Spaghetti with speck, a ham of Austrian origin.

A university degree with top honours is called a cum laude so it was a suitable name for a cafeteria beside Palma’s Instituto. But when the moment came to give marks for the two dishes we had there, cum laude was a far from appropriate rating. I went because a friend, whose opinions on food are usually reliable, had recommended the pizzas and the pastas, but our two pastas sent the cook right to the bottom of the class.

Our first dish sounded like a Sicilian or Sardinian recipe: a sauce done with tomatoes, aubergines and speck, a kind of ham of Austrian origin from the fatty part of a pig’s leg.
What we got was the worst kind of restaurant cooking. A small amount of spaghetti (a most ungenerous portion) done in a plain tomato sauce was placed in the centre of a small plate.

On the sides were two thin slices of aubergine and two of tomato, done separately on a hot-plate. Covering the whole plate were these thin and very crisp slices of cured ham.
I suppose it was speck and I call it that because that is what the menu said. In shape and length it was unlike any speck I have ever seen.

There are recipes in which speck is cooked with aubergines and tomatoes and served with pasta, but all three ingredients are done together so they amalgamate and become a sauce. That didn’t even begin to happen in this case. It was sprinkled with some pecorino cheese, but that didn’t save it. No cum laude for this one, more like a dunce’s cap.
One of the five pasta dishes that day was a pappardelle and the owner was quick to point out that they make their own pappardelle pasta. By hand. They have a pasta-making machine, but he prefers to do pappardelle by rolling it out himself.

When I ordered the spaghetti with speck, the owner said we could have pappardelle with speck, if we wanted, but I told him we would probably (probably) have the pappardelle as on the menu with girgolas, criollo chorizo and goat’s cheese. Although I had used the word probably, he brought the pappardelle even before we had finished the spaghetti. I hadn’t even ordered it.

The pappardelle wasn’t near to getting a pass mark. The pasta was very good: extra long, cooked nicely (which means NOT Italian al dente) but from there it went downhill faster than the new Ferrari.

The pappardelle, so beautifully long, was crammed into this small round dish even tighter than the proverbial canned sardines. The other ingredients were piled on top and it was less than lukewarm. Cum laude? Cum off it.

The Verdict

The friend who recommended Cum Laude is usually highly demanding when eating out and extremely critical if the dishes aren’t up to standard. He raved about this place and I was looking forward to a superb Italian meal. I had decided to have one pasta and a pizza but when I saw two pasta dishes I fancied I ordered them, thinking I’d return soon for a couple of pizzas. But the pastas were abominable. The pappardelle pasta was nicely made, but the presentation was a shambles and the dish didn’t hang together. I certainly shan’t be returning soon to try a couple of pizzas.

The Bill

· Spaghetti speck, 8.50euros
· Home-made pappardelle, 9.50 euros
· 4 bottles of San Miguel, 8 euros

Total cost with VAT:26euros.

The Place

Cafetería Cum Laude, Calle Jesús 2-4, Palma. Tel:971-901965. Open from Monday to Friday from about 8am until 5-6pm. They do sandwiches and pizzas as well as a dish of the day.