Prego at Westin, Pune has a new chef. Italian Chef Eraldo Colazzo has worked in 18 countries for over 38 years, and has dished out his creations to such luminaries as President Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana. So when an invite for an exclusive preview of Chef Eraldo’s new menu landed in my Inbox, I was ready to head out.
Restaurant food or popular food of any cuisine is so limited and it is not always a true indicator of the kind of food people eat every day. I have been stressing this point in my books. Just as Indian food is so much more than spicy oil laden curries, the true taste of Italy goes much beyond pizzas and saucy pastas.
Fresh produce and good quality ingredients have always been a hallmark of the food at Prego, or at any restaurant at Westin Pune, really. Now we have a well traveled and experienced chef who cooks from the heart, and lets the simple, honest food do the talking.
The long drive in 40C heat was forgotten as I was greeted effusively by Arpit, the restaurant manager. An ice cold grappa was offered and savored, followed by an exotic elder flower based mocktail. I am not sure if it is on the menu, but it is something worth trying.
The guests gradually assembled and about an hour later, we finally got to meet Chef Colazzo himself. The mark of a great man (or woman) is how humble and modest they are, and this was evident in the few words the chef said.
The wine was poured, a crisp, dry Pinot Grigio in my case, and fresh bread was served. Both the herbed focaccia and a dark boule passed muster. It was served with a tangy tomato basil sauce. I would have preferred some butter and good olive oil with this bread though, with or without the sauce.
Chef Eraldo believes in using what is in season. After an amuse bouche of zucchini tempura, we were served a salad of fresh watermelon, mango and feta cheese with a honey lemon dressing. The salad was very lightly seasoned and dressed, but it disappeared in seconds.
Another salad we tried was Insalata Itaca, with lettuce, feta cheese, olives, peppers and sun dried tomatoes.
Insalata Burrata was the highlight of the evening for me. Burrata is a super creamy cheese, reminiscent of ricotta and mozzarella. The cheese was a lot creamier than ricotta and very smooth, unlike ricotta which is somewhat grainy. Served with a slight sprinkling of black pepper and a slice of tomato, the burrata is pure bliss for cheese lovers.
The Penne Norma had bold flavors of aubergine or eggplant with a scant sauce. Finely chopped mozzarella was sprinkled through the pasta which was perfectly al dente.
Risottos are quite popular in India, and beetroot is the latest wonder vegetable. Combining the two has to be a winning combination. The beetroot risotto had the earthiness of beet and an oniony, chive like flavor through it. A parmesan sauce was poured on top, a slight variation from the grated cheese we expect.
The mixed berry Panna Cotta with sambuca was a fitting finale to the meal. The Panna Cotta was set a bit softer which did not matter since it was served in a martini glass. It was certainly gobble worthy.
Chef Anurudh Khanna, the Executive Chef at Westin Pune promises seasonal menus and daily specials based on what is fresh at their farms. Take a bite of the luscious burrata, close your eyes, and you could almost, almost imagine yourself in a Tuscan hill town.
Chef Eraldo Colazzo and his new menu launches on May 5, 2016. So bookmark this and head to Prego for fresh, authentic Italian fare.
Read more about Chef Eraldo’s creations at MovieRecipe, our partner blog.