Madre Mia: A true taste of italy

Craving for a Pizza Margherita or a Pasta à la Puttanesca that tastes just like the wonderful dish you had in Florence? Here is where you should have your next affair with Italian food.

Rahul Sachitanand, Ritwik Mukherjee, Anumeha Chaturvedi, Nitya Varadarajan and Deepti Khanna Bose         Print Edition: July 13, 2008

Pizza Margherita
Italian food has always been popular in India, primarily as a fast food option. To be honest, though, the pizzas and pastas at most restaurants (and takeaways) are too “Indianised” and can at best be termed ‘very mediocre’. So, where does one go for a true taste of Italy?

Here’s where:

Don Giovanni Mumbai

Don Giovanni, Mumbai
Don Giovanni, Mumbai
The new look Don Giovanni on the fourth floor of downtown Mumbai’s latest chill zone, Atria Mall, is packed on weekdays and overflowing on weekends. DG, which started off its signature restaurant in Juhu, has currently shut that one for renovation. But with the Worli edition being just as good, few are complaining. Owner Don Giovanni has ensured that everything—from the paintings and the décor to the ingredients used in the dishes—is authentic Italian. As you enter the 44-seater restaurant (the one in Juhu is a 66-seater) the wall-to-wall sleeper-wood panelling, interspersed with paintings of famous Italians, will catch your eye. Drop in here for its signature Pasta à la Puttanesca or the mouth-watering thincrust pizzas. It won’t cost you a packet at Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,800 for a meal for two (inclusive of a glass of your favourite Tuscan wine).

Don Giovanni is located on the 4th floor of Atria Mall in Worli, Mumbai. Call 022 24813367-68 for reservations.
It is open from 11:30 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. for lunch and from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. for dinner.

Our tip: Pizza Margherita and Pasta à la Puttanesca (pasta of your choice with pork, tomato and anchovies)

The Blue Potato Kolkata

The Blue Potato, Kolkata
The Blue Potato, Kolkata
Chef Shaun Kenworthy is a name well respected in Kolkata. And the former Executive Chef of The Park has now come up with a new dining experience in partnership with restaurateur Navin Pai—an Italian-cum-Mediterranean restaurant called The Blue Potato. The porch, with its subtle lighting, pebbles and wooden beams, greets you as you enter the place. Photographic art lines the walls, and the sounds of jazz add just the right finishing touch.

Seafood Risotto with Cherry Tomato and Ginger Oil Drizzle
Be it Seafood Risotto with Cherry Tomato and Ginger Oil Drizzle, Chicken Braised in Red Wine Sauce, Crushed Garlic Potatoes, Spaghetti in traditional Carbonara Sauce with Arugula or Penne Arrabbiata—the food here is light, refreshing and elegantly presented. A meal here costs Rs 2,500 for two, but what’s a little money when it comes to a satisfying meal?

The Blue Potato is located at 27 Shakespeare Sarani in the heart of upmarket central Kolkata. Call 033 3259 7833 or 9831174816 for reservations. It is open from 12 noon to 11:30 p.m.

Our tip: Try the Seafood Risotto with Cherry Tomato and Ginger Oil Drizzle or the Spaghetti in traditional Carbonara Sauce with Arugula.

La Piazza New Delhi

La Piazza, New Delhi
La Piazza, New Delhi
La Piazza, the Italian restaurant at the Hyatt Regency, reminds you of Italian grottos, or, perhaps, a 5-star Trattoria, if there is one. It offers a whole range of pizzas and oven-fresh Al Dente pastas. And yes, the ingredients are mostly imported from Italy. Strains of Luciano Pavarotti’s music can be heard in the background as you take your pick from a host of Italian delicacies like Penne Arrabiata, Stuffed Chicken Breast or the signature

Pepperoni Pizza. There’s a display kitchen and a counter by the side that displays herbs and other exotic items and the food served is pre-plated except for lunch where a buffet, Antipasti (starters) and desserts are offered with a choice of pre-plated main course dishes. No meal is complete here without the quintessential cappuccino—the oh-sopopular cinnamon-flavoured Italian coffee. Dinner here will cost you around Rs 3,000 for two but it’s well worth the money.

La Piazza is located at the Hyatt Regency in south Delhi’s Bhikaji Cama Place area. Call 011 26791234 for reservations.

Our tip: Try the Pepperoni Pizza or the Penne Arrabiata here.

DelItalia Mumbai

DelItalia, Mumbai
DelItalia, Mumbai
DelItalia, the brand new Italian restaurant in Mumbai’s posh suburb of Juhu, is waiting to be discovered. Housed in a quaint, old villa overlooking the Juhu Beach, DelItalia makes you feel you have just walked into a restaurant in Rome, with its floral and chequered print tablecloths and lace tapestry. Occupying pride of place is a wood-fired oven specially built to deliver Neapolitan Pizzas. The menu urges you to enjoy a typical three-course Italian meal, starting with delicate Antipasti, paired with an aperitif, moving on to the Primi Piatti (first course)—which traditionally consists of pasta or risotto—and rounded off with an Espresso and Grappa. Also worth dying for are the Chocolate and Mascarpone Torte. A meal here is not too expensive, at Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200 for two.

DelItalia is located opposite the Juhu Chowpatty on Juhu Tara Road. Call 022 26184040 for reservations.

Our tip:  Order the Ricotta Stuffed Chilly Peppers, Ratatouille Stuffed Snake Gourd, and the signature pizzas.

i-t.ALIA Bangalore

i-t.ALIA Bangalore
Foodies in Bangalore are unanimous on where to go for the best Italian food in town. For a city with thousands of free-spending techies, i-t.ALIA continues to be a popular hangout. Its USP? Its chefs, who have all-round expertise in Italian cuisine, thanks to some intensive courses globally. Executive Chef Mandaar Suktankar has trained and worked with Commendatore Chef Antonio Carluccio at the Neal Street Restaurant in London. An intimate restaurant (it seats just 42), i-t.ALIA offers diners imported proscutti and parmesan, pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens, fresh seafood, home-made pastas and a wide range of vegetarian items.

Virgin Fillet
This is the place to go for delicacies like Virgin Fillet of John Dory with Creamy Spinach & Balsamic Vinegar, Pan-grilled Chilean Sea Bass, potatoes, olives, vegetable chiffonade and single estate extra virgin olive oil. A key attraction at i-t.ALIA is the wood-fired oven, which turns out some lip-smacking pizzas, while risottos made of Italian Carnaroli and Arborio are a huge draw. A meal here costs roughly Rs 3,000 for a couple.

i-t.ALIA is located within the premises of The Park in Bangalore’s MG Road. Call 080 25594666 for reservations. i-t.ALIA is open from 12 noon till 11:30 p.m.

Our tip:  Try the Virgin Fillet of John Dory with Creamy Spinach & Balsamic Vinegar. Also their entire pizza range.

Prego Chennai

Prego, Chennai
Prego, Chennai
Prego (which means “welcome” in Italian), at the Taj Coromandel, is Chennai’s best Italian joint, with its three-layer mood lighting and an amazing wine library called Eroteca. Sommelier and manager N. Srikameshwaran gives a quick tour of Eroteca’s extensive 300-plus labels and sets the mood for an authentic Italian meal. Try the Parma Ham and Orange Melon here or the Ricotta Platter, which features four flavours of cheese.

La Melanzanza Alla Parmigiana
Entrepreneur Ashwin Rajagopal, who eats here often, says the food is great. “I love the Sea Bass and Prawn Tortelli here. The Veal Prego Style and the Orange Duck Breast are also very good,” he says. Needless to say, everything from the vegetables and the basil leaf, are sourced from Italy. The Tiramisu and the chilled bitter Chocolate Mousse with Finger and Chilli make you crave for more. Like at most 5-star hotels, a meal for two here will set you back by about Rs 3,000.

Prego is located at Taj Coromandel in the Nungambakkam Road area. Call 044 66002827 for reservations. It is open from 12 noon till 11:30 p.m.

Our tip:  Try the La Melanzanza Alla Parmigiana (layered aubergine with parmesan) or the Sea Bass steamed with Tarragon and Green Peppercorn.

Pasta facts

The next time you’re enjoying a dish of pasta, remember these fun facts. In 18th century England, macaroni was synonymous with perfection and excellence. That’s why, for example, the feather in Yankee Doodle's cap was called “macaroni.” One cup of cooked spaghetti provides about 200 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrates, less than one gram of total fat, no cholesterol and only one gram of sodium (when cooked without salt). In the 13th century, the Pope set the quality standards for pasta. There are more than 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide.

Legend has it that noodles were first made by 13th century German bakers, who fashioned dough into symbolic shapes such as swords, birds and stars, which were baked and served as bread. Cooked al dente literally means “to the tooth,” which is how to test pasta to see if it is properly cooked. The pasta should be a bit firm, offering some resistance to the tooth, but tender.

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