Plot No. 27 & 28, City Centre,
Sector 29, Gurgaon
Timing: 12 pm to 11pm
Did you know that tomatoes, that are so now so ingrained in Italian cuisine, were at one time planted as curios and ornaments – and not seen in a delectable light. In fact the fruit was considered poisonous and inedible. It was only in the 17th century that adventurous Florentines began to eat green tomatoes; and a century later, the Nepolitans popularised the cooking of ripened red tomatoes. And the rest, as they say, is history. Most Italians are passionate about this ruddy fruit – and Bill Marchetti, the chef, is no different.
“The red, luscious fruit that is laden with pulp and taste, and is called a tomato, grows only in Italy. Everywhere else, it is something else,” he laughs. Tomatoes, like a lot of other ingredients at Spaghetti Kitchen, are imported – to maintain consistency and quality. “Italian food is all about ingredients. The cuisine has humble, peasantry roots. It has evolved from periods of shortages – when the ingenuity and inventiveness of a cook was tested, by having to use whatever little ingredients were available. Even today the emphasis is not so much on elaborate presentation, a la the French nouritture, as it is on good quality ingredients that are appropriately used.
Ask him about the reason for the popularity of Italian food the world over, and Marchetti gives credit to its versatility. “Italian cuisine is just not one cuisine. If you go down South, to say Sicily, desserts are very sweet, and there is a huge Arab influence that still exists today. If you go way up North, desserts are non-existent, or not very sweet at all – which is the influence of the French and the Austrians. The hotter South uses olive oil; while butter and cream is more commonly used in the North. Tomatoes are more of a southern ingredient, as they thrive in the warm climate. Southern flavours are richer, stronger which more emphasis on sauces; while northern flavours are more subtle. Quality is the only common thread. And thus, each country adopts the style of Italian cooking that is closest to their palettes,” explains the Chef.
“Food varies from one village to another, and there is an old Italian proverb: Never marry a girl from a village more than 10 miles away – as you’ll always be arguing about food!” he smiles.
Italian food, for Marchetti, is a wonderful cornucopia of smells and tastes – that he has efficiently captured in Spaghetti Kitchen’s menu. While this cosy, informal restaurant is neither a tratorria (“too casual”) nor a fine-dining eatery (“too formal”), it is fast becoming a firm favourite with people from all walks of life – for its honest home-style cooking.
Old favourites and new creations jostle for attention – each dish seducing the taste-buds in turn, as you scroll through the menu. We started with the soup of the day, Capuccino of Four Mushroom soup (Rs 260) – a frothy concoction that had a hearty consistency, and was brimming with flavour – owing to an extra portion of porcini mushrooms. A generous portion of Provencale Rocket Leaf Salad (Rs. 375), topped with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, olives and broccoli—with a delicate balsamic dressing—and we were ready for the main course.
Pizza Pesto Parmigiano (Rs. 495), a whole-wheat thin crust ‘cracker’ pizza with pesto and parmesan, is becoming increasingly popular with healthy eaters. Pesto, promises the chef, will taste a “hundred times better” in the coming months – as the basil he imported from Italy, and planted in a friend’s farm on the hills, starts to flourish.
The next course was Fregolla con Calamaretti (Rs. 550), fregola with calamari, in tomato and red chilli sauce. Similar to Israel’s couscous, fregola is a type of pasta from Sardinia. When cooked, it takes on a creamy consistency. Combined with a perfectly cooked calamari in a tangy sauce, the dish teased the taste buds into sublime submission. Gnocchi is not one of my favourites, but Marchetti’s Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce (Rs. 510) and nutmeg, won me over.
The winner for me was Veal Piccatini al Limone (Rs. 525) – baby veal escallops with lemon risotto and sautéed garlic spinach. The veal was lightly seared, and brilliantly contrasted with a tart and shiny demi-glace brown sauce. Lightly flavoured lemon-garlic risotto and buttered spinach made interesting accompaniments.
There was nothing low-cal about the meal, and healthy eating was far from my mind. A wicked Tiramisu (Rs. 350), with just the right amount of Marsala, was a perfect finish to an indulgent afternoon.