We ate dinner in an Italian restaurant in the United States of America. I ordered a manicotti with meat sauce. What I got was a plate of efficiency and profit. And it tasted like crap.
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As we were ordering, I asked the server if the pasta was freshly made. He had a physical reaction to the question–incredulity? “No,” he said. “It’s delivered.” He named the supplier. None of the ingredients were made at the restaurant. The back kitchen was merely the cite of assembly and reheating. The essential stuff was made in some factory somewhere and delivered frozen or refrigerated through the back door. I can see the one-gallon plastic buckets filled with sauce, the frozen bags of manicotti and ravioli, the one-gallon bottles of salad dressing, and the machine-made frozen pizza crusts.
I ordered a baked manicotti and my wife the spaghetti.
Before I took a bite, I ladled a couple of tablespoons of red-amber grease off the top of the melted slab of rubbery mozzarella. Beneath it, I found two small manicotti. The pasta was limp and the ricotta cheese had that processed-frozen flavour. The sauce was plentiful but tasted like it came from a plastic bag. And, it was exactly the same sauce as that on my wife’s spaghetti.
By his grace, the Creator has given us the ingredients and the mandate and the will to innovate. The Italians have discovered all kinds of sauces for pasta. These include:
- Aglio e lio,
- Frutti di mare,
- Funghi e iselli,
With all these sauces, how can a restaurant use the same one on two different dishes? The whole point of different dishes in an Italian restaurant is the variation in the sauce; the pasta is a secondary consideration.
Variety is one thing, but using fresh quality ingredients improves the dining experience exponentially. In that Italian restaurant, there was no attempt to offer a quality product. The industrial kitchen that produced the sauce used the cheapest ingredients it could buy in bulk. The cheese, too, was produced from inferior products on an industrial scale. Efficiency and profit were the end goal; a good tasting meal wasn’t even a consideration. The United States has long valued efficiency and profit, and these are not evil in themselves, but they do not belong as the primary motivation in a restaurant, perhaps in a cafeteria. That’s it! This meal would have been barely adequate in a cafeteria.
The ingredients were cheap. There was no chef, only assemblers, and they come cheap. The meal was worth $7.99, but I paid over $20 CDN for my cafeteria manicotti.
Where I live in Canada, I can get freshly made pasta and quality sauces for just over $20.