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Italian, but not quite

Excuse the singularly unimaginative name and the six faux palm trees that are the focal point of the décor in this otherwise smart restaurant. Marryam H Reshii writes.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2008 16:00 IST

Excuse the singularly unimaginative name and the six faux palm trees that are the focal point of the décor in this otherwise smart restaurant. On the plus side, the restaurant is headed by an Italian chef with decades of international experience and a finely-honed sense of how to balance authenticity and suitability to the local palate.

On the minus side, you have service staff that offered me Tabasco sauce with my main course and grated cheese on my seafood — sacrilegious in an Italian restaurant.

Antipasti misti al Italiana (Rs 825) has enough ham, salami and cheese from Italy to make the price worthwhile. I hesitated between the carpaccio of seabass and salmon (Rs 595) and the carpaccio di filetto (Rs 395) — the standard tenderloin carpaccio, and chose the latter.

Good as it was, it was not a patch on the outstanding vitello tonnato (Rs 295) — thin slices of veal tossed with tuna fish sauce. The veal was finely sliced before being roasted and had an interesting bite to it; combined with tuna paste-flavoured mayonnaise, it was a treat for the tastebuds.

I would have loved to try the risotto, of which there were three kinds — mushrooms, Milanese and seafood, but the seafood risotto was priced at a steep Rs 1295, so I ordered a pizza instead. Here is where the restaurant has done its greatest balancing act, for though the crust is thin and of a fairly high standard, the toppings are a sellout to the local palate.

My companion’s pizza margherita (Rs 425) had a definite Indian sensibility and my pizza bianca (Rs 495) had not even one of the four cheeses stated on the menu: mozzarella, gorgonzola, smoked and parmesan. This was bad news for me, but may be good news for those who find Italian cheeses too strong. I just wish the servers had given me sufficient warning.

There is even a pizza con pollo (Rs 495) as a nod to the local palate — chicken makes its appearance in every section of the menu, including the primi piatti — something that you’ll never find in Italy. However, Chef Mario Paolillo has probably decided to do as the Romans do when in Rome.

The most successful of his chicken dishes has got to be the pollo al champagne (Rs 675) — escallopes of chicken in a cream champagne sauce. Subtle, unusual and classy, it is one of the finest main courses. The other unusual main course is in the seafood section — composizione di gamberoni e cappesante alla griglia serviti con ratatouille (Rs 375), which is grilled prawns and scallops on a white wine and butter sauce served with mashed potato and ratatouille.

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