Lunch is something that I always look forward to each morning and that is why precisely I do not take packed lunch from home as I would like to keep experimenting on a daily basis. Almost all of my colleagues bring what you might call a tiffin box with multiple decks and me on the other hand just walk out of my office in Park Street to explore what the city has to offer me.
Street food in Park Street has its own class, some food stalls even have throwaway plates and cutleries for the finicky ones. And for the real foodies, you always have the starters from one counter and then proceed to the dessert to the other. My family back home had been pestering me to change this habit and carry home cooked food but I simply could not let go of the habit of an afternoon walk to the food stalls.
And then it happened, one fine evening our Prime Minister announced “demonetization”. With just 300 Rupees in my wallet I had to completely rethink the afternoon lunch and after nearly a decade I had to agree to a home-cooked lunch in a tiffin box. At least this way I would be able to save those precious little money changes which everyone is preying upon.
This arrangement had been going on smoothly for the last one week until one day a disaster struck. While on my way to the office in the morning in my hurry I forgot to slide in the lunch box in my bad instead just put in inside a plastic packet and hung it at the back of my motorbike. While crossing an under-construction flyover I misread the large pothole that had been created due to the heavy construction and drove right over it. I was almost flung over but somehow managed to hang on but my little tiffin box did not share the same fate, it flung out and was mercilessly crushed under the wheels of a taxi.
A passer-by seeing my plight collected the mangled tiffin box and handed me the plastic bag with by now was a pulp. Embarrassed to the tip I took the plastic bag and put it inside a garbage dump located nearby.
Now, this meant that I did not have lunch for the day and with just a lone pinky (Rs. 2000) note I was doomed. And then like angels from heaven playing the trumpets my mobile phone rang and I was invited to try out Italian cuisine as a part of Italian Food Week by ITC Hotels organised by the Italian Embassy in Kolkata in association with the best of the best star hotels in the city.
A special lunch was arranged for the bloggers of the city and I was asked to reach the venue (West View Bar and Grill) at ITC Sonar at around 1 PM and for a change, I was the first person to reach the venue just to ensure that I did not miss anything. Within the next twenty minutes, all the other invited bloggers had arrived and were ready to experience all things Italian.
Chef Vittorio Greco who has been working with ITC Hotels for the last four-year had specially come down to Kolkata to be a part of the Italian Food Week and of course to delight the city with some of the finest Italian cuisines.
First we were served appetizer, for the vegetarians there was Parmigiana Rivisitata Con Olio Al Carbone (Trio of aubergine, tomato and Parmigiano mousse with fresh aubergine salad, crispy parmesan and a drizzle of charcoal oil) and for me that is non-vegetarians there was Filleto Di Pollo O Alle Erbe E Limone Con Salsa Tonnata E Pane Al Sesamo (Sous vide chicken breast with tuna sauce and sesame seeds crispy bread). Needless to it was light and smooth and the visual presentation reminded me of a boat, the sesame seeds crispy bread gave a visual illusion just that of a boat with its sail raised.
Next, it was the turn for the soup to arrive and let me be on record that this is one of the best soup that I have ever tasted in my life. Zuppa Di Carciofi Con Gorgonzola E Cioccolato Fondente (Creamy artichoke soup with gorgonzola and dark chocolate). The uniqueness about the soup was that the dark chocolate actually was the real game changer. The soup was creamy and every sip had the taste bud twist, it was as if the soup was metamorphosing as it progressed.
Talking about Italian food and how can it be without Ravioli, the next on the menu was Ravioli Di Ossobuco Con Agrumi E Spezie (Lamb ossobuco ravioli citrus sauce). Four pieces of Ravioli just went down with four gulps. It was just perfect with the citrus sauce which simply enhanced the flavour. For the veggies, it was Risotto Tutto Pomodoro (Risotto with tomato water, sundried tomato and tomato powder) and Ravioli Ricotta E Spinaci (Ricotta & spinach ravioli served with butter & cheese sauce).
For the main course, it was Filetto Di Branzino Capperi E Olive (Sea bass braised with celery, capers and olives in a thyme and white wine scented broth). The fish was so tender that a slight nudge would be enough to break it apart. The black olives really created a whirlwind of flavour.
And finally it was time for dessert and we had the most popular Italian dessert Tiramisu. Soft, fluffy, chocolaty, hints of coffee it was the best way to bring the lunch to an end.
All this food would inside my body would surely make it demand a Siesta but then I realised that Siesta was for the Spanish and it was Italian lunch so I had to rush back to the office and somehow keep working. But before leaving I really wanted to speak to the chef just to understand his real inspiration.
I had been watching Chef Vittorio Greco while he was at work and I was marvelling at the way he was motivating his team and also training them at the same time amidst all the high pressure of work where he had to deliver hot meals to hungry bloggers. Chef Vittorio Greco was real fun to talk with actually and was really nice to hear his true inspiration to become a chef professionally.
I guess cooking was something in his genes as from a very childhood he kept seeing his mother, grandmother, aunts and others cook throughout the day. It was as if the daily lives always revolved around the kitchen and according to the chef, some of the best conversations that he ever had with elders were around the kitchen. Cooking was so natural to his house that a sudden arrival of the guest was no issues and his grandmother would just grab the locally available food source that could be chicken, rabbits, vegetables etc. and prepare delicious meals.
On asking chef, if he had tried Bengali cuisine then he honestly replied that he is yet to taste some of the local delicacies but he remembers trying one which involved prawns in a coconut based gravy which I think he might be referring to Malaikari.
Now the word Malaikari makes me hungry again, I really need to refill my tummy. Hope you have enjoyed reading and would surely try out a little piece of Italy right in your backyard.