Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Quebec language cops can't look past 'pasta' on menu

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

They'd prefer something more in the language of Molière 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 québécois de la langue franßaise.

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, Céline 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.

At least two Twitter trends, including one called "pastagate" were created where people left biting comments.

"There's currently some beef between me and the PQ," tweeted Quebec Pasta.

The Office recently received a six per cent budget increase for this year, following a flare-up in political attention paid to language. The PQ drove much of that discussion while in Opposition, and has tabled a new language law, although the legislation is milder than expected.

The Office budget now stands at $24.7 million.

But on Wednesday, even the Parti Québécois suggested the agency had gone too far.

Diane De Courcy, the minister responsible for the language law, tweeted she was "amazed" at the situation: "I'm going to have someone look into this to see what happened," she also told reporters in Quebec City.

The PQ minister responsible for Montreal, Jean-Franßois Lisée, said with a chuckle: "I think it's overdone. I'll have a chat with Mme De Courcy about that."

Martin Bergeron, a spokesman with the Office, said in an interview he was surprised by the "intensity" of the online outrage. "But I can understand that from the social media point of view, the word that got out is that the Office went out for only one word," he said.

"It would be nonsense and that's how it's looked at."

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. "We've all had bigger battles," he said. "It's not something that I know is a life-or-death situation. It's something that we'll handle."


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2013 A12

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