On my way to Italia last evening, the rain Gods unleashed their fury upon the city that needs just a few droplets to mangle itself into convoluted traffic jams. After spending over an hour stuck in traffic-snarled roads, I was grumpy, and very upset my new shoes were ruined. Then I stepped inside Italia. It was warm and smelling lovely, as my friend and I moved to a familiar table and sat down. A big fan of their regular menu, this time we tried “Olive galore” – a special Olive festival on from 24th August – 2nd September. After the manager recommended some wonderfully warm Moroccan green tea (just what I needed) I was ready to dig into some food.
The festival menu has a variety of dishes (starters, salads, mains, pizza, pasta, and dessert) all of which use different olives. A total of ten types of olives from around the world are on offer.
The Seafood panzanella (570) was full of olives, calamari, shrimps, river sole, tomato, and some really fresh greens. The seafood was mild in flavour and cooked well, but it was the olives that really provided the first hit of full flavour. Craving something slightly warmer, we ordered the Sautéed mushroom, baby potatoes and manzanilla olives (350) which was like a dry stir-fry of sorts: crispy potatoes with skin, soft mushrooms, and salty olives; lovely textures in this one.
I love the pizzas at Italia, so even before the Coppa ham, Colossal olive & caramelized onion pizza (650) arrived at the table I knew it would be good. I think this may warrant a haiku:
Crust so thin and crisp
Salty ham and tangy olive dance
Sweet onion whispers
Okay that was random, but the pizza was excellent. I ate it each slice in a couple of big bites after rolling it up, which as you will know, is the Italia way of eating pizza.
The Rigatoni with tenderloin, bell pepper, and green olives (560) was a wholesome, no-fuss dish. Rich, deep flavours, it reminded me of sitting wrapped up in a blanket near a fireplace on a winter evening. The tenderloin was soft, the peppers and olives lent bite, and the sprinkle of Parmesan over the top really added a lovely creaminess. I feel Rigatoni may have been too large for this dish though; perhaps a smaller sized pasta would have worked better.
For the main course we tried the Braised lamb shanks with nicoise olives and saffron risotto (695) and the Milan style chicken with manzanilla olives in butter sauce (635). The chicken was crispy and the butter sauce was well seasoned- a perfectly acceptable dish. The lamb shanks though, were a league apart. The meat was tender, yet holding shape, the nicoise olives went wonderfully with the dark, peppery sauce, and the risotto was simple but creamy and complemented the lamb well. A star dish in my opinion.
There was one other thing on the special menu I couldn’t leave without trying. I was very curious about the Extra virgin Olive oil gelato (295). Two scoops of silky-smooth, sweet gelato, bursting with the flavors of extra virgin oil, this cold dessert had a surprisingly warm feel. I’m so glad they kept it simple and didn’t attempt a forced dessert with olives. It was a wonderful way to end a meal celebrating olives. On only for another few days, visit the Olive festival @ Italia soon!
Ed: Cover photo not from Italia.