Last Sunday when we walked into La Piazza, I was certain that a pleasant afternoon would unfold — a glass or three of wine, nice food and the familiar, congenial buzz of families at the many tables that the spacious restaurant, high-roofed with arches, offers.
I was jonesing for Italian food, too. Strange, because it had been less than 10 days since I’d got back after a fortnight in Italy and, if I tried, I could easily recreate from delightful memory, the taste of Pappardelle with Cinghiale (wild boar) sauce, gargantuan pizzas with toppings of fresh octopus, calamari and mussels or just the surprisingly delicious tripe you can buy off carts in the streets. I could close my eyes and not have to try too hard to relive the memories of a Bistecca Fiorentina, the famous T-bone steak that you buy by the weight in trattorias and, after the meal, wonder how you devoured something that large and thick so quickly.
Lest I drift off again into my Italian reverie, let’s get back to business in Delhi’s Bhikaji Cama Place. Remembering the crowd—predominantly expatriate families—that converges at La Piazza on Sunday afternoons, I’d booked a table the night before. So it came as a surprise that we had to wait till the hostess and managers found a table for us in the still near-empty restaurant. Every table was reserved, they said. Oh, but I’d reserved one too, hadn’t I? Some of my Sunday cheer began getting chiselled off.
We were finally seated at a decent table and, probably because of the really friendly wait-staff, or was it the glass of Fontella Chianti (a pleasant enough wine), my Sunday glow, at least in part, returned.
La Piazza’s antipasti spread was big and there’s enough for vegetarians too, including carpaccios, polenta, pasta salads and greens. For more fortunate omnivores, the starters included a live cold cut counter offering salami, pancetta, mortadella and coppa (a cold cut from pork shoulder). There was, of course, a spread of cold seafood, meats and fish as well.
Sunday brunches at most of Delhi’s upscale restaurants follow a format. Salads and antipasti on the buffet counter; second courses and mains brought to your table; and back to the buffet counter for dessert. La Piazza is no exception. We sampled slices of different pizzas —the Margherita (very good), the one with four cheeses and baby spinach leaves on top (excellent), the one with lamb sausages and spring onion (hmm…ok). The pizza with seafood and zucchini, I passed (I think you know why).
That brought us to the pasta. There were at least five on offer, but I zeroed in on the Spaghetti Carbonara with diced bacon and rich, cheesy, creamy sauce. La Piazza’s spaghetti carbonara (and I’m a sucker for the carbonara sauce) is delicious. Because you don’t know my real name, here’s a confession: I had three helpings.
After every high, there is a low. That’s what happened once the main courses rolled in. I can’t understand the concept of main courses that come un-plated.
I don’t want my Sundried Tomato Crushed Bassa Fish with Roasted Vegetables to be plonked on my plate from a pan full of many pieces of fish. Ditto for the Braised Lamb Leg with Button Mushrooms and Onion. For the record, the lamb passed muster but my suspicions about how the ‘crushed bassa’ fish would taste came true. It was underwhelming. And why did it have to be crushed?
The dessert spread was ample, with the slice of cake that I picked quite nice, but the Tiramisu left me cold. As did the single-shot espresso in the end but then, I can still smell the coffee from the bars that I was hanging out in, not so long back