Its difficult to tear me off a good bowl of pasta, as many of my friends have understood by now. But Italian food is so much more than staples like that, and it was showcased at the World Week of Italian Cuisine, where Italian chefs arrived to serve up some delicious dishes, representing some of the most exclusive restaurants of the city.
I went from stall to stall, stopping for the chicken dish cooked by Chef Mauro Ferrari (Hyatt Regency) whose chocolate mousse I still remember fondly from last year (and apparently who has a number of truffle dishes up his sleeve for this edition of the event), moving on to the cannolis made by Chef Mary Campagna, and picking up a few things from the Hotel Hindustan International table, prepared by Chef Marialuisa Lovari, who hails from Tuscany. But, to be fair, my eyes were on the Porchetta (boneless pork roast), which was diminishing rapidly as I watched, and so, I made a run for that counter, and said hello to Chef Vittorio Greco.
This wasn’t the first time I was meeting the man, I’d met him the last time, and he had made me taste a Jerusalem Artichoke, Chocolate, and Gorgonzola soup (yes, you heard that right) that had changed the way I looked at chocolate and cheese pairing. I grabbed a thick chunk of the Porchetta, picked some prosciutto and Milanese salami on the side, and then, proceeded to have a conversation with him standing right there. We were interrupted far too many times, so the conversation had to be reserved for another day, and I happily agreed to meet him the day after for lunch.
At Westview, ITC Sonar, the Italian Week features a special dinner on the 25th of November, 2017, where Chef Vittorio Greco handpicks a few dishes as part of a popup menu he is doing all over India. The menu is considerable, and features the soup I’d mentioned before, lobster salad, risotto with black cod confit, and Grappa marinated Sous Vide Australian lamb loin as parts of a 7-course meal, paired with matching wines. I was invited to a chat with the Chef, and we discussed his food philosophy, which essentially is to keep the ingredients great, and work with that.
As the chef behind Ottimo, he’s used to working with vendors, and the first step to making a good dish is quality ingredients. Picking and choosing dishes, then replicating them with consistency is essential.
The Burrata came paired with an assortment of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, and spears of asparagus and rings of crunchy onions. A seafood risotto was served, but my allergies led me to pick the vegetarian option – Spinach and ricotta ravioli, finished with a bit of crisp pancetta because my weakness for porcine decadence is, by now, pretty much known.
The lamb shanks were impressive to look at, but what made them special was the way the fork parted the flesh easily, the tender strands holding together till touched, then melted gently on my tongue. The roasted potatoes on the side were used to mop up the accompanying brown sauce.
The dessert was another revelation. I am not a fan of panna cotta in general, but this version, topped with a disc of chocolate biscuit, was a delight, the texture of the panna cotta more like a mousse, but with the gelatin making its presence felt in the texture. Paired with some berries, this was a rather memorable ending to the meal. If you’re in town, it is a good idea to book your table, because the 25th will have an epic menu, with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options to pick from.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to ITC Sonar and Italian consulate by the respective management.