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DWC Dinner: Pellegrino Comes Alive at Artusi

Posted: Thursday, 13 August 2015 15:25

 

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DWC Dinner: Pellegrino Comes Alive at Artusi

Aug 13: Artusi Restaurant has come to be considered as the top stand-alone restaurant in Delhi, run by Italian owner Oscar Balcon and chefs specialising in authentic cuisine of Emilia Romagna and the reason of its success was amply highlighted at the last dinner that also demonstrated why Brunello di Montalcino has won the hearts of Indian wine connoisseurs, writes Renu Malhotra, a member of the Delhi Wine club for several years

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewAs I stood in the dark street outside, and looked into the inconspicuous row of shops in GK II market, I spotted the quiet elegance of Artusi; there was no mistaking it. The restaurant stood out from the street with its warm lights and bustling activity, the kind of humdrum you see on your way home in the evenings outside every London pub or a European cafe.

As I entered, I got transported into a different world of warmth and an understated style. Right up front, at the entrance there is a tiny Italian-style pastry counter that must be perfect for a coffee rendezvous in the day. It's an elegant yet intimate place for a huddle to clink a glass or two in the evening. This is where rounds of mini canapés of quiche and bruschetta were passed around along with some delicious Franciacorta Saten Brut, popularly known as the Italian champagne!

Spanish Cheese from Navarra

The bite sized canapés were brilliant and paired well with the ‘champagne’. I suddenly noticed in the distance a huge cheese board with a big wheel of cheese being passed around....... It almost disappeared by the time it reached me and I understood why as I bit into it!! Intense to the palate, this very tasteful cheese was offered to Subhash by a Spanish cheese making company from Navarra, which is from the Pyrenees mountainous region in North Eastern Spain.

This artisan Roncal Valley cheese is made out of raw milk of Rasa and Latxa sheep, rennet and salt. Its unusual flavour is robust, well defined, very buttery with a piquant or spicy aftertaste. I was told that the Navarra cheese was going to be served after dinner with wine but understandably, Subhash could not wait to show it off earlier! I do hope that this cheese can be brought to India for selling in the supermarkets...!

Pellegrino comes alive

The name of the restaurant is inspired from Pellegrino Artusi, the founder of Italian cuisine and author of The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine Dining. This work of Artusi was the first Italian cookbook that had been written in Italian and rapidly became a cornerstone of modern Italian cuisine. It has remained a global reference point for Italian chefs up until today.

Flavours of Emilia Romagna

Click For Large ViewThe restaurant boasts of authentic flavours of Emilia Romagna, the heart of northern Italian rich cuisine considered to be Italy's greatest gastronomic treasure. The cuisine demonstrates itself by capitalising on its supply of incomparable butter, cream and meat and with the use of plenty of olive oil as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs coupled with plenty of poaching, braising and also roasting.

This region is home of Parmigiano-Reggiano (the versatile Parmesan cheese), balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham), Bolognese sauce and an enormous range of fresh hand-made pastas and much more. These artisanal pastas range from- tagliatelle( golden egg pasta), tortelle(stuffed pasta), tortellini(larger pasta), Raviolli, Passatelli, Capelleti and even Lasagne.

Sit-down Dining

As we made our way away from here into the cramped low ceiling dining place, I could not help notice the noise level suddenly increase. I could have sung aloud and no one would have heard me! Anyway with a few wines down, no one seem to mind the raucous and I looked forward to the joy of discovering the delights on the menu.

To ensure that authentic and traditional food from the region is promoted, the restaurant houses a large team from the region of Emilia Romagna itself........ Right from the owner, an ex- banker Oscar Balcon who is Italian and has deep roots in Emilia Romagna and spent his entire childhood indulging in the delicious dishes of this rich food prepared by his mother.

He is married to Gurpinder, an Indian who has exceptional knowledge and love for fine authentic Italian food and has been cooking Italian food for the past 20 years! After retiring from a professional career as a banker he has joined his wife in promoting Artusi. The Balcons are passionate and well-travelled foodies and I suspect that they want to run a restaurant that they themselves would like to eat in!! Apart from good food Oscar is also very passionate about fine wines which he has been collecting with dedication for many years.

The Executive Chef Romina Lugaresi, assisted by Chef Alessandro Cargiolli, has been at the helm of kitchens in the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and India for more than twenty years. Throughout all these years she won many awards but has always remained true to her roots and has been focusing on one cuisine only: the cuisine of her native land Emilia-Romagna. She was born and grew up in the same area in Emilia-Romagna like Oscar’s family and Pellegrino Artusi. She has been a founding force at the restaurant and continues to leverage her creativity and talent to continuously improve the culinary experience at Artusi.

In the appetiser, the Chicken Straccetti turned out to be nicer than the rabbit. The tender taste of pumpkin flan in it grabbed my attention somewhat. The fresh ingredients of the crispy summer salad with ricotta cheese, was delicious and the citrus dressing burst with flavour.

I recommend trying their pastas in whatever form because that is what they do best. I had the Ravioli with goat cheese and spinach and its creamy texture was designed to delight the taste buds! My husband Anil Malhotra and sister Rekha had the Parpardelle in Ragu of guinea fowl and the other with spicy fresh tomato basil sauce and mozzarella cheese. Unfortunately, by the time they came to us, they were not warm enough to catch the punch in them. But on tasting them there was no denying that they know their job.

Soon after the Primo, I was presented with a perfect bowl of creamy risotto that was a real knockout. Perfect pasta and great Risotto- full marks to the preparations.

The finest part of the meal is undoubted the desserts and is worth waiting for. The biggest pleasure to the senses was the Panna Cotta, which was just spectacular in its texture and taste. The simple crème caramel was given an exotic spin with a fig base, and crunchy roast almonds and caramel bits on top.

Click For Large ViewThere were quite a few new faces including Rajeev Samant, the founder CEO of Sula Vineyards, who was an invitee of the club. A couple of new members including Jai Arya were also present, assimilating with other members highlighting our culture club. The Sauvignon Blanc was mediocre but Refosco from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia was liked by everyone because of its spiciness, freshness on the palate and soft tannins. But pièce de résistance for the evening was certainly the final wine with the main course- Brunello di Montalcino 2008. An elegant, eloquent and homogenous wine, it was still young and changed its character in the glass like a chameleon and was the subject of awe, admiration and showcased the multi-facets of the wine.

Click For Large ViewThe food at Artusi is super fresh and at par with some of the top Italian restaurants. In spite of its small space Artusi has a charming setting with white tablecloths, white crockery and black and white photo frames on the walls, soft music and candle lights. The freshness of the ingredients and the authenticity of the recipes and the simply traditional blow out food make a meal at Artusi quite a special treat.

The service by the wait staff was very professional and praise worthy. They were on their toes, essentially because the number of people had swelled beyond the capacity of the restaurant. Kudos to Oscar Balcon and his team for doing an excellent job despite the extra few members!

Renu Malhotra

Renu Malhotra is an avid amateur food and wine aficionado and critic. Having had her early schooling in Europe, she speaks French and German. She is interested in travel, fashion, interiors, wildlife photography and golf across the world. Renu also founded a Culinary Club at the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi, and has helped organize open show kitchens by reputed chefs producing gourmet world cuisine.


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