Sometimes consulting a restaurant menu is like zapping through a gigantic selection of TV programmes on several channels: one spends an awful long time deciding on where to click. I can take ages to come to a decision when selecting dishes, because I am not simply looking for something I especially like or fancy, but am searching for those dishes that will give me something interesting to write about.

What eventually appears on the review page is totally dependent on what ends up on the plate: the better the dishes that come to the table, the more satisfying and entertaining the review. When making final choices, I also have to take into consideration those dishes I have written about in the recent past and also those that are in the pipeline and will be appearing soon.

Although I prefer to keep the review dishes as different as possible (variety IS the spice of life) there are occasions when I deliberately write about the same dish two weeks running. This happens, for instance, when I come across two fine takes on the same dish and can compare how the cooks achieved their particular versions.

It’s amazing how simple changes here and there can convert a ubiquitous recipe into something we’ve never seen before. It sometimes happens, however, that choosing dishes that will produce a review with the right combination of gastronomic satisfaction plus anentertaining read, isn’t all that easy. If that little problem occurs in an Italian restaurant (which can happen) then I have an easy way of reaching a quick menu decision: I simply choose a pasta dish…or three.

Arte Pizza is principally a pizza place but they also put on some worthwhile pasta dishes and that policy of selecting three pasta dishes worked beautifully. My three choices were linguine al pesto, spaghetti a la carbonara and tagliatelle a la bolognese. The kitchen ended up serving three aces, which is as good as three aces drawn from a pack of cards. Selecting three potentially great pasta dishes, however, isn’t enough: in an Italian place, things can still go wrong unless we make sure the pasta is cooked to an al dente degree that is to our liking. I usually tell the waiter I prefer my pasta somewhat more done than the traditional Italian al dente way. And if it’s long pasta the result is more than acceptable.

Short pasta is another story: it is usually much too al dente and can be so underdone it is almost half raw. At that stage is ceases to be enjoyable. For some time now, I have stopped ordering short pasta in Italian restaurants. If there’s an Italian cook in the kitchen it’s also a good idea to find out where he’s from: it’s bad news if he's a Neapolitan. Italians from other parts of Italy cannot cope with the Neapolitan concept of al dente: even for them it is much too hard and inedible. So what chance is there for us?

In the recent past, when I had ravioli a couple of months ago, I told the Neapolitan cook I was writing about his restaurant and that I preferred my stuffed pasta to be somewhat softer than the usual Italian al dente. But he didn’t take my pleas into consideration: the ravioli were far too hard on the edges. There’s nothing malicious about Neapolitan cooks: they actually think they are doing us a favour by teaching us how to appreciate their idea of al dente pasta.

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In the end there were no al dente difficulties at Arte Pizza: all three pastas were nicely cooked and very much to my liking.

The verdict

There was no al dente problem at Arte Pizza because all three pastas were spot-on acceptable in every way. It really does make a difference to one’s enjoyment of pasta when the cooks achieve an al dente point that’s just right. The most successful of the three pastas was the linguine al pesto, partly because it was well lubricated with the sauce but also because the pesto had a rich taste of basil.

Pesto should always have an intense basil flavour, but it doesn’t always happen — and when it does I am forever grateful. When eating pasta I am like the Italians: I don’t want it inundated with the sauce. But there’s one exception to that rule: I prefer lots of pesto. This one had large amounts of basil and that was one of the reasons why I awarded it a 10 rating.

As spaghetti a la carbonara should be finished off with raw egg yolks, a culinary method the health authorities do not tolerate, some restaurants avoid putting it on the menu. Serious cooks who offer it, try to get the necessary silky finish without the addition of cream. That was the case at Arte Pizza and their version was most enjoyable, the little bits of bacon being nicely crisp and tasty.

Their tagliatelle bolognese was especially meaty and rich. The tiramisu wasn’t among the best I have had, but it was a good deal better than most — and the price was very right.

The place

Arte Pizza, Calle Ramón y Cajal 13, Palma. Tel:871-934450. Check for closing day.

The bill

Linguine con pesto, €12.50
Spaghetti carbonara, €10.50
Tagliatelle bolognese, €10.50
Tiramisu, €3.90
2 cañas, €4.60
Total cost with VAT: €42


It’s pizzas and pastas here, all of them cooked to a high standard and at reasonable prices.