Summer Menu @ Italia, Vasant Kunj

Charis came away utterly besotted by the food at Italia and suggest you take that risk too.

It’s not very often that a meal impresses you with consistent dedication from start to finish. You hope for it and there are signs, which create in you the kind of nervous anticipation you feel at the start of a relationship. Usually the love doesn’t always follow all the way through. Sometimes the bread is really good, the starters are better, and from then on it’s all downhill… or the mains are delicious, but the desserts make you want to cry. Sometimes though, just sometimes, everything works perfectly from the first bite to the last, and you know you’re hooked.

In a quiet corner of DLF Promenade Mall sits Italia. With a cover of about 150 (approx. 90 indoors and 50 terrace) Italia is beautifully lit, with a well-stocked bar and wine cellar and very attentive staff (they’re all trained at The Park I hear, so I’m not surprised).

The night unfolded in a series of steps.

Step 1 or Nervous Anticipation: A platter of crisp, olive Focaccia arrived to say hello. I’m not accustomed to eating such thin slivers of this type of bread, but with the garlic dip, pesto and grated grana padano as accompaniments, I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning.

Step 2 or Butterflies in the Tummy: The fried mix seafood with saffron aioli (595) was an assortment of little bites, all coated with the same delicious, crispy batter. The calamari was thinly sliced and perfectly cooked, the swordfish soft and delicately flavoured, but the winner in this dish were the sun-dried tomatoes; mildly tart and a touch of sweetness. The subtle saffron aioli was perfect with it. The Parma ham rolled Grissini with organic sprouts and Parmesan shavings (485) was a simple dish with wonderfully complex textures and flavour profiles. The ham lent a sweetness, rocket leaves and sprouts; a slight bitterness, creaminess from the Parmesan, and the crunch of the Grissini. We also tried the mixed lettuce salad (350), which was filled with olives, melon, cucumber and a sweet but sharp Balsamic dressing.

Step 3 or Serious Attraction: Nothing I say can do these pizzas justice. They were hands down, the best pizzas I have ever eaten. The tuna, anchovy, and olive pizza (625) had a tomato base, with gorgeous, gooey cheese and a delicious saltiness from the fish. The wood-oven baked crust was thin, but with enough bite for me to enjoy every mouthful. Our server suggested we roll up the pizza to get a bit of the crusty edge in every bite; I did and thought it a pioneering way to eat pizza. Please try it! The other pizza was the vegetarian Pesto and Artichoke Pizza (550). Anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows I don’t waste precious stomach space on vegetarian food. This pizza however, was excellent; the same thin crust, but with a pesto base which wasn’t over-powering at all. Scattered over it were sun-dried tomatoes and chunky pieces of artichoke that added a sort of meatiness to the dish. We also tried the Smoked chicken Risotto (525); the smokiness of the chicken, tang from lemon, grainy mustard and cracked pepper all resulted in a deliciously creamy and balanced dish.

Step 4 or Love Declarations: The main course brought us to Norwegian Salmon with caponata (825) and New Zealand lamb chops with olive mash (1350). The salmon was flaky, yet tender and it went beautifully with the caponata of vegetables, which was rich and drenched in a dense tomato-based sauce. The Lamb chops were covered in a rich, dark peppery sauce, studded with sliced mushrooms. The meat was cooked medium with a slight pinkness in the middle; it melted in my mouth. The sides (olive mash and vegetables) were very good, but I had eyes only for the lamb. I couldn’t blame me really.

Step 5 or Married with babies: The fried Mango Ravioli with vanilla ice-cream (275) was a winner. Pretty little crisp ravioli with not a hint of grease, stuffed with small pieces of fresh mango and cream, sitting around two scoops of delicious vanilla bean ice-cream made in-house, with a drizzle of honey over the top. I was swooning at this point. We didn’t want to leave without trying the Tiramisu (295) and we’re glad we didn’t because it did not disappoint. Luscious, with the right amount of coffee and sweetness.

Like I said- Italia delivered with every dish. And that is rare. Visit soon and feel free to drop tragic-angry-happy comments on this page when you fall in love.

By Charis A. B.

is a language editor by profession, a foodie and a talented baker. When she isn't pulverizing a training dummy (and people sometimes) during kickboxing practice, she can be seen clicking away with her camera and scouring markets for hard to find ingredients. She's fond of travelling and an inveterate carnivore. Charis covers New York for Chef at Large and can be reached at charis.bhagianathan@www.chefatlarge.in