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Local stuff, safe hands

Though new in Delhi, Executive Sous Chef Vito Froio at The Grand is no novice to ingredients on offer in the city, finds out SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY on a trip with him to INA market.



FRESH IS JUST FINE: The Grand's Executive Chef Vito Froio at INA market in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan.

IF BY Chinese cuisine, we think of noodles first, by Italian food, we definitely think of pizza first. So, it is easy for you and me to digest with a knowing smile as to why pizzas at Brix, the Italian restaurant at The Grand here, is the most popular dish. Like Chinese noodles, pizza base is commonplace in a Delhi grocery. Good cheese, lots of spices, Indian vegetables to top it, and here we go munch, munch, munch!

But just three months old in Delhi, the hotel's Executive Sous Chef Vito Froio hailing from Naples in Italy, seems to look at it as "It is selling because it must have tasted good." Well, he doesn't know the by-now old story of how South Indian food beyond South is popularly sambhar-dosa-idli. So, as better Southern cuisine is beyond the everyday dosa-idli, Italian food, you know, is far beyond pizzas. And proving true to this, Chef Vito has now turned the earlier European shade over Brix into completely Italian by bringing in to the menu dishes with a mouthful name like saltimbocca alla romana (lamb loin topped with parma ham with Sage and white wine sauce), anantra alli arancia (duck in orange sauce), pasta integrale alle verdure miste (whole wheat pasta with fresh vegetables), nodini (bonelss lamb sauted with gorgonzola sauce), roasted pumpkin soup, wild mushroom risotto and the like. Though the usual hotel supplies bring in to the kitchen all he needs, Chef Vito is beginning to make his rounds to local markets in search of ingredients.

"I normally go to the INA market. It is good and interesting too as everything you need can be an easy find," the chef says, a tad assumed he looks. "We buy olive oil locally, all the English vegetables come from our suppliers here, and meat including ducks locally procured are of required sizes and can ooze good taste," the chef says. Lifting a bottle of Porcino olive oil at a shop in INA market, he recommends it as a medium for Italian food.

"Look at the people not only in Italy but in the entire Mediterranean region, they live longer lives. Thanks to the oil," this former chef at Sheraton Beijing almost does a toast to it.

Local flavours

Carrots, parsley, peppers, basil, potatoes, pumpkin... he seems to go by their smell. "I use even the Indian dals to make a soup that goes well with the local palette," the chef by now stops at a lentil shop, checking the quality of their produce with bare hands, wanting to know where has he got his dals from. "But certain things like lamb for nodini for instance, come from New Zealand," he informs. Trying to add the traditional Italian home-style to the Brix menu, the chef invites you to the restaurant "to try it out." And here, he adds a bit on pizza ingredients. The San Marzano tomatoes used in pizzas, he says, are a pillar of Neapolitan cooking and the Mediterranean diet. Originally from Peru, exported to Italy by the Spanish rulers and grown in Italy for the first time in the borough of San Marzano, this variety of tomato is the most suited for transformation into the famous canned "peeled tomatoes", a typical Italian product that is well-known worldwide. The second essential ingredient for a real pizza is mozzarella cheese and especially the Campania - made mozzarella di bufala, he says.

Meanwhile, having already made trips to some other local markets, he is now preparing for a foray into the hustle-bustle of Azadpur mandi.

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