RIGA - My life is generally structured around a hunger scale that ranges from one to 10, the latter meaning that I am on the point of fainting from unbearable, gut-wrenching starvation, and the former meaning that I'm not hungry at all, thanks very much, I've just eaten.
I was a good seven or so when I went to check out Macaroni, a recently opened restaurant in downtown Riga. It wasn't exactly the ideal state of mind and stomach in which to undertake a restaurant review for the simple reason that a hotdog starts to resemble haute cuisine by the time my hunger reaches six.
So when the waitress came I tried to explain that I'd really appreciate it if she could bring my starter especially quickly, but she just got confused, either because of her English, or mine, and so she called her colleague over to help interpret, which only further delayed my starter, and aggravated my hunger.
But at last my Ceylon curried soup came and I shoveled it down as suavely as I could, given that a rather pretentious crowd of people surrounded me. My hunger was now down to a reasonable five and I was finally able to relax and take in my surroundings.
Macaroni, as you'd expect, specializes in pasta and follows the time-honored Latvian tradition of taking a generic name (alus bars, restorans, aptieka and so on). Latvians have long referred to pasta as "makarons," which took a devout pasta-lover like myself some time to get used to. Macaroni is without doubt the blandest type of pasta there is, and forgive me for not mincing my words, the average bowl of Baltic-style makarons is heartbreakingly crap.
Happily, Macaroni the restaurant does not sell macaroni. It does spaghetti, ravioli, lasagne, linguine, tagliatelle, tortiglioni, fettuccini, gnocchi, cannelloni, penne, pappardelle, farfalle, a good number in noodles, and even sushi.
I ordered the tortiglioni with Gorgonzola and wild mushrooms, which wasn't bad, although I felt like popping into the kitchen to give the chef a few pointers. It had looked very tempting when I was seeing things through the glaze of my famished eyes but it could have been a lot better. By then, though, my hunger was down to a very contented two and a half and so I just sat there enjoying the music, which was enjoyably eclectic in the sleek scheme of the place.
In all, Macaroni's menu is very impressive. It probably has the biggest variety of pasta served up in the most diverse range of ways in Riga. The main courses look good as well, and the prices are reasonable on the whole. Macaroni has done a good job of finding a niche in Riga's highly competitive restaurant scene, and filling it with panache.
17 K. Barona St., Riga
Tel: 721 7981
Open: Sun. - Mon.
9 a.m. - Midnight