Cafe Mezzuna's Sicilian Food Fiesta has an incredibly healthy, farm-focused line-up
It’s not everyday that we find a celebrity chef delicately balancing fresh ricotta over a plate of steaming pasta in his kitchen. But such was our luck when we walked into the Forum outlet of Cafe Mezzuna for a mid-week lunch, and found Enzo Oliveri cooking his heart out in an open kitchen during the Sicilian Food Fiesta at the Mediterranean eatery. The all-day restobar is already renowned for its Italian specialty numbers, and is hosting the fortnight-long Sicilian food festival to satiate our pre-Pujo cravings.
Oliveri has been an expert in Sicilian cuisine and has worked in London for the past twenty years. The menu for the festival has a focus on fresh organic flavours and bona fide Italian culinary techniques; everything from the Bruschetta to the Arancini featured a medley of naturally-driven, farm-focused palates.
The food fiesta is also very conscious about curating a menu that’s not dairy-heavy, or loaded up with multiple carbs. Mainly because Sicilian cuisine has quite a bit of Greek, Spanish and Middle-Eastern influences which give its specialties a refined approach. In fact, Sicilian cuisine majorly brought in the usage of exotic vegetables like eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and couscous into the mainstream culinary spectrum.
As chef Oliveri tossed the diced aubergine into a pot of Pasta Alla Norma, we couldn’t help but notice it was a whole wheat pasta, which the chef tells us, is a great option for a healthy but traditional Alla Norma. The Catanese dish, is one of Sicily’s most widely eaten numbers, and the chef stuck to the original recipe by only including the basic ingredients, like fried eggplants, tomatoes, basil and topped it with some fresh ricotta cheese. The natural hints of the vegetables and the cheese made the pasta a total winner, and transported us to Sicilian moorlands.
We obviously binged on some Bruschetta, which is the perfect post-monsoon antipasti, so flavourful with its rich notes of garlic and red pepper. The Arancini balls were simply amazing and had an even, pillowy density. Arancini are stuffed rice balls, with a bread-crumbed crust and are filled with cheese; they were bigger than your usual Arancini balls but the stuffing was beautifully blended. We also tried some creamy ribbon pasta, made with chunky diced chicken and paired it with a balsamic salad.
But the star of our lunch table came directly from the chef’s counter, and it was the Porcini mushroom pizza. It was nothing like the puffy-edged Neopolitan affair we were expecting, and was in fact a superbly crunchy thin crust flat bread, even skinnier than our regular variety, which made the pizza so bingeable. The slices were generously cut, and the fresh wood-burned aroma was allowed to settle in quite nicely.