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For a taste of Italy

SUMITRA SENAPATY savours Italian food at Oberoi's La Rochelle & Wine Bar, where a visiting chef introduces Delhi to the sweets and spices of life in the land of Da Vinci.


TILL NOVEMBER 25 one may go Italian at the Oberoi's Italian Food Festival at La Rochelle & Wine Bar where a culinary Renaissance is being presented by Paulo Londero, chef of the Hotel Hassler, Rome, one of Italy's legendary heritage hotels. Italy has much to be proud of: Breathtaking Italian architecture and art, Verdi, Vivaldi, Puccini and Rossini, history and tradition. But most of all, there is Italian food from the city of la dolce vita, and you don't have to be Italian to enjoy it, just interested in enjoying the tastes of fresh healthy food. Lunch with Dr. Galli, the Italian Trade Commissioner and Devendra Bharma, the hotel's new General Manager is a voyage of discovery as they guide us through courses of antipasti, lasagne, and fettuccine, concluding with the zucchine and thyme crusted monkfish fillet and the wild mushroom preparation with the blue berry sauce, the highlights being the mozzarella cheese, porcini mushrooms and the Frescobaldi whites and reds.


Apart from getting along some porcini, the tasty Italian mushroom, and the Taleggio, a sharp Italian soft cheese, the visiting chef is satisfied with `local' Italian ingredients. His approach seems to be innovative, modern and ingredient based. Londero is not in favour of overcomplicating preparations by use of too many flavours, adhering, instead, to basic flavours so that the freshness of food remains unmasked with individual flavours being retained. To stock up on feeling good, the Hassler style of pasta without an excess of sauce seems to be a cool Italian idea. The wild mushroom lasagne with red wine and blueberry sauce and the potato and pecorino cheese ravioli with hazelnut butter, orange and leek are some of the recommended variations during this festival. Actually pasta can be cut in the most fanciful ways - tagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine, itagliati, and more. Or, divided in large square pieces, it can be stuffed with meat or vegetables and closed like a purse to create preparations like ravioli or tortellini.

Along with all things Italian, the festival will also introduce a fairly new concept of eating billed as `The Wine Master's Table'. Here you will be a guest of the Wine Master Nick Dumergue of The International Wine Academy, Rome who will present a specially paired menu with four Italian wines. Dessert is a provocative assortment of dolci - Italian for sweet - and there is a platter full of it, literally. Try the panna cotta with glazed pears and red wine. This is a lovely amalgam of milk and gelatin that resembles a dollop of white Hershey's, artistically embellished with strawberries and a chocolate swirl. The hugely popular tiramisu with almond and coffee sauce and the Hassler ricotta cake are the other sweets on the platter. Just let your imagination run wild, despite the chuckles about calories, and finish your meal in true Italian style - with a shot of Espresso.

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