Amore Italiano, Italian Food Fest, Movenpick Hotel, Bangalore

Movenpick Hotel, Bangalore recently held a Chef’s Table with visiting Chef Antonio Lotito, who is from Milan, but came to us from Jordan, where he currently is stationed at the Movenpick Resort & Residences in Aqaba. A seasoned Chef and restauranteur, what really stood out about the evening, aside from the exemplary food of course, was the generosity and welcoming nature of Chef Antonio. I have been to Chef’s Tables before, and interacted with different Chefs for meals, but never has one taken us through each and every item on the menu, with such attention to teaching. He did not just want to feed us, he wanted to educate us about the culture and the food, and yes, wanted us to be able to recreate the meals in our own homes, should we so desire. For each course, he would say, its simple, do this and this and this, and you can prepare this at your home. I think there was a heightened awareness and pleasure in that meal, for us all, because we saw each dish coming together-from the ingredients, to the cooking methodology, to the plating. And of course, the most essential for us foodies-the eating :)

Every diner will be greeted with a cheese and wine pairing to start the evening, and whether you’re a red or white drinker, you’ll find something to your liking, and the cheeses too, can suit every palate, with Parmesan, Blue Cheese and more. The ambiance and setting at Mezzaluna (Movenpick’s Italian restaurant) is very rustic and charming and the kind of place where you cannot help but relax (even after a long and traffic filled drive over or a stressful day at work). Add to this the open plan kitchen and Chef Antonio’s smiling face and deft hands quickly whipping up delectable morsels, you will surely feel decadent and happy and by the end of the night-full and sated too!

Our table of course had bread baskets with bread sticks, sourdough rolls and foccacia, and we happily munched on these (and at some points in the meal used them to sponge up a sauce or two). To start with, Chef sliced up some freshly baked Zucchine E Melanzaine Alla Parmigiana (zucchini and eggplant baked with butter, Parmesan cheese, and interspersed with a layer of white and a layer of red sauce. Alongside this, we had a fresh rocket lettuce and tomato salad, with Mozzarella straight from Italy (we each got a ball, right out of the container, placed over the crisp tomato slice), and a sauce of fresh basil pesto and balsamic vinegar reduction.

For the pasta course, we got penne cooked in white wine and veg or chicken stock with fresh tomatoes, garlic and red chilli flakes for the vegetarians (Penne all’arrabbiata), with the red chilli flakes making for an “angry pasta” (‘arrabiatta’ means angry), said Chef Antonio. The non-vegetarians got pancetta in theirs, and oh boy, the smell of that fatty bacon cooking was most tantalizing! And yes, it tasted as good as it smelled, and there were a whole lotta oohs and aahs across the table. The next course was vegetable Lasagna and for us meat eaters, a lovely chicken (Involtini Di Pollo Allo Scalogno, chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, accompanied by a roasted eggplant and cream sauce. Next up was a white fish, and not being much of a fish eater, and hearing that the other option was a mushroom crepe, I went for the latter. Crespelle Ripiene Di Funghi Misti E Mascarpone was mascarpone (its an Italian cheese, creamy) filled delight, and definitely my favorite item of the night. It was delicate and unexpected-I have only had mascarpone in desserts until now.

Our evening ended with a lightening speed demo of chocolate truffle making by the chef, and equally fast inhaling of said delicacy by the women he made them for. The poor man thought he would make one per person, but women+chocolate and all that, we had a couple a-piece and I think it was only politeness that stopped us from demanding more! I love truffles, and it was so amazing to watch the Chef deftly melting pieces of dark and milk chocolate, then cooling the mixture to the appropriate temperature and density with an ice bath, and follow that with juggling a spoonful of the stuff between two spoons until it got the right shape, then dipping it in cocoa and plating it up.

The special menu has much, much more, of course. The festival began last week and is on until the end of this week (the 14th), so please, make the time/plan to head out there (yes, its far, I know-it took me almost 2 hours to get there from South Bangalore) because its very worth the time and energy expended. And of course, if you live in Hebbal or thereabouts, you really should not waste the opportunity to get such food and such an experience! It will be a sensory experience for the tongue, the eyes and the ears!

Natasha Ali

Natasha's first foray into food writing has been with Chef at Large. Who knew all those years spent eating food, reading about it and looking for the next restaurant to try or watching cooking shows would have left such an indelible impression?! She's back in India after having spent over a decade in the US where she studied as well as taught in academia and now works as a content writer seeing as she can write about pretty much anything. Movie mad, obsessed with the English language, and never one to turn down a glass of good wine, cup of tea, or a good book, she's open to trying any dish once, she enjoys a variety of cuisines with favorites being Ethiopian, Thai, and Lebanese. Natasha covers Bangalore for Chef at Large and can be reached at natasha.ali@www.chefatlarge.in