Artusi Ristorante: An Italian sojourn

If there’s another country whose citizens are as passionate about their regional food as India Skeeter would vote for Italy. Though Italian visa has not been stamped on Skeeter’s passport yet, Italy remains in top five of the travel bucket list. Till then Skeeter keeps satiated by sampling Italian culinary offerings in Delhi. Let us be frank. Skeeter was a wee bit shy trying out Artusi Ristorante simply because Diva is practically next door. Ritu Dalmia introduced Skeeter to Italian food (as she did to most of you Skeety believes) few years ago and Skeeter has NEVER gone beyond Diva. Not a wink.

An invite to sample food by Artusi kept sitting in the inbox. There were heaps and heaps of praises in the social circles. Skeeter was growing restless and finally gave in to the temptation. Artusi is a quaint restaurant with limited covers and welcoming interiors. It features food from Emilia Romagna region in Italy and is named after Pellegrino Artusi, one of the founders of Italian cuisine, who penned the first Pan-Italian Cookbook. The owners are Gurpinder and Oscar Balcon, a well-travelled couple who globetrotted before settling in India. Oscar tells that a lot of the food featured on the Artusi menu is just like his mother would prepare.

One walks into the restaurant through a bar that has a deli corner too. The bar is designed such that one can overlook passers by on the street through a full sized glass wall while enjoying their drink. Very European. The lighting was a bit harsh but it could in no way dampen the experience.
The first thing that would strike one is the freshness of the ingredients used. The Rape e Noci salad came first. Roasted deep red beets, water cress, crunchy and juicy green apple slices and walnuts dressed in goat cheese, finished with croutons and balsamic made for a pretty plate and pleasing palate. Emilia Romagnia happens to be the place where the first Balsamic vinegar was aged. The region is also famous for its Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.

The Tomino came next. An Italian cheese roundel (a very generous portion that) melted over a bruschetta that was drizzled with fragrant truffle oil. There were sauteed mixed mushrooms (Skeeter’s favourite Enoki too!)for company. It was a dish that relied on the star ingredients than anything else and worked very well for Skeeter. By now Skeets was very full but she had to sample the pasta and so she called for a small portion of Paglia e Fieno Aurora. This handmade white and green angel hair pasta was a treat to the eyes and was set in a pink sauce with shallots, mushrooms, tomatoes and cream. Skeeter cannot even begin to write about the freshness of this one. The pasta was al dente and the sauce beautifully complemented its texture. A must try.

The meal ended with Artusi signature dessert which was what pulled Skeeter to this Ristorante in the first place. The Panna Cotta Fichi e Mandorle. Panna Cotta with caramelized figs and fig sauce in a lush pool of caramel and beautiful almond slivers. As Skeeter writes this post she cannot but help think of when she will get another bite of it. Soon, very soon.

When Skeeter met David Rocco

It is mid summer in Delhi and Skeeter’s pasta love is beginning to warm up. 20 minute pasta dinners that can double up as breakfasts are the best way to ensure least time spent in the kitchen. Pasta thoughts led Skeeter back to a lunch with chef David Rocco, who is widely acclaimed for his Italian style of cooking. Though this luncheon happened much earlier, if you can recall an experience with profound thoughts, you can bet it was a great one.
A bunch of bloggers gathered at West View, ITC Maurya for a meetup with the chef who claims he’s not a chef, he’s Italian! There are a few things that would draw one to David Rocco’s food shows. There is some country music thrown in the shows for sure, David loves interacting with locals and trying out their recipes and all the shows are shot so well that you almost want to be at the place which Rocco is showcasing.
Cut to the event. Predictably, the conversations revolved around food. While David Rocco told us about his tryst with Indian food and Indian oils, we quizzed him about which olive oil should one really pick up. David told us that he loved the unique flavour and the pungency of Mustard oil, though his loyalties still lie with Olive oil. He went through the whole cycle of attaining mustard oil- from farm to bottle. Skeeter personally prefers mustard oil and all things mustard. Once a person realises the depth and flavour mutsard oil can give to a dish, there is no looking back. David also shared how Italians take some days off work and go olive-picking and they are paid handsomely in hold your breadth: Olive oil! Ain’t that cool now? It is these nuggets from various travel tales of a person that make great stories and great experiences.

Having arrived at the hotel a little early, Skeeter and Anita got time to soak in one of the best views of Delhi from the rooftop balcony of West View. Delhi never appeared prettier and so green. We were joined by other bloggers soon. David joined us at the table a little later. Though David didn’t cook for us that day, the recipes of the food that we had at West View that day, were all his. Chef Manisha Bhasin of ITC also joined the table, adding another star to the conversation. We began with a Neapolitan style pasta with chunks of eggplant and mozarella sauce (Rigatoni con Pomodori e Melanzane) which was simple and delicious. I could have had endless helpings of the same. It was paired with Fratelli Sauvignon blanc. Skeeter like Fratelli from the selection of Indian wines on offer at wine stores. Next came the Beetroot Risotto, so well plated that Skeets could just laminate it and frame it on her wall. Skeets managed to do better. She took pictures of it. Grin. Perfect pink in colour, the Risotto came with such gorgeous sides of broccoli doused in olive oil and the cutest baby carrots for company. It was paired with Fratelli Sangiovese. Skeeter loved the bite of the Risotto to bits. Perfectly cooked. Next came the Dolce, which should’ve been the star of the meal, but were sorely disappointing. Will skip writing about it. 

All said, it was an afternoon well spent. David Rocco is a charming and talented chef. Oops Italian! From plucking and eating lemons, skin on in Amalfi episodes to tossing pizzas with two chefs in another episode and then the drunken spaghetti episode, he’s fun on TV and in real life.

He was in India to shoot for the Indian chapter of his show, so we will get to see more of him on TV, and that too in familiar locales. Skeeter is looking forward to it! It was fun meeting Ruchira, Deeba and Sangeeta again.

Dilli meets London @ Prezzo (from the London Diary)

A shopping spree at Harrow led the girlies to St. Georges Shopping Centre for a much needed lunch at Prezzo (serving Italian cuisine). For vegetarians it is rocket science to read through that menu and stay sane to order.
The girlies managed. (These girlies o’course are Skeety and the Nuttiest Nut)15 minutes of consultation and contemplation later they ordered some fries and Mozzarella in Carrozza with Podomoro sauce. Mozzarella in Carozza is essentially Mozzarella cheese deep-fried in breadcrumbs served with a tomato-based pomodoro sauce. And ofcourse coke.
The Mozzarella in Carrozza was a bite of heaven! It was made to perfection and served at just the right tempature.
They then ordered a Margherita Pizza for the main course from the Calzone menu which Prezzo offers. The Pizza was nice and that’s about all Skeety would like to say about it.The array of sinful desserts they serve could not tempt the two tummies to overeat after stuffing in the above.
As for the service, the staff were a little indifferent even when the restaurant had only three tables occupied at that hour.
When the food is excellent, ambience a classic and staff resembles a mouth blister, it seems as if the cake has been robbed of that fabulous piece of decor. Sigh!
P.S.: This is one of the few posts from Skeety’s London Diary which may be written about here when Skeety so desires.

Location: St Georges Shopping Centre, St Ann’s Road, Harrow, Middlesex, HA1 1HS0208 4279588

On Google Maps for St.Georges Shopping Centre

Hairy tales@ The Big Chill

When restros, bars or cafes goof up, they often apologise with words and a complimetary something to make the patrons happy. Worldwide practise this. But rare is the case when you get abused (well sort of) by way of being told SO, WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Skeety was up in fumes when the Bannofee pie @ The Big Chill, Khan Market had a 2-centimetres long hair hanging from it!

Skeety showed it to the staff and it was replaced. As Skeety didn’t want to upset herself on a holiday, and also thought it to be a one-off incident, she ate the replacment.

And lo! When the plate was about to be sent back Skeety realised the presence of ANOTHER hair in her plate, this time. TWICE in the same hour on the same bloody table.

The manager was called for.

He said SORRY, which didn’t sound one bit genuine (from the heart types). Rather it didn’t sound like a sorry at all. He refused to share the owner’s number as well. But he did insist on ANOTHER replacement. GUTS I tell you!

When Skeety refused the offer, the Manager said, SO WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Skeety does NOT and WILL NOT eat from a dirty kitchen EVER AGAIN. Also, by means of this post, SMS-es and other means Skeety is ensuring that her friends stay off the DIRTY PLACE as well…

When your hard-earned money leaves a bad taste in the mouth all you can shout out is:


P.S.: A few friends asked that WHY did Skeety pay the bill. Answer: In the hope that they might give their chefs and other staff money for shaves and haircuts…

Never going there again!