Every once in a while, Prego by Westin Hyderabad invites an Italian master chef from its sister properties to host a pop-up showcasing a different facet of Italian cuisine. I look forward to these food promotions as they always produce something memorable. Chef Antonello wowed with his Pesto Sauce and Cod Fritters, while Chef Roberto left his mark with the stupendous Tartara Di Asparagi and Agnolotti alla Monferrina. Now, Chef Marouane Rahali has flown in from Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield to present ‘The Italian Twist’.
Chef Marouane grew up in the Northern part of Italy but he loves to draw on the cullinary traditions from the different regions of the country. For the amuse bousche though, Chef Marouane joked that his inspiration was Pani Puri. Pizza Montanara is a round fried pizza from Naples that has become a surprise hit in America over the past decade. Chef Marouane served it with a stuffing of mozzarela, pesto, and crispy basil leaf drizzled with olive oil.
The menu curated for Prego showcases typical Italian summer meals and emphasizes on food that feels fresh and light. The Insalata Estiva served as Antipasti was a perfect embodiment of this theme. The salad featured a vibrant hued medley of summer fruits like watermelon with salmon, beef carpaccio, and feta.
While Italian cuisine has come to be associated with fine-dine and gourmet ingredients in India, it’s actually cuisine of the people. The ingredients list exclusively features fresh local produce, and the sauce and stuffing of pastas often use whatever is available in the kitchen. The summer menu features two Tortelloni (ring shaped stuffed pasta). The vegetarian option boasted of a distinctive and delish broccoli and roast potato stuffing served with a cherry tomato and basil sauce, while the non-vegetarian variant employed a familiar but always comforting chicken ragu stuffing with mushroom sauce.
Recipes in Italy are usually passed down generations and become family heirlooms. While Italian culinary traditions are sacrosanct, the nuances differ not only across regions but also across households. Bianca in Italian means white, and the recipe for Bianca pizza has only one guideline — the pizza shouldn’t use tomato sauce. The Bianca Pizza at Prego is a light, rustic version that employs Mozzarella with a little bit of parmesan topped with rocket leaves, pesto sauce, and cherry tomatoes. The rocket leaves along with raw tomatoes impart the pizza a sharp acidity and freshness that’s perfect not just for summer evenings but also works brilliantly for dinners with a glass of wine.
In secondi we were served lamb loin marinated in espresso sauce for two days. At Rs. 2050 (plus taxes), this dish might cause sticker shock but the amalgamation of flavours is truly memorable. The coffee imparts a light bitterness to the meat that is contrasted against the sweet and starchy corn and potato mousseline. My only complaint was that, much like at the wine dinner by Prego, the meat was served well done.
The best perhaps was saved for the last. Orange Parfait with pistachio crumbs and Pineapple Carpaccio with sugar, fresh lime and basil. A good plate of dessert should always go beyond sweetness and bring more to the table. This clean and simple ensemble featuring the characteristic acidic sweetness of the pineapple, the citrus of orange, and the nuttiness of toasted pistachio was an apt finale for a meal that felt almost therapeutic. The ‘Italian Twist’ food promotion is on for dinners at Prego until July 1st.