When Pizza and Pasta Meet

This article is a reflection of our experience of the same event in two cities. Given that two articles would be redundant, since both roughly followed the same format, this article by both, Natasha and Nadeem, presents a picture of the Chef at Large experience with Pizza Hut’s latest endeavor – Ed.

Pizza Hut is synonymous with, well, pizza! However, the chain also has a nice selection of pastas and desserts, which we’ve eaten on more than one occasion. They recently held the third round of Chef’s Tables, with interactions between invited guests, including CaL Blogger’s Table members (Nadeem attended in Delhi and Natasha in Bangalore) and Pizza Hut Head Chef Arjyo Bannerjee and Chef Luca Ciano, Executive Chef, Barilla International. Barilla is the foremost name in the pasta and pasta sauce business, and during the Chef’s Table we got to know that Pizza Hut uses Barilla pasta for their dishes. After the customary introductions, with the two Chefs giving us insight into their cooking styles and careers (during the course of which it became evident that these two guys are friends and share great camaraderie that makes for super fun!), we got down to the business of eating. We were served items from the regular menu and also enjoyed special pastas prepared by Chef Luca.

Non Veg Sliders
Non Veg Sliders

First to come were the beverages: Sipping Cheese Cake (might work for some as a dessert, but its definitely too sweet as a drink), Ginger Lime Cooler (this was the winner, with the spiciness of ginger and tang of lime) and Candied Lemon. The appetizers included options for both carnivores and vegetarians; the latter platter had crispy veg patty (a delicious corn and cheese patty), parmesan n garlic potato wedges and onion rings with sweet chili and jalapeno cheese sauce. The non-vegetarian platter included chicken topped crispies, jerk chicken skewer and an Arabian classic, kibbeh with tomato salsa & yoghurt dip. The general consensus was that the veg appetizers made a bigger impression than the non veg ones, and this from people who love their meat! We were served two pizzas from the current menu: Roasted red pepper, arugula and parmesan and Flame grilled chicken and veggies. Here too, the vegetarian pizza won more fans, and we found ourselves reaching for second pieces. Fresh, crisp arugula really elevated the taste.

Spaghetti
Spaghetti

Now came the time for the main attraction of the night: the pastas cooked by the two Chefs. The tantalizing aromas of the ingredients had us all a little light-headed. It was the simplest of things really – EVOO, garlic, fresh basil. It was a real pleasure to watch Chef Arjyo and Chef Luca whip up the dishes, and in Bangalore, a recurring issue with the electricity meant that we were treated to some extended impromptu banter between the two, and were also party to a little demo of Chef Luca’s knife skills; impressive, the way the man can look at you and carry on a conversation, while cutting an eggplant skin into the thinnest slivers you ever saw! We thoroughly enjoyed Chef Luca’s stories about Italy and cooking, and were charmed by Chef Arjyo’s choosing the daughter of one of our Bangalore Table members as his assistant.

Fusilli tossed in tangy tomato and herb sauce, tempered with cream sauce for extra indulgence.
Nadeem: Fusilli’s one of my favorite pastas due to the fact it has a large surface area and gives a lot of starch to bite on. The sauce having tomato sauce and cream, had a touch of Indian “makhani” flavors to it, and I found the cream and tomato both canceling each other’s characteristic flavors.
Lasagna bolognese garnished with parmesan, tomatoes and parsley. The classic bolognese sauce was made using chicken, tomatoes and red wine.
Natasha: Lasagne, for me, needs red meat to taste right. This chicken version was particularly bland and did not do anything for me, and indeed, no one took more than a couple bites at my table. I would have to say it was the worst lasagne I’ve ever eaten!
Penne with Sicilian vegetable caponata, salted ricotta and pine nuts was Chef Luca’s first off menu offering of the night. Caponata we learned, is traditional of Sicily.
Nadeem: I really liked the combination of spring vegetables, herbs, vinegar, capers and Italian tomato paste. The dish was served with toasted pine nuts and a touch of genius by the chef, fried aubergine skins acting as a towering garnish.
Warm spaghetti pasta salad, with lemon and oregano marinated prawns.
Natasha: Some people balked when they heard the prawns would be raw, but this turned out to be best dish of the night. Cold marinated prawns, sun dried tomatoes, tossed with warm spaghetti, with a garnish of garlic and rosemary toasted bread crumbs, served in little bowls, had us reaching for seconds.

We ended on a sweet note – dessert was Warm chocolate trio, a perfectly decent affair. We enjoyed the chance to meet and watch two such vivacious chefs in action, and despite some people turning up their noses at a place like Pizza Hut doing Chef’s Tables, we think it was a lovely and charming effort and says something about the brand that they want to be known for more than just pizza, and are reaching out to foodies.

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