Vanderpump Rules, a reality TV show that answers the question “What if someone opened a restaurant that serves both dumplings and enchiladas inside of the hell section of the Garden of Earthly Delights?”, is unquestionably the best program on air. It follows a pack of sexy and emotionally unhinged employees at Lisa Vanderpump’s SUR Restaurant & Lounge, and combines the violent drama of professional wrestling with the fantastical political intrigue of Game of Thrones. And now, a new layer of intrigue has been added to this cultural text: What is the “pasta” they speak of so angrily?
I’ll back up. On this week’s episode, three cast members got into a screaming match that was ostensibly about pasta, during a casual brunch in which James—a volatile DJ and self-identified “white Kanye West”—pours maple syrup into a double shot of bourbon. Speaking to his friends Lala, who is terrifyingly self-assured and good at makeup, and Logan, a tertiary cast member with whom he is probably in love, James announces that his girlfriend, Raquel, is moving in with him.
Logan and Lala cannot conceal their shock, nor the lack of enthusiasm that washes over them once it subsides. James becomes indignant and suspicious, and it is then that Lala and Logan reveal there has been a disagreement between themselves and Raquel: They ate all of her pasta at James’ Tuesday-night DJ set (“See You Next Tuesday”), which takes place biweekly at SUR Restaurant & Lounge, without her permission.
From there, things escalate—“You’re a bitch,” James proclaims, dead serious. “You wanna bully a little girl with her pasta?”—and the inebriated DJ becomes shockingly venomous. Lala storms out. “I told you that I ate Raquel’s pasta, and that’s how you come for me? What the fuck is wrong with you?” she demands.
The scene ends with James bellowing on the street, his serpentine countenance blotchy with rage and the veins on his neck bulging. “Why is it about the damn pasta? Get over the damn pasta!” he shrieks to a nonplussed Lala. “Read between the fucking lines! It ain’t about the pasta!” He pauses, overwhelmed by the force of his own emotions like an infant coming off of a tantrum, and adds, slightly petulant, “It’s not about the pasta.”
Heeding his passionate exhortation, the internet has enthusiastically read between the lines, and what they’ve found there… are more lines. The day after the episode aired, podcaster and Vanderpump expert Danny Pellegrino tweeted, “Lots of strangers are DMing me on insta to tell me that ‘pasta’ is the cast code word for cocaine, so when Lala was talking about taking Raquel's pasta, it actually wasn't about the pasta. This may be lies, but if you know something say something.”
Within hours, James had tweeted a denial, which only sparked further speculation. “When I say ‘it’s not about the pasta’ it was about actually pasta,” he said, perhaps protesting too much, “and the fact Lala stuffed her face with all my girl’s food without remorse is the reason I got piss[ed] in the first place.”
To me, it seemed the fight was both about the pasta—everyone was screaming at the top of their lungs about what had become of the fateful entree—and not about the pasta. It was “not about the pasta” inasmuch as it was about the apparent love triangle between James, Raquel, and Logan; James was overcompensating in defending his girlfriend’s honor because his heart was roiling with thousands of repressed emotions, including guilt, longing, and confusion. “It’s not about the pasta,” he fervently explained to the producers later. “It’s about Lala showing respect to my girlfriend.” Later in the episode, James drunkenly professes his love to Logan after a full day of joyously caressing his body, and nearly kisses him as Raquel looks on stonily, which feels more disrespectful than eating someone’s entire pasta dish, but I wasn’t there on that fateful Tuesday night, so what do I know!
I watched the episode the day after it aired, and found myself swept up by the pasta discourse for much of Wednesday. For the first time in my entire life, I engaged in a productive and thought-provoking debate on Twitter. “I think it was genuinely about pasta,” I announced. “I think they were all drunk, and Raquel became furious when her pasta was devoured after she had nobly offered her friends bites.”
But my respectful detractors—and there were numerous!—raised some good points. “If Lala ate all of her real pasta couldn’t they have gotten her a second bowl of pasta?” one challenged. “They work at the restaurant!!!” Another pointed out that Raquel, a model and aspiring Miss California, most likely does not eat pasta.
I felt tormented by the meaninglessness of human existence, and the utter collapse of meaning—the signifier “pasta” tumbling about in the void of consciousness, signifying nothing and everything. I ruminated. And then I had to wonder: Who the fuck eats pasta at a DJ set? And has anyone ever served pasta in the presence of a “deep house” DJ? If I could prove that no pasta dishes were served at the fateful “See You Next Tuesday” night, I could salvage some semblance of meaning from the sham that is my life.
We know that the Pasta Incident had occurred shortly before the LA Pride parade, as James apologized to Lala at one of Lisa Vanderpump’s annual Pride parties. In 2017—when this season was filmed—the parade took place on June 12. So we can assume that Tuesday, June 6 was the fateful night. According to James’ own Twitter account, the “See You Next Tuesday” event on that date—the inaugural one!—started at “9pm-ish” and ran “all night long.” I called SUR to inquire about their hours, and they told me that they serve dinner until 10 on Tuesdays (though the website says 10:30). I then asked what happens during an event—say, for instance, a DJ set. Does the kitchen remain open? Yes, I was assured. The kitchen remains open until 10, serving the full dinner menu, which indeed has an entire “PASTA & RISOTTO” section.
If my timeline is correct, this would mean that Raquel, Lala, and Logan had but an hour, from the start of “See You Next Tuesday” to the time the kitchen closed, to order and battle over the contested pasta plate. That’s admittedly not a lot of time, but if anyone can create a raging and nonsensical argument in such a narrow timeframe, it’s these humans. This would also answer my first detractor, who noted that Raquel could just order more pasta: The heedless pasta consumption was all the more hurtful because there was no more pasta to be had.
I remain ambivalently Team Pasta, also because I think pasta—something that makes you feel bloated and sluggish, which most people in LA avoid at all costs—is the opposite of cocaine. If this episode of Vanderpump Rules can teach us anything, it is that truth itself is a meretricious concept. And so, like James outside of the brunch place, we all must howl endlessly into the indifferent, insultingly bright sky: “It’s not about the pasta... it’s not about the pasta…” never knowing what it’s really about.