“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”~ Cesar Chavez
Looking closely at our city's food scene, one feels it has become absolutely saturated with restaurants. There seem to be new restaurants popping up across every neighborhood in the city offering exotic cuisines to entice the adventurous palates of Delhites. So, in this sea of dining places to really stand out and make a mark, restaurateurs have to offer their customer with an unique experience or face the danger to be left out in this rat race. This fate many new restaurants in the city have already faced - they have opened with a bang but sadly shut down with a whimper, not being able to hold themselves in the competition.
An invite from the newly opened restaurant Artusi Ristorante in M block market in Gk II, with the promise of an authentic Italian experience made me curious enough to give it a visit. Seriously, I was a bit skeptical of accepting the invitation at first, as I thought what new and unique flavors can this Italian restaurant have to offer which the others haven't showcased before them. After all, in our city you can find an Italian restaurant at just a stone's throw across any point in the city. So what would this restaurant have to offer that could appease my discerning palate? Or would it be just turn out to be another run-of-the-mill Italian restaurant ?
Having only been opened about a month Artusi Ristorante has managed to create quite a buzz in the foodie circles. Named after the 18th century culinary author, Pellegrino Artusi, who wrote the legendary cookbooks 'Science in the kitchen' and 'The Art of Eating Well' and is considered the founder of Italian cuisine.
Most of Artusi's dishes reflects the cuisine from beautiful region of Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy which is also known as the legendary "bread basket" of Italy. With its capital of Bologna, this region is considered by many to be the gastronomical and culinary heart of Italy. We were told that the region of Emilia-Romagna is the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan cheese), balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di parma, and an enormous variety of fresh, handmade, stuffed pastas. Listening to all this really whetted my appetite and I just couldn't wait to see what was in store for us.
Instead of choosing our dishes we decide to let Chef Romina Lugaresi's suggest the dishes. We asked for small portions of each dish so we could try out more. While we waited, we ladies chose our mocktails while our better halves decided to go in for some sparkling wine. Both the cocktails Apple King and Strawberry Surprise were absolutely refreshing and chilled to beat down the afternoon heat.
We were also served an assortment of fresh breads accompanied with a fiery dip made with sun dried tomatoes and olive oil. The breads were fresh and tasted delicious dipped in the tomato pesto.
We started our meal with a Ferro Salad which had Baby spinach, grapes, pears and goat cheese salad - finished with toasted pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. It was lightly seasoned with a lovely crunch from the toasted pine nuts. This is the perfect kind of salad that one can have (read 'should have') everyday for lunch to keep away the calorie monsters.
Next dish was Rape e Noci, a salad with roasted beets, water cress, green apple, walnuts, goats cheese and finished with croutons and balsamic vinegar. Not only did it look as pretty as a picture but it tasted great too. The smoky flavor of the beetroot, complemented the creaminess of the goat cheese with the crunch from the walnuts and green apple lending a lovely interplay of taste and textures.
Next was another beautiful salad, Pollo Tiepido - warm chicken breast set in fennel salad with oranges and olives and oregano. Once again, the combination of the chicken with olives and fennel was perfect with the oranges giving it a lovely citrusy kick.
Gamberi e Avocado was a prawns and avocado salad served with crunchy iceberg, tomatoes, spring onions, celery topped with fresh lemon dressing. The prawns were huge, juicy and perfectly cooked.
Our main course started with Gnocchi Pesto e Patate - home made gnocchi pasta set in a traditional pesto and potatoes sauce. The gnocchi was pillowy soft and just melted in your mouth. You could make out that the pesto sauce was freshly made with basil leaves from its flavor and fragrance. This was a dish that got a big nod from all of us on the table.
Next to be served was a plate of Tortelli and Capelleto. Tortelli was hand made pasta pockets filled with a mix of pumpkins and potatoes set in a cramy Goronzola Cheese sauce. I believe Tortelli is the name used, mainly in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to indicate a type of round or half moon shaped pasta. One bite of the Tortelli and you knew that you were dealing with the masters.It was delicious. The pasta was thinly rolled out so you could really savor the filling inside. The sauce was smooth, creamy and cheesy. In short - indulgent.
Cappelletto were cute little hat shaped pasta pockets, filled with ricotto and Parmiggiano Reggiano cheeses and set in a light tomatoes and basil sauce. The tomato sauce was silky smooth and rich and yet not overpowering the main dish. Simple, beautiful flavors but packing a powerful punch.
Our vegetarian friend had a Caponata served to her - A traditional Italian mainstay composed of eggplant, yellow peppers, pine nuts, onions, celery and fresh tomatoes.
Paglia e Fieno Aurora - "Green and white" angel hair pasta made by hand - set in a pink sauce with shallots, mushrooms, cream and tomatoes. Excellently executed it was amazing to see how thin and evenly the pasta was rolled out. Crispy fried pieces of bacon gave a lovely flavor to the whole dish.
Pappardelle Faraona was again a home-made pasta in the shape of very broad noodles -set in a ragu' of slow-cooked grandmother style guinea hen and vegetables. We enjoyed it with some extra Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Though we had 3-4 different kinds of pasta, each one of them had a different flavor and taste.
By the end of our pasta marathon session we were quite full and gladly welcomed our palate cleanser - a Green apple sorbet topped with some sparkling wine.
What came next was a surprise package literally. We were served little parcels of aluminium foil which when we opened we were engulfed by delicious aromas.
Branzino Cartoccio oven baked imported sea bass filet served with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and olives. This was a dish right after my heart - baked fish, fresh aromatic flavors and served with a generous serving of vegetables and it did not take me long to polish it off completely.
Ready to burst at our seams we could only take a small bites of the next dish PolloIndiavolato
slightly spicy, half, corn fed spring chicken - grilled to perfection and served with panzanella salad and rosemary roasted potatoes and Costine di Maiale -premium quality baby back ribs imported from Europe Slowly cooked ribs grilled to tenderness on a rich and thick house sauce -served with French fries and grilled vegetables. The chicken was tender and flavorsome. The only problem with the baby back ribs was that there was very little meat on the bone.
Desserts were indeed the highlight of the day - each one more exceptional than the other. Even though we were totally stuffed and thought that not a single morsel could pass our lips we were so full, the desserts totally blew us away and amongst the four of us we did manage to polish off quite a bit :) We started with their signature dish- Pannacotta pudding served with caramelized figs and roasted almonds. A perfectly set wobbly pannacotta served on a bed of caramelized figs was a dream. The crunch from the toasted almonds and the caramelized figs perfectly sets off the creaminess of the panacotta. This is a dessert sure to make one go weak in the knees. Highly recommended!!
Next to taste was Creme Pistacchio e Caffe - custard cream with coffee gelatin, butter cookies and pistachio crackers.
Crema Bruciata - Slowly cooked vanilla custard cream with a deliciously crunchy topping. The classic Creme Brulee
ZuppalnglesMeringata -The recipe for this traditional Emilia-Romagna dessert was first used in the 19th century and has remained a favourite ever since. Made from a delightful combination of sponge cake, egg custard, strawberries,meringues and a shot of Italian coffee
We ended with a strong cup of Cappuccino coffee - which was badly required after our eating nirvana. Seriously on looking around we realized we were the only people sitting in the restaurant. It was already four and we just did not realize how quickly time had passed.
That is what good food and good company does to you.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. You could make out not only was it made with so much passion but served with equal passion too. Simple yet sublime flavors combined artfully.
Indeed the meal was exquisite, definitely a cut above the rest.
A big thanks to Ms.Gurprinder Balcon and Oscar Balcon and their executive chef Romina Lugaresi for this delicious culinary adventure. I am so glad I got to be a part of it.