IT was Gordon Ramsay who kept reminding people, in Kitchen Nightmares, that most restaurants close within six months, a statistic that hasn’t seemed to apply to Wellingborough Road, now a hotbed of eateries, many of which have been there years.
The latest to enter the fray, three months ago now, is La Pazienza, a new Italian just a few doors up from another long-established one, whose name we’ll pass over now.
Much of what it’s trying to do is good, but there’s plenty that isn’t and it’s the latter that needs serious attention if it isn’t going to become another Gordon Ramsay statistic.
Four of us had booked on a Friday at 8.30pm – rush hour, in other words – and yet there were only three other tables occupied, seven covers in all.
Not to worry, at least we’d get our food in decent time. Or so we thought.
The menu, sensibly, follows the bomb-proof formula of six to eight starters, six pasta dishes and five other mains. For starters, after being told one dish wasn’t available, three of us ordered the octopus salad with sliced potatoes and olives, while Suz headed for fritatine a fafalla, a dish similar to quiche and served with a cheese and bechamel sauce. It didn’t look particularly exciting, but it was at least all eaten.
The octopus was less successful: there were only two portions left (had there been a Friday night run on cephalopods?) so I stepped aside for Kate and Rich. The dish was well stacked with potato slices and olives, but distinctly little octopus.
Octopus is delicious, so people will order it if it’s on the menu and it was probably the only place in Northampton that night that did, so make sure it’s in stock. I instead went for the 12-vegetable minestrone, an Italian staple, but in this case an inedible one. The veg looked like it had been stewed for a week while the familiar thick browny-red soup resembled, in this creation, boiled water with a few stock crumbs thrown in hopefully.
It was removed and I wasn’t charged (£4.95).
Suz and I had spaghetti carbonara, featuring smoked pork belly. It was very salty indeed, far too salty, while the sauce, rather than being creamy was a bit congealed (warmed up?). Kate had fusilli al ragu (mince, tomato sauce pasta), a simple Italian dish that you could knock up at home, so it needs to be very good to tempt customers. It was merely average. Rich, meanwhile, went for the seafood risotto – one of four risottos on offer – and he was at least reasonably pleased with his dish even if, again, it could have done with more seafood.
The garlic bread we’d ordered – with an extraordinary amount of garlic aboard – came as our main course neared its end. The girls shared a “delicious” Italian chocolate cake, while I had an espresso.
Plus points: Extremely clean, a reasonably-priced wine list, polite attentive service that included a post-meal chat with a chef/owner, who clearly cared about feedback. Downsides: Extremely slow service (our mains arrived gone 10pm, our starters at 9.20pm). Most of all, they’ve kept the food fairly simple, so it needs to be of a much better standard than it is. It’s still early days, but there’s work to be done. And quickly.
SERVICE: Needs to speed up
DISABLED ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: Nearby, on-street
COST OF OUR MEAL
FINAL TOTAL: £105, including two bottles of wine and coffee
Richard’s star rating: 5/10