When you think of Italian cuisine, it is an unending exploration of varied flavours, myriad dishes and a plethora of cheeses. Recently, I had been to an Italian food promotion at Prego speciality restaurant at Westin Hyderabad Mindspace that was all about rediscovering Italian cuisine, and meeting yet another adorable Italian chef, who knows his food and has a never ending line-up of stories that will regale you through your meal, even as this wonder of a chef will strum on his guitar a few Bollywood classics.Here’s to the popular chef Antonello from Westin Mumbai Garden City.
He had served us on the pizza menu, Focaccia Al Formaggio Di Recco – a Genoa pizza that has two paper thin layers sandwiching delicious mix of mozzarella cheese, onion, jalapenos, a sprinkling of basil and a homemade cheese that the chef has grown up eating Stracchino, also called Crescenza. This simple pizza topped with roasted pine nuts is unputdownable and light on the tummy.
There was Fritto Musto on the starters – the herb crusted seafood – prawns, calamari, fish that amply caters to the vanity as Frittos usually do. And then, there was the Cima, short for Cima Alla Genovese that is not often found on Indian menus chicken rolled into parmesan, pistachio, mortadella, wild mushroom and asparagus, kept underweight overnight, so that it becomes dry and roulade-like and can be cut and served, ideally cold. In Italy, the classic version uses veal.
There was Chicken Supreme, fillet coated with Italian herbs and seared and served with Alfredo sauce, is good for chicken lovers, but pales in flavours when compared to the others on the menu like the ‘Cima’.
Chef Antonella tops up his food experience with some Bollywood music – he sings Hindi songs and plays on a guitar much to the delight of the diners, and if you are lucky you will get your share of food tales too. One such food story is about the restaurant in North Genoa, where he interned – Antica Osteria Del Bai located at Quarto Dei Mille – the sea coast from where the legendary Garibaldi led his 1,000 men on a mission to unite Italy.
His menu is evidently high on seafood quotient. So there is an amazing confluence of seafood that smells ‘Oh so good’ and tastes like heaven, especially if you are a seafood lover. During our visit, we had the Fish Ravioli made using plain dough on one side and squid ink flavoured dough on the other end, filled with cheese of course, and also fish, prawns and porcino mushrooms. It was served with an extremely flavourful sauce made using cream, fresh tomato and chopped Scampi, tossed in brandy.
Chef Antonello conjures up some amazing Italian fare that also uses much of the influences of his growing up in North Italy and working as a young chef on the sea coast of Genoa, and to taste his food one probably has to visit Westin Mumbai.
Part of the story was first published in The Hans India