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Language cops bite down on restaurants

Mamma Mia! The word 'pasta' is a little too Italian for Quebec's language cops.

They'd prefer something more in the language of Moliere than Michaelangelo when it comes to menus, even in Italian restaurants.

Pasta wasn't the only word that left a sour taste when they recently chewed over the menu at Buonanotte, a trendy Italian restaurant in Montreal. There were several other words that didn't have enough of a French flavour for the Office Quebecois de la language francaise.

For example, the agency says 'bottiglia' which is Italian for bottle, should be 'bouteille' on the wine list. Using 'calamari' instead of the French word for squid is also a little fishy.

The restaurant's owner couldn't believe it when he got a letter from the agency pointing out the transgressions.

"We were taken aback by it," said Buonanotte owner Massimo Lecas on Wednesday.

Buononotte is a high-profile Montreal eatery that has catered to a host of sports and entertainment stars including Maurice (Rocket) Richard, Celine Dion, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Brian Mulroney have also dined there but it wasn't immediately clear if Premier Pauline Marois has ever been a customer. It also has a restaurant in Toronto under the same name.

Controversy was the flavour of the day Wednesday as people stewed on social media over the intervention from the Office inspectors, who were dubbed 'tongue troopers' back in the darker days of Quebec's language battles.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the provincial government reiterated that the language agency would review the whole situation.

It conceded that despite finding non-French words on the restaurant menu, the officials involved were "overzealous."

Lecas said his restaurant hasn't had a language complaint in the 22 years it's been open and he's handling the controversy with a sense of humour.

Lecas did lament that the brouhaha seemed to be reflective of current language tensions in the province that followed vows by the PQ to toughen laws.

Ironically, the saga started the day after the Sept. 4 election when the PQ won a minority government.

The Canadian Press

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