George Bernard Shaw said, “There is not sincerer love than the love of food,” and this holds true for both the people who create the food and those who love to eat. This sincere love for food is what I saw with the team of Artusi, from the owners, to the chef and all the way down to the staff. This passion for food is what makes a place stand out & the recently opened Artusi, in the busy M-Block market of GK II, Delhi, is definitely doing a good job of standing out within a month of its opening. So an invitation by the Artusi team was jumped upon by me both because of their innovativeness and some already great recommendations.
Ms. Gurpinder Balcon the lady behind the restaurant along with her husband Mr. Oscar Balcon is a well travelled couple, largely due to Oscar’s banking job. Oscar hails from the Emilia Romagna region in Northern Italy, which besides its rich food heritage is famous for trend-setting fashion designers and the dream machines, like Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati. No wonder, the clarity and the understated elegance is clearly reflected in this venture, which is their own little Emilia Romagna in the heart of Delhi. Gurpinder has spent quite a few years in Italy and is an avid cook herself.
The name Artusi is borrowed from Mister Pellegrino Artusi, also known as the founder of Italian cuisine and author of “Science in the Kitchen” and “The Art of eating well”, which is considered as a bible for modern Italian cuisine.
Chef Romina Lugaresi has taken the food legacy of her region Emilia Romagna and has been more than happy to introduce the people of India with the actual authentic Italian cuisine. With a witty side to her, she does not shy away from mentioning that North-Indians are almost as similar to Italians with their loud mouths, insatiable appetite and even larger hearts. My first ever interaction with an expat Lady Chef, I admire the way she has settled into the Indian structure maintaining her individuality at the same time. Happy to pose with us for pictures, Chef Romina went the extra mile to cook up a meal for us which left us very full.
As soon as you enter the restaurant, the bar area welcomes you along with the warm yellow color (which will be flowing all through the décor) and the oak finished wooden paneling and furniture. The motifs and moulding elements used in the furniture are very Art Deco and Oscar takes pride in explaining to you how he worked closely with design team to achieve this very European Art Deco theme. The bar counter done in Oakwood finish has a glass display housing all the desserts along with the signature Espresso machine at the back. The bar area has a seating facing outside consisting moulded plywood bar stools with leather cushioning making them comfortable and adding a spring to the seating. A great place to park yourself, have a drink and even a meal if you are dining alone and prefer to look at the crowd pass by on the busy street outside. As you enter the main dining area which is right behind the bar area you are overwhelmed by the interiors, largely due to the use of the earthy colors, wooden textures and placement of motifs which, though you might have never experienced it does transport you to a different era. And, when Oscar mentioned that he had replicated “His Grandma’s Dining room” all questions about the design, lighting, seating, etc. came to a rest. The place is cozy and the warmth and passion of the team is aptly complemented by the use of yellow color.
The other most striking feature of design is the artwork and graphics on the menu mostly done by a talented artist called Faiyyaz R. Khan. Artusi’s portrait at the beginning of the menu bears a striking resemblance to him and the paintings in the restaurant though post-modern complements the Art Deco style of interiors perfectly.
Service for me always makes or breaks a dining experience. The GM of the restaurant Aman is a well travelled man and has worked in Italy for quite some time, another great find for Gurpinder and Oscar. He has trained his team well, though I did observe the service to be a tad slow and the staff was kind enough to recognize this and make amends accordingly during our meal itself. The training shows and I believe on my next visit the staff would be much more polished and efficient. The knowledge and names of the dishes, which are tongue twisting and have to be pronounced correctly, have been taught well to the servers and they take pleasure in explaining what they are serving you. If you tell them preferences (including your allergies) they would be happy to inform the Chef. The team is eager to know how you liked your food and I presume they work on your suggestions.
I still don’t believe I am a food critic and my critique is limited to what I enjoy or in some cases don’t enjoy. And, when you are invited for a Chef tasting rest assured the feeding frenzy continues for hours, but who’s complaining.
What is Italian without its salads and The Ferro Salad was with what we started our meal. Made with Baby spinach (which I confused as Rocket leaves), grapes, pears and goat cheese salad and finished with toasted pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. Overall fine … but a veggie overdose for me and I would have preferred more cheese in it.
Rape e Noci was next with Roasted beets, water cress, green apple, walnuts, goat cheese -finished with croutons and balsamic vinegar. The server mixed the contents and served it, though I felt, it should be served as presented on the plate. Let the diner try savour each ingredient. I loved the crunchiness of the ingredients and the excellent presentation made it looked like a work of art.
Pollo Tiepido was which lifted my spirits after 2 vegetarian salads and the Warm chicken breast was cooked juicy, just the right temperature and cooked to perfection with. It was set in a fennel salad with oranges and olives and oregano which lent the citrus flavour to the whole dish. This was a Salad which caught my fancy and I finished the whole plate.
Artusi makes their pastas in their own kitchen and the textures you experience as you bite into one are amazing and make you reach out for more. We were served the Tortelli hand-made pasta pockets which seemed to be made by an artist filled with a mix of pumpkins and potatoes, set in creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce. And, the Cappelletto which were hat-shaped pasta pockets, intricately made by the Chef, filled with ricotta and Parmiggiano Reggiano cheeses. The light tomatoes and basil sauce gave it a desirable and tangy taste.
Pappardelle Faraona & Gnocchi Pesto e Patate were the next serving and though by that time, my taste buds were craving for meat, I still loved the Gnocchi in fresh pesto sauce. Didn’t even feel guilty coz it was “green”.
The Risotto Ortolano made in very high quality Carnaroli rice, seasonal veggies and authentic Grana Padana cheese. This traditional Italian Risotto added to the Italian dining room charm made me feel closer to Italy (though I have yet to experience it first hand).
After downing the marathon of Pastas, I had to get up and take a walk. It seemed we were nowhere close to the completion of the meal and I had to digest the amount of food I was fed.
Luckily, a surprise was waiting for me at the table in the form of a Sorbetto al Limone or simply a Lemon Sorbet topped with some sparkling wine. I also sampled the Sorbetto all’a Mela verde, Green apple Sorbet, but the Lemon Sorbet is what I stuck with. The sorbet was an excellent detail to cleanse our palate and for the meats that would be waiting for us.
I was delighted to smell some fish when they served the Branzino Cartoccio wrapped in an Aluminum foil. The Oven baked Sea Bass filet was served with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and olives. Due you to its wrapping in the foil, which is opened on your table, the flavours and fragrances of each ingredient remain intact. I could down a couple of these if I was not expecting more food. The Chef floored me with this one and if you happen to land up at Artusi, you have to try this one.
The meats were next starting with the Lamb Chops, Angnello. Lamb chops imported from New Zealand were grilled with a touch of pistachio lemon oil and served with baked potato, grilled eggplant, tomatoes and crunchy leeks. The marination of the meat lent it a yummy flavour and even after so much food made me hungry. Soft and succulent I loved this and if you are a meat fan like me, please don’t miss this one.
The ribs or the Costine di Maiale served with French fries & grilled vegetables were a little disappointing. The meat was tight and a little hard coming off the ribs. I really wanted to try the complete rack and the Chef said I should come back for more … well I already have a reason to go back.
Oscar joined us when the desserts were starting and it was a pleasure to go through with him through every little detail of Artusi. Chef Romina was back too, to check on us and to serve us her signature desserts.
Now, I am not a person with a sweet tooth but had heard so much about the Panna cotta that would have been a fool not to try it. The pudding served with caramelized figs and roasted almonds, this was the real deal. Every bite melting into the mouth and the colours on the pudding made it look like a work of art. I could frame a picture of it and hang it on my wall.
However the bitter sweet dessert Crema Pistacchio e Caffe’ was the one which took desserts to another level. A smooth pistachio custard cream with coffee gelatine, finger shaped butter cookies & pistachio crackers done in two layers of green and coffee brown, served in a glass was an amalgamation of flavours. By the time I tried to figure out what it was, I had already polished off the whole glass. If you like the innovation and surprise in your food, you definitely have to try this.
I cannot give a verdict on a restaurant, but I enjoyed my time and my meal at this place. More on the expensive side and might lighten your pocket by around 5K for a meal for two, I would still recommend you try this if you love Italian food and want to sample genuine Italian hospitality in the heart of Delhi.