Decoding the dishes from the nation known for UNESCO World Heritage sites, we found some delicacies from Emilia Romagna.
Words & photographs: Ambica Gulati
Do you know Emilia Romagna? Neither do we. But we know Italy. We know Italians eat pasta with a lot of white sauce and we have seen Julia Roberts gorging on pizzas in Eat, Pray, Love. All these were reasons enough to land at Artusi Ristorante e Bar for dinner. And here we got to know about Emilia Romagna–the region in Italy of which owner Oscar Balcon and the chef are natives. “The dishes here are traditional to most homes in Emilia Romagna,” said Balcon, giving us a taste of Italy at this award-winning restaurant.
More than that, Google told us that it is one of the richest regions in Europe with a high quality of life. Comprising Emilia and Romagna, this is the Northeast part of Italy with Bologna as the capital. It is home to the oldest university in the world–University of Bologna. With 11 UNESCO heritage sites, this region is known for agriculture and automobile production. Companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati are housed here.
Chatting with the retired banker over a glass of sparkling wine, we discovered that this ristorante aka restaurant is exactly like the dining spaces in medieval Italy (old town of Milan)—a bar at the entrance, low ceiling, sophisticated and subtle interiors and some black and white pictures. We would have been happier with a little bit of more space between tables, but Balcon said Italy is so like India. Once the food goes in, the conversations mingle and the space forgotten, which is exactly what happened to us. What makes the dishes authentic is not just the recipes handed down through generations, but the ingredients which come from the region. So make sure your wallet is full when you land here.
Our dinner began with the delectable Tortino di Porri which is actually a pie. It came with fresh and green rocket leaves and cherry tomatoes. A good beginning.
Wine and chatter continued. While Balcon does know all the recipes, he can cook a meal only at home, “which means a full day to prepare and a full day to clean”, he revealed with a wide smile, “much to my wife Gurpinder’s chagrin”.
Artusi also has an outlet in Gurugram’s Horizon Centre where the ambience is different as there is indoor and outdoor seating. The décor is also modern. “You could be in New York,” informed Balcon. But we were glad to have found medieval Italy in the plush GKII market.
Banter and chatter didn’t stop, as handmade spaghetti arrived. Mingled with the meat, this Cacio e Pepe was really yum and went so well with the wine.
Probably the only dish that could have better was Branzino, the baked European Sea Bass. Even though there are relatively few bones and it is easy to cut and not messy to eat, this one was little hard. Pollo ai Funghi or chicken in white wine was a delight—soft, juicy and the green accompaniments just perfect.
Two hours had passed when we ended our meal with Cioccolato Nero e Scorza di Arancia or the right dark chocolate that pleased the palate and satiated the senses—velvety and tasty. We alternated this with fresh Panna Cotta.
Born out of Balcon’s passion, this outlet has 38 covers. I would suggest you reserve your seat to enjoy a meal from Emilia Romagna because “pizzas are served only in pizzerias in Italy”. And there’s a lot more to Italian cuisine than the famed pizza! Oh, did we mention, there is a palate-cleansing lime and coconut sorbet that makes the meal even more delicious.
Meal for two: INR 3,500 plus taxes and alcohol
Address: M 24, M-Block market, Greater Kailash II, New Delhi