My boyfriend and I went to Lupa for the second time yesterday, after having had a lovely dinner there over the summer, which was marred only by his undercooked bucatini. This time, our lunch was mostly great (with the exception of the brussels sprouts, which I'd seen recommended here and about which I felt that I might as well have ordered a bowl of pecorino), but his vermicelli alla carbonara were again so undercooked as to be unpleasantly crunchy. (I ordered the gnocchi both times; I play it safe & know what I like, I guess.)
Now, I am an Italian-American New Yorker and neither one of us is a rube. Neither one of us likes mushy pasta, but to call what he received both times "al dente" is freaking ridiculous, IMHO. He had at this point lost his appetite and sent the dish back with a request of no replacement, to which the waiter responded "you don't want him to cook it more?" (like, ew, you were going to throw it back in the pot?) and then explained that "that's just how he does it here." This is after said waiter (tall, grey-haired, European, playfully rude to all guests but MUCH more attentive to the tables on either side of us, containing at one a woman with probably a 2-carat diamond and at the other a pair of wine-sloshing German men) ignored us for almost our entire meal. We are young (21 and 24) and were dressed casually (but no slobbier than others at the restaurant), but unfailingly polite and not cheaping out either. I was so pissed that I made it a point to write a note about my sub-par-for-me (something like 15%) tip, because if I hadn't I knew he would have just assumed he was right in writing off my goodwill almost as soon as we sat down.
Whew. So there are two big issues here: what's up with the snooty service at a place which should be anything but snooty ("mission"-wise)? The younger, newer-seeming waitress who helped us pick our wine while our real waiter was ignoring us was perfectly friendly, but our waiter really ruined the experience for me. Also, does anyone else think this whole drastically-undercooking-the-pasta thing is pretentious in an Emperor's New Clothes sort of way? Like, this chef is trying to show New York that it's really cool to eat crunchy pasta?
All this after having read in a Gourmet interview last summer (I think?) that Batali said it's better to overcook dried pasta by 30 seconds than to undercook by 10 seconds makes me want to get the Orange-Clogged Man himself on the line and interrogate him about this issue with the appropriate amount of righteous indignation.
It's really too bad, because I've enjoyed the wine, the cured meats, the vegetables (except those stupid brussels sprouts!), the gnocchi and the pasta sauces there very much--let alone the tartufo and the espresso! I'm just not sure I'd go back unless I were only having small bites at the bar.
Sorry for the overly long-winded post. I'd really appreciate any feedback on this.