I love Italian food. By that, I don’t mean I love pizza or pasta (although I do love them). Italian food is so much more than what it is touted as in popular media. The Italian Buffet at La Terrazza, Hyatt Regency Pune is a good introduction to home style or trattoria style Italian food, and a far more feasible option for most than planning a trip to Tuscany.
My idea of Italian food is largely ‘American Italian’ food, say like Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden etc. A trip to an authentic Italian Trattoria located in Italy is on the travel bucket list, but hasn’t happened yet. So I was curious to see what La Terrazza would offer. And then the usual apprehension about what the vegetarian menu would offer. A huge traffic jam and 95 minutes later, I arrived at the Hyatt Regency to find that the Christmas tree was already lit, and the carol singing cherubs ready for bed time.
I spent some time beholding the tree, which is not a real fir (why did I imagine it would be?) but more a technical marvel. It is very pretty, nevertheless. Just looking at the tree fills me with a special kind of thrill, and I start singing ‘Joy to the World’ in my mind.
La Terrazza Trattoria was softly lit and the food was arranged in different areas spread through the space, rather than in a single file table. The tables were covered with cheerful red checked table cloths, instantly establishing an Italian or pizzeria style vibe. Chef Debayan showed us around and gave us the lay of the land. Right away, I was impressed by the many pickled veggies, flavored vinegars and homemade stuff on offer. There was a big anti pasti table with a fine spread of cold cuts and cured meats, tossed salads, bruschetta bar and some fresh lettuce in a bowl.
The antipasto or antipasti literally means something which is not pasta, and is the first course of an Italian meal. I was drawn to the various pickled vegetables and the bruschetta bar. The mushroom pate was my favorite. Chef Debayan said it is a simple creation of mushrooms and cream scented with some thyme. The pate’ was smooth and fine as should be, and I could just eat spoonfuls of it.
The bread basket had an array of artisan breads in the form of crunchy baguettes, focaccias and what seemed like ciabatta rolls. I chose a crusty loaf studded with prunes and helped myself to the garlic butter placed beside it. A roasted red pepper chutney/ spread turned out to be my next favorite. I tried some buffalo mozzarella and provolone from a cheese tray. I missed a caprese salad which wasn’t on the day’s menu.
Other salads to note were a roasted pumpkin salad and a pasta salad which was strong on black pepper, but the broccoli it had been named after had been picked off.
Freshly fried zucchini fritters were brought to the table. I found these to be salty which allowed me to stop at just two. Fresh thin crust pizzas were being rolled out and I bit into a veggie version. The crust was thin and crispy with the right amount of cheese. The sauce could have been more robust in my opinion, slightly thicker with some herbs.
There was another ‘hot buffet’ portion that featured a roast chicken dish and two vegetarian options. The Vegetarian Lasagna could have done with layers of cheese. I tried lasagna at another 5 star hotel in Mumbai recently and it also had only a thin layer of cheese at the top, but no cheese in between the pasta layers. The way I make lasagna is Noodle-sauce-cheese-noodle-sauce-cheese-noodle-sauce-cheese— so the cheese is a recurring theme and not just a topping.
The Caponata had the requisite eggplant with a layer of what seemed like polenta on top.
There were some fresh pastas on offer like potato gnocchi and fettucine with sauce of choice. I asked about other pastas and got to taste a fantastic stuffed Agnolotti. The agnolotti was stuffed with pumpkin, walnuts and goat cheese, finished with a sage butter sauce. I think this was the dish of the day for me, although it is very rich and might go down better with a glass of wine.
Another pasta I tried was their fresh made fettucine in a pesto sauce. The basil pesto was refreshing and coated the pasta well.
Among the desserts, I tried the saffron poached pears and the Tiramisu. The pears were soft and had a rich saffron flavor, and were quite sweet. I tried a bite with the accompanying chocolate sauce and they paired well together. I would have loved some ice cream or gelato along with it. I definitely like my dessert to have a frozen component, no matter how many other items you have on the menu.
There was a fresh bowl of tiramisu on the buffet and I ended up with a lot of cream, so can’t really comment on that.
Summing up, the biggest plus point of the Italian food at La Terrazza was that nothing was Indianized! Based on my many questions to the chef, I learned that many ingredients such as cold cuts, cheeses etc. are imported. So are the tomatoes which is evident in the taste. There can be no doubt that the quality of ingredients used is premium. The carnivores definitely have the larger piece of the pie, although many veggie options are available.
There was a lot of eggplant in every dish and it will be nice to see more of other veggies, and definitely more cheese in the dishes.
Overall, La Terrazza is an excellent place to sample genuine Italian food, especially at the Italian Buffet on Saturdays. The buffet means you can sample a large variety of items you have never tasted before, so next time you can order what you like from the A La Carte menu.