March 16: Chef Ivan Chieregatti, the Executive Chef at Hotel Hyatt Regency Delhi, who has been overseeing food preparation at all the restaurants at Hyatt Regency Delhi for the last couple of years, is so fond of Indian food and spices that he has several forms of chillies in his personal portfolio that includes even ‘Bhoot Jhalokia’, perhaps world’s hottest chilli powder and in oil but otherwise keeps the food at La Piazza, truly authentic Italian, writes Subhash Arora who was privileged to try some of his hot specialties and the dessert
Photos By:: Adil Arora
La Piazza is usually compared with Bukhara Restaurant at ITC Maurya for its consistency , high quality and demand. It has been serving authentic Italian food since 1994 and after 24 years, has maintained food consistency and a loyal cult following. After working in 11 countries, this Chef from Milan has had enough international experience to keep the restaurant on course, dishing out the best Italian food in town by any 5-star restaurant.
Chef Chieregatti did not study to be a Chef. He grew up in Milan and after school found a job in Switzerland in a sceientific organisation but fell in love with cooking there and there was no looking back since. He loves India and the Indian cuisine. ‘I am not sure if I like the Indian cuisine better than the Japanese cuisine but both are my personal hot favourites.’
So how did he make sure the reputation of La Piazza was kept intact? ‘I was very impressed to know that La Piazza was a very well respected Italian restaurant. It was in a way, easy to keep up the quality by making sure the ingredients were fresh and wherever we had any problem with the local ingredients we imported them. For instance the tomato sauce used in the pizzas is not acidic enough in India so we continue to import it but Burrata from the local supplier is excellent quality so we use it in our dishes. But I did not make any changes in the olive oil which we are buying from Tuscany and I found it to be of very good quality.’
New dishes are added to the Menu regularly while some of the existing signature dishes are kept in the Menu as starred dishes. If you look at the Menu it has ***, ** and * dishes. These are the signature dishes of the restaurant (read from a very long time), Executive Sous Chef Alessandro Sandrolini’s curated dishes (Chef Alessandro had worked in La Piazza for 3 years earlier and after being a couple years away he has come back to the restaurant as Exec Sous Chef).
Lunch with Chef’s preparation
I was keen to try out a dish with black truffles. I believe he had no fresh truffles, the season for white truffle is over and even black truffles are difficult to find till summer. So he stores them in two formats-one is the chips in oil and the other is in the form of truffle butter which he uses as a dish dictates.
Del Duca- Cheese and Porcini pizza with cheese and truffle essence is a delicious vegetarian pizza with enticing flavours of fresh truffle. He uses imported porcini and the truffles stored in oil. Absolutely delightful pizza with the taste of truffle in every bite.
This was followed by the fried sea-food snack that Indians love. Followed by Ravioli it was a combination of beetroot Carpaccio and ricotta. The spices he used made all the difference. Similarly his Sea Food Potpourri -Sea-Bass, Salmon and Sole with one of his hot spices made it an exclusive dish which most Indians would love for its spiciness. “Satisfying my customers is my job and responsibility. If the customers like chillies in his food, I give them with the hot sauces that I prepare and I know would not change the basic Italian taste of that dish.
Chef’s version of Meneghina Cake
If you are fond of cakes, his version of Meneghina will definitely interest you. The cake with custard in its layer is grilled by him with Grand Marnier sprinkled on top, making it warm and crunchy on the mouth, really delicious. The other dessert was chocolate mud cake with the molten chocolate lava oozing out when you cut it in the middle. Served with ice-cream, this was another excellent option.
Of Indian Clients
Chef Ivan is very appreciative of Indian customers. ‘People in India who come to the restaurant are extremely knowledgeable about food, thanks to their foreign travels. They know their food and are particularly well informed about Italian cuisine. So you enjoy interacting with them and cannot get away with sub-standard or hybrid preparation. That makes my job challenging and interesting.’
Use of wine in cooking
He won’t be the excellent Chef he is, unless he knew how to make a generous use of wine in his cooking. ‘They are an important ingredient in my cooking (that’s also why we stress that wine is a food product, after all- editor). I make generous use of white wine in my risotto, pasta and sea-food and red wine in meats, duck etc.’ He feels 50-70% customers order wine with their food, in the evening. ‘We don’t believe in having a sommelier to sell the wines but would like the customer to make that decision voluntarily. Our food cries for wine and we have a large selection of Italian wines that go very well with various dishes. We are there to help him select the wines based on the food and their budget. (Incidentally, I found Tignanello at Rs. 14,900 and Peppoli Chianti Classico at Rs. 5,200 an excellence bet in the Menu whereas a Chilean house-wine at Rs. 2,800 is for those who like to order wine but are on a budget, says Shaji Paul, The Beverage Director as he joins us for a chat).
Exec Chef Ivan knows how to pamper you with excellent Italian food. But if you love hot Italian food – he has the recipe to make you cry with enjoyment. Try a bit of Bhoot Jalokia olive oil sprinkled on a small portion of your food and you will understand what I mean. Do try his black truffle pizza and don’t forget the Meneghina.
Jai Ho to the Chef. Cheers!
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