With Tuscan Lamb Stew, Porcini Potato Stew, Zuppa Inglese and a lot more interesting fare being served at the Italian Fiesta at Momo Cafe, Courtyard by Marriott, you can enjoy the culinary journey and take home a slice of Italy
If you walk into a cafe in Italy and ask for pasta in Marinara sauce, you’ll happily be seated at your table waiting for a bowl full of pasta in tomato-based sauce. But to your surprise, you’ll probably be served pasta with a whole lot of seafood,” says the cheerful Italian chef Christian Huber while talking to food bloggers and media professionals invited to taste the new section of Italian cuisine added to the buffet for the ongoing Italian Food Festival at Momo Cafe, Courtyard by Marriott Pune, Hinjewadi.
Controlling his chuckle, he tells us that if someone were to order pasta in Alfredo sauce, they would be asked to leave, or if they’re lucky, a person named Alfredo would raise his hand. Answering the raised-eyebrow stares he receives from the table, he says, “There’s no such thing as Alfredo sauce in Italy. These are American concepts. Italian food is very different from how it is made out to be.”
Huber, who you’d usually find in the kitchen at Alto Vino, an Italian fine dining restaurant at JW Marriott, Senapati Bapat Road, has taken over the kitchen and is teaching the staff a few tips and tricks to whip up gourmet Italian dishes for the festival.
We started the evening with a selection of anti-pasti including Sautéed Mushrooms and Garlic, and Smoked Chicken Slices with Tuna Sauce. There were also a few cold salads to choose from, but we got ourselves a serving of steaming Minestrone Soup — a bowl full of a variety of vitamins, proteins and fibre to ensure you stay warm and boost the immune system, and a few Chilli Garlic Croûtons.
The Italian section at the buffet had a balance of meat, vegetables and starch. The Tuscan Lamb Stew was an offering for those who prefer red meat over white. With a thick, rich stew, that tasted of broth, and curry-sized pieces of meat, even small portions of this is enough to make small-eaters feel rather full.
The Alla Mugnaia, or Miller-style fish for those who don’t understand the Italian names of dishes, was a creamy preparation, so creamy that the pieces of boneless fish would just melt in your mouth. Though we were skeptical about it being too cheesy, it wasn’t, and we found ourselves heading back to the buffet for a second helping.
While we were at the counter, we helped ourselves to a small portion of Eggplant Parmigiana. Imagine Lasagna, but instead of flat sheets of pasta there are slices of eggplant. Soft and tangy because of the sauce, crusty because of the baked cheese on top and a little gooey because of the fleshy vegetable — a few spoonfuls really appealed to our taste and we took some more of it.
Just then another dish caught our attention, it was called Porcini Potato Stew. Of all the Italian meals I’ve had in Pune, I’ve never really come across a potato-based dish. Don’t be deceived by the name, the dish did not have runny gravy, instead whole baby potatoes were covered in poached porcini sauce-like thick gravy. We even got a few pieces of porcini mushrooms which were not completely melted into the sauce.
At the festival, there is a live pasta counter, serving the preparation for the day. We were served a freshly made portion of Penne Alla Vodka. A little harder than just ‘al dente’, the penne was tossed in tomato-based sauce, with a splash of spirit which possibly evaporated before the plate made its way to our table.
At the dessert counter, we found two popular Italian treats — Zuppa Inglese, a layered dessert with custard, moist sponge cake, fruits and cream, and the Tiramisu, which surprisingly was nothing like the traditional dessert, but a large bowl of coffee-flavoured cream in which you might find bits of ladyfinger biscuits if you’re lucky.
ST READER SERVICE
Italian Fiesta at Momo Cafe, Courtyard by Marriott Pune, Hinjewadi, till January 21, 7-11.30 pm