, tender, soft, and easily the best of its kind yet encountered.
Caesar salad at La Tagliatella
The crisp Caesar salad arrived with a generous bowl of dressing on the side, and topped with optional anchovies and huge flakes of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It was here we first encountered the Sole di Puglia tomatoes, soaked in olive oil and basil, making each bite a flavor experience to remember.
Specialty cocktail at La Tagliatella
The bartenders behind the lovely zinc bar offer a variety of specialty cocktails, including many made with imported Italian liquors. Favorites include the Bellini, made with Villa Sandi Prosecco and peach syrup, and the Sangria Emilia, laced with blood orange, pineapple, and brandy. Other drink options include Peroni beer on tap and a carefully selected - and very reasonably priced - list of wines by the glass.
The pizza at La Tagliatella surpassed expectations. Crisp without being brittle, the paper thin crust is created from a blend of grains, including high-protein 00 granito flour. We sampled the signature pie, a simple but delicious vegetarian preparation topped with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and thin slices of fried eggplant, drizzled with a honey and balsamico glaze and liberally sprinkled with slices of the King of Cheeses. Perfect with cocktails or a late night snack.
Pepperadelle at La Tagliatella
Bring on the fresh pasta! La Tagliatella serves five different varieties of handcrafted, never dried pasta, including the tagliatelle noodles that inspired its name. We tried the wide pepperdelle with the Parmigiano and black truffle preparation, which came with a fried egg and scoop of black caviar on top. Your choice of pasta is priced by the sauce you select from the 15 available; add chicken, shrimp, meatballs, or salmon for an additional fee.
Tortellone at La Tagliatella
One of the restaurant's half-dozen hand-crafted stuffed pasta, the colorful tortellone is filled with a mixture of mozzarella cheese, tomato, and basil. It was nicely set off by the Calabrese sauce, an olive-oil based preparation thick with Sole di Puglia tomatoes, balsamic onions, garlic, and pine nuts. Other pasta fillings include butternut squash, goat cheese/bacon, mushroom/truffle, and gorgonzola/pear, as well as a traditional pork and beef ravioli.
Dessert at La Tagliatella
For dessert, the kitchen treated the media to two of its desserts: a rich Torta Rocher, a cheesecake-like wedge flavored with chocolate and hazelnut, and Bocconcino, a melt in the mouth caramel custard. Both were beyond delicious, but the custard deserves a special return visit, just to savor another mouthful.