Delhi’s culinary scene is evolving so fast it is hard to keep up. A few weeks back, the city got itself yet another enticing new addition, Zerruco By Zilli, a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant at Hotel Ashok, marking with it the Asian debut of the London based famous celebrity chef and restaurateur, Aldo Zilli.
The restaurant is the brainchild of restaurateurs Kashif Farooq and Prashant Ojha, the promoters of Urban Pind and Urban Cafes, and is backed by the strategic advisory support of Manish Baheyti, who incidentally is also responsible for bringing Aldo Zilli to India. Zerruco is co-branded with the Celebrity chef Aldo Zilli who brings to India his signature selection of contemporary Mediterranean dining. Aldo Zilli has designed the menu for the restaurant himself where he would be bringing in recipes from his celebrated restaurants Zilli Fish and Zilli green and the 12 books that he has authored.
I was privileged to be invited to the preview launch of the restaurant and fortunate to meet the celebrity chef in person. And I can’t tell you what a treat it was!! We had the good fortune of spending a major part of our evening conversing with him and were totally swept off our feet by his charming ways, friendly attitude, and witty sense of humor.
Zilli who was born in a small Italian seaside town of Alba Adriatica in the region of Abruzzo, was the youngest in the family of 9 children. He developed his passion for Italian cooking while helping his mother out with the family meals.
Chef Aldo was looking forward to bringing forth his experience of catering to a majority of vegetarian Indian diners at his famous vegetarian Italian restaurant Zilli Green in London. Here too, in the restaurant an entire section has been planned by Aldo Zilli for vegetarians.
Excited about his maiden visit to India, Zilli said, "This finally is a chance for me to venture out of my comfort zone into the Asian market.Having tasted some of the best Indian food from great chefs in London, such as Atul Kochhar, to say that I am excited about Zerruco by Zilli is an understatement as I have fed and met some fantastic people from India in my 35 years in London.I am expecting a big culinary adventure,and I am sure I am not going to be disappointed". Also he would be insistent on keeping the menu fresh and source the main ingredients locally.
Another thing the chef spoke about ‘Cicchetti’, a concept of servings in small plates, tapas style cuisine so that the people get to try more dishes which he was looking forward to introduce in Zerruco.
To ensure the authenticity of the experience, Aldo Zilli has been training the chefs at the restaurant for a couple of months. He has also placed one of his own chefs here who will be guiding the Indian chefs and he himself will be coming over every three months to change the menu according to the seasons and ensure a smooth run.
When we reached Zerruco By Zilli in the evening there was still work being done in preparation for the big launch the next day.
As we entered the restaurant, we come upon its expansive al fresco area with a beautiful overhanging chandelier, cream leather sofas, a bar and a wood fired oven on one side, making it a perfect setting to spend your summer evenings.
We were ushered into a huge dining space inside with brilliantly done up interiors giving the whole place a chic and elegant look. On one side of the restaurant, was a 70 ft wood finished square panel wall, lit up with beautiful colored lights, setting up our mood for the evening ahead.
We began the evening by being served a basket of fresh breads by Aldo Zilli himself.
These were accompanied by a fresh Olive and Basil Tapenade and Sun dried tomatoes with capers and Olive oil. The toppings were so delicious and fresh tasting, a trademark of Aldo Zilli, that they just disappeared in no time.
Next up was Minestrone Classico- classic Italian soup with lots of fresh vegetables, beans and baby pasta, Aldo Zilli's signature dish. I loved the soup. It was incredibly fresh and light to taste and perfect to warm your insides in the cold winter evening.
Salad with Crispy fried Squid tossed with fresh chilli, garlic chips and coriander was served next. Lightly seasoned, the calamari had a beautifully light and crisp coating.
Melanzane Alla Parmigiana had layers of fried aubergine with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. The layer of cheese between the aubergines was melting and oozing out between the slices of aubergines making it heavenly paired with the crispy aubergines and the fresh tomato sauce.
Hats off to chef for his ingenuity!! One bite of this scrumptious dish is sure to convert a few aubergine detesters into huge fans (read 'my son').
For the Main course, we had Fresh Tagliatella pasta with Mediterranean vegetables and red pepper pesto. This was the least impressive dish on the menu. Though the pasta was freshly made, unfortunately mine was a little too salty because of which I had to leave my dish unfinished.
Pan roasted Sea Bass fillet with fennel and orange salad, potatoes and spiced red wine sauce for me was the star dish of the day. The sea bass was delicately flavored with a perfectly crisped skin. Tasting this incredible dish you realize why Aldo Zilli is famed for his seafood dishes.
Though not part of our set menu the chef was keen that we have a taste of the freshly baked pizzas baked in the wood fired oven. Fresh out of the oven, the pepperoni pizzas were excellent, thin crusted, fresh pomodoro sauce on top, gooey melting cheese, they were bursting with flavor and could surely give any snazzy pizza place a run for their money. Undoubtedly the best I have had in a long time.
Grilled lamb chops were served next with wild mushrooms, stewed leeks, peppercorn sauce and a side of mashed potatoes. Tender and juicy, the lamb chops were grilled to perfection. The mashed potatoes served alongside were buttery and velvetty smooth. The portions served were huge and as by this time my tummy was ready to burst, I decided to pass my half finished plate (though unwillingly) to my husband which he happily polished off.
Can any Italian meal be complete without the classic Italian dessert Tiramisu? Extremely light and creamy the Tiramisu was perfectly balanced in flavors and textures - the mascarpone cheese and coffee married into a perfect harmony. For me, it was love at first spoonful.
In serious food coma, we decided to share the next dessert Baked dark chocolate and chilli fondant with homemade vanilla icecream which again was pure indulgence. A dark chocolate river oozed out from the center of the cake totally mesmerizing you. Best part about both the desserts apart from being perfectly executed, that neither of them were overly sweet - a perfect ending to our great meal.
On the whole it was truly a memorable experience at Zerruco by Zilli. The fresh and simple Italian fare totally bowled us over. We wish Chef Aldo Zilli and the entire 'Zerruco by Zilli' team the very best in their new venture.