The Il Postino pasta appears, with Nikki hoping it will "transport you to the hillsides of Italy." Jen describes their tortellini with cavolo nero (an Italian black cabbage), ricotta, pecorino, squash and peppercorn, which Colicchio (hesitating only slightly) calls "not great, it's good." Daniel thinks the women "didn't care much about the beautiful pretty shape of it," but Ted "prefers handmade pasta that didn't look like it was stamped out of a machine." Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but Richard sides with Ted and makes a good case for Nikki and Jen's execution, since Il Postino is all about the beauty of rustic simplicity. Roeper also thinks "it's better than all the experts have been saying so far," and Ted responds with his gayest look. They are, he admits, "being as nitpicky as possible," before concluding that the dish "is kind of one-note." The judges get paid to be nitpicky, but a plucky raven-haired guest admits that, for her, the dish had precisely the intended effect of summoning "the village and the sheep running around." Not a home run, perhaps, but Jen and Nikki should be safe.
Mark spoons simmering cranberries atop a spring roll as he expresses concern that the rolls may be dry, although he is confident that "all the flavors seem to gel well together." Yes, it's time for A Christmas Story -- Ryan, in his slightly A.D.D. way, explains the "duck at the Asian restaurant" inspiration behind their quail breast with carrot puree, cranberry chutney and quail spring rolls. In addition to a comely dish and an engaging explanation, Mark and Ryan have created something "really delicious," according to Padma, and Ted's "new favorite dish -- beautiful, sophisticated, complex." Roeper approves of the interpretation of the movie, Aisha loves the carrot puree, Padma continues to enthuse, and neither Daniel nor Colicchio utter a single word.
Antonia and Zoi's plating offers a glimpse of the cheftestants working together -- or at least a few of them. Richard helps with a "swoosh" of cauliflower and Mark helps Antonia slice the lamb. Zoi seems really nervous as she describes the inspiration they found in Talk to Her: "the women in the movie are very passionate women so we felt that this movie well-represented two strong females with a passion for what they do." Yawn. Antonia mentions the vibrant colors of Spain as we see the close up of their rack of lamb with saffron cauliflower puree, romesco and gramalata -- it's pretty, and the flavors sounds wonderful, but, as expected, not as colorful as the two women probably would have liked. Daniel and Colicchio immediately seize upon that, while Colicchio goes on to criticize the lamb as "too thin," saying he would have preferred a single chop as opposed to the two thin pieces of meat on the plate. Aisha thinks it "was fine, and tasted good, but I didn't feel anything transcendent about it." Not Almodovar-worthy.