JW Marriott’s Italian Food Festival is all about fresh and rustic Mediterranean flavours
When it comes to exploring Mediterranean cuisine, you can’t really do better than JW Marriott. Needless to say, we weren’t giving up a seat at the table for their ongoing Italian Food Festival, curated by expat chef Valter Belli; born in the northern Italian province of Reggio Emilia, which is often considered the gastronomical epicentre of Italian cuisine (owing to its Apennine bounties and farm-focused palates), chef Belli has mastered the traditional Italian faire over the course of the last 30 years. "A perfect risotto takes 80 minutes to cook!"he tells us, as we sit surrounded by a summery assortment of fresh, Mediterranean platters. The 10-day long festival which will be held between July 26 to August 4, features an adventurous menu, and takes a deep dive into the more elaborate regional tastes of northern Italy.
We walked past the wonderfully expansive antipasto and fresh fruits table to find a steaming cauldron of Cacciucco Alla Livornese, which is a dark seafood soup, often served as a fish stew in certain regions of Tuscany. Seafood numbers are a huge draw for this festival, and you'll also find some freshly cut sea bass, with lentil cream, polenta and tomatoes, and a dish of prawns in saffron and tomato sauce, served with truffle mashed potatoes; the pairing of the latter is perfect and makes for a velvety freshness in your mouth. We were also thrilled to find some creamy, veggie-layered skillet frittatas, made with pine nuts and onions, and served alongside tomatoes and olives. A great tip for this festival would be to order your main carb like pasta, ravioli or risotto as you’re sitting down with the appetizers, as the live pasta stations are always quite busy.
Our next agenda was obviously to try out the delicate, thin-crust parmesan-topped oven-baked pizzas, which were being served piping hot at a live counter. We tried all the varieties, from chicken and parm cheese, to some stunning broccoli and zucchini topped crunchy pizzas smattered with light, fragrant cheese. It had distinct rustic hints, but luckily also had the familiar whiffs of olive oil which we are always looking for.
Chef Belli's signature entree was next on our menu; the classic smoked duck breast served with caramelised fig on top of freshly made bruschetta, an imaginative curation of robust and breezy flavours, teamed up with the classic spiced bruschetta. The beef tenderloin was simple, soft and not overworked. Another great number on the menu was the Lamb Osso buco Milanese, a Lombard cuisine speciality, featuring braised shanks of lambs, cooked in vegetables and wine, and served with some creamy risotto. The herb-laced flavour of the meat complements the rich texture of the rice perfectly, and if you’re looking for gravied Mediterranean entrees, this is your thing.
No trip to the Marriott dining room is ever complete without a trip to the dessert bar, and for the Italian festival, they outdid themselves. We found authentic, old-fashioned Italian desserts like the Lombardian pie, Crostata, which is a traditional free-form version of an open fruit tart, served in an interesting pie format. The Siphon Tiramisu was the mainstay of the table, featuring even layers of mascarpone, espresso, sponge cake and cream.
But we were also elated to find some fresh mascarpone and Nocciola al Cioccolato, the latter being an indulgent chocolate hazelnut mousse cake, and the good ol’ pandoro, which is a kind of sweet yeast bread cake, popularly consumed around Christmas time. But our pick would definitely be the Torta al Cioccolato, which was a nutty, dark chocolate fondant cake, which goes really well with some fresh cream.
At JW Kitchen till August 4
Price for Two: Rs 2,500++