If you catch a glimpse of chef Alessandro Sandrolini juggling his kitchen, you will realise that you have a feast awaiting you. Chef Alessandro, is in the city to tease the Puneites palate with Italian cuisine. "Italian food seems to be doing really good in this city," says the chef with a smile, gesticulating towards the buzzing restaurant filled with locals. Over the last two years, the chef has become the face and taste behind Delhi's iconic La Piazza, Hyatt Regency Delhi.
The journey so far
For this senior chef, food wasn't love at first sight. Coming from a family that owned a restaurant in Bologna, Italy's culinary centre, Alessandro grew up wanting to dabble in "everything but food". Yet, he followed his father's wish to enter culinary school ("only to satisfy him") and from then on, there was no turning back.
Having begun his career in the kitchens of Bologna, he worked his way through with various Italian restaurants in his land of meat and cheese. "Then, Hyatt happened to me in 2005," says the chef, with a twinkle in his eye.
Prawn Ravioli with sun dried tomatoes
Catering to the desis
Years of experience through the Hyatt's properties in Belgrade and Muscat, helped the Italian chef hone his creativity to craft dishes to suit various appetites. So, when he came to New Delhi, the Indian penchant for chillies and garlic didn't faze him. "You have to try and be as close to authenticity as possible. But you also have to adjust." That means that "funny" requests to "meet Indian with Italian flavours" are not catered to. "I say no to Chicken Tikka on a pizza. I say no when a guest asks for spaghetti tossed with tomato ketchup. But I give him the spaghetti and a bowl on the side with ketchup."
But he agrees that strange requests are gradually dwindling. "People are travelling more. They are slowly understanding the world of Italian fine dining." Alessandro believes that the fact that most foreign ingredients are now relatively easily available in local markets makes a difference to our mental food bank. "We cannot use imported beef and veal is not available. But we can substitute some of the dishes with lamb and chicken."
As for personal favourites, the chef completely loves Indian food. "It may be a bit too hot for my tongue but I get a take-away from the Indian restaurant next door at least three times a week. I love it. My wife loves it. It's perfect."
As he gets up to direct the opera that's our meal, chef Alessandro quips, "I need to change constantly." So which place beckons next? "I'd love Japan. But anywhere -- even any other city in India -- is fine." Apart from his passion for cooking, he loves music and skiing. Arrivederci, chef.
From the chef's kitchen
Pumpkin cream soup with Amarone reduction
350 gm pumpkin, roughly chopped
30 ml olive oil
100 gm sliced onions
Salt to taste
10 gm black peppercorns
50 ml Amarone wine
100 gm sugar
Fresh cress, for garnish
300 ml vegetable stock
Reduce the wine and sugar till thick in consistency.
Heat oil. Add onions and pumpkin.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cover with vegetable stock.
Cook till the pumpkin is soft.
Blend till creamy.
Pour the soup in a bowl.
Add the wine reduction and fresh cress.