We Visit Barilla’s New Restaurant So You Don’t Have To
For many reasons, it was probably a bad idea to eat at Academia Barilla. It looks like a poor man’s Eataly or a rich man’s Sbarro (however you want to look at it). The restaurant, which we told you about last year, is owned by the same company who manufactures DIY pasta in cardboard boxes and whose CEO may or may not be homophobic.
But I noticed the menu and the prices seem right – most of the dishes live under the $10 mark. Plus I had a serious pasta craving. My big concern was that I’d be paying $10 for a dish that I could do myself at home and probably better.
Unfortunately, all my concerns were correct. The menu features rather uninventive pasta combinations, along with pizza, salads, and paninis. There was a feeling that I had stumbled into the front entrance of an Italian restaurant that opens up into a suburban shopping mall.
I chose two pastas in the name of science – the tagilatelle bolognese and the farfalle genovesi (pesto). I was amazed that this was one time that the food looked exactly like the sterile photos on the website, but in this case that isn’t such a great thing.
Both pastas were quite bland and the word al dente is not in the vocabulary here. The tagliatelle was soft with a watery sauce studded with flavorless chopped meat. It reminds me of sauces I would have made in my dorm room in college. If I was still an 18 year old pimply kid whose tastebuds had not yet developed, I might have been fine with this $9 plate of food. Today, not so much.
The farfalle was slightly better – it was served piping hot and had a rich creaminess. But the pasta was equally undercooked overcooked and the sauce was unrefined. And I’m not sure what the four diced tomatoes added to the dish except for some red color.
This seems like a place that serves the recipes from the back of the pasta boxes. And anybody can follow directions to make cheap pasta dishes. I’d rather just do it myself at home and save the $10. Maybe in Middle America this concept will work, but here in Midtown, we’re not buying it.
Academia Barilla, 1290 Avenue of the Americas (at 52nd Street), (646) 559-2206