Chianti is a region in Tuscany, Italy, that produces a special kind of red wine. Pronounced with a hard ‘k’ sound, Chianti is associated with fineness and authenticity. The Chianti Ristorante Pune, at Phoenix MarketCity, Viman Nagar, incorporates the same concept. With a buzzing mall outside its doors, this cosy and quaint rustic eatery makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a different realm where life is simple, organic, and fresh — La dolce vita if you will. The happy Western instrumental, like soundtracks from the Hollywood movies from the 50s, adds to this feeling.
This Bengaluru-based brand recently opened its first outlet in Pune, and we braved the rains on a Monday evening to go check it out. Our drinks included an Orange and Thyme Ice Tea, which is perfect when you want something that warms you from inside but don’t want to sip on anything hot, and a Classic Italian Soda, slightly different from factory-made ice-cream sodas because it comes with a generous topping of whipped cream, which you have to mix vigorously till the drink forms a thin creamy texture to enjoy it right way.
The beverages arrived with complimentary Make Your Own Bruschetta supplies that included four slices of toasted baguette, some cloves of peeled garlic, a few fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes cut into halves. The staff came and suggested we follow the set of instructions on a standee on our table for this DIY ‘Introduction to Italian Cuisine’ crash course of sorts. After rubbing the garlic on the baguette, and spreading out the basil leaves and tomatoes, sprinkling on some salt and pepper, and drizzling a bit of olive oil, I declared myself to be quite the amateur Italian chef.
Feeling happy with ourselves, we gorged on the antipasti platters — the Piatto Di Vegetariani came with homely arancini, tomato and mozzarella bruschetta and crumb-fried mozzarella, while the Piatto Di Carne E Pesce was presented with an arrangement of chicken and pesto bruschetta, strips of grilled chicken and crumb-fried chicken.
Then our table was blessed by the freshest pizza one could sink their teeth into. And we’re not just talking about the toppings, though they provide just the right amount of crunch due to the brand’s farm-to-table concept. You could tell that the eight-inch personal sized pizza was made with perfectly kneaded dough, so it was light and crisp on top but porous and soft inside. In fact, this was the only time I would have enjoyed the crust even more than the centre.
The main course was tough to decide because their menu has such a wide collection of authentic pastas and risottos that you want to try even more than you can manage to fit into your tummy. We had the Ravioli Di Spinach E Ricotta and a vegetarian version of the simple Aglio Olio that the fantastic chef agreed to customise for us.
Like the classic recipe from Naples, this Aglio Olio had al dente spaghetti and a variety of freshly chopped vegetables tossed with olive oil and red paprika for a slight zing. The ravioli came in a small portion. About five pieces were tossed in a slightly watery sauce, which prevented it from becoming heavy on the tummy. But if you insist on your sauce being creamy, you can always ask the chef to oblige you, or just pour a little olive oil. The staff also brought some Tabasco to our table at this point, but the taste of the dishes was so delightful that we didn’t need it at all.
Left with little space for dessert, we ordered the traditional Tiramisu and Panna Cotta. After being served authentic Italian recipes throughout our meal so far, we were surprised when the desserts arrived with an innovative twist. Layers of homemade coffee-flavoured mascarpone cheese with coffee liqueur soaked spongey interceptions were served on a plate with a biscotti filled chocolate chunks as their take on the traditional Tiramisu. And the low-key Vanilla Panna Cotta was jazzed up with a sweet-tangy berry compote, a piece of sugar art, a ball of tangerine and a scoop of strawberry gelato.