Italian food quite honestly is more readily available in this country than Indian food these days. No, seriously! Every cafe, a small start-up, canteens, even certain roadside stalls offer to woo you with their delicious versions of pastas and risottos; and if that wasn’t enough, pizzas have literally become the staple diet of urban India! So how does one spot the authenticity from the black hole of adapted style pallets?
Very simple yet overlooked many a time so here’s some pointers you should follow:
1. For starters, one of the surest ways of identifying the authentic from not, is by the name. It may sound funny, but if a dish or an ingredient calls itself ‘Italian’, or ‘Italian’-style’ then you can be almost 100% certain that it’s actually not.
2. Any Italian restaurant would not charge for bread, that’s because Italians tend to eat bread with pretty much everything but pasta. So if you are in a restaurant, basket with bread should be complementary and hopefully offered even without asking for it. If the bread basket is payable, consider the bread to be rare and really good quality.
3. “Pepperoni” means nothing in Italian, and no authentic Italian restaurant would ever list this ingredient. “Salame (not “salami”) is what corresponds to “pepperoni” in an authentic Italian joint. Surprisingly “peperoni (with one “p”) is an Italian word meaning “peppers”. So if you order a “pizza ai peperoni” in a real Italian restaurant, you should get a vegetarian pizza with peppers on top! (You’re welcome!).
Now that at least some of the confusion is taken care of, let me just go ahead and talk about an authentic Italian restaurant located right in the heart of the country’s capital: Caffe Tonino.
On my visit to New Delhi recently, I was recommended to try out this quaint little “Ristorante Italiano” at the H Block of the PVR building at Connaught Place. Needless to say the gastronomical experience was par excellence!
Don’t be fooled by the small door outside, thinking you to believe this is just another small Italian cafe. Once upstairs, prepare to be marveled at the minimalist yet classic slice of Italy right in front of your eyes. From bricked walls to zig-zag tiles to pop art hangings- Caffe Tonnino manages to woo you with its simplicity; especially if you’re the kind looking to go far from the madding crowd.
Coming down to why I do have this blog in the first place – the food.
Firstly, yes there is a big bread basket that comes complimentary for all its patrons so that goes off that checklist we made in the beginning of this post. Our order comprised of the – Spiedini Di Pollo, Speziata con Pollo, Spaghetti con gamberi e rucola and Lasagna di pollo.
Confused? Well let me just help you with a visual-visual presentation of my order and what I felt tasting the same.
Spiedini Di Pollo- These are grilled chicken skewers cooked to perfection with garlic, rosemary, lemon and peppers, served with a tomato chili jam. My experience with this entrée? *poof* and it’s over! In other words not enough for 4 people, unless it’s a one-time tasting! So I hope the management is listening, because honestly, it’s the best skewers I’ve tasted in a long time and it sadly gets over with the blink of an eye! The chilli jam goes as the perfect condiment, sweet and spicy.
Speziata con Pollo- By now you may have guessed the word “Pollo” is Italian for Chicken so this particular variant is a thin crust chicken pizza with tomato, fresh red chilies, spicy chicken, cheddar cheese and mozzarella. Commendable on the flavor pallet with such minimalist ingredients to play around with. What floored me more was the retained crispiness of the crust throughout the course of the meal (generally thin crust pizzas here become like a pizza wrap if you leave them out cold for a while). Oh and FYI, they do have a “Salame Piccante” on their menu so if you have paid attention to the 3 golden rules of Italian heaven, you’ve scored! Moving on……
Spaghetti con gamberi e rucola– Seafood lovers rejoice! This is by far a showstopper! I mean spaghetti with virgin olive oil, extra garlic, prawns, chilli flakes and rucola – what else do you need to satiate your tummy? Even the “allergic” prawn lovers would pop in a cetzine just to relish this beauty and I can’t complain why!
Lasagna di pollo- Another chicken dish but another show stopper! Pasta sheets layered with chicken bolognaise, tomatoes, parmesan and baked with cheese sauce. That’s “mmmmmmmm” as you go down with each layer!
By this time, I’m sure the vegetarians reading this review will be judging me on my non vegetarian biasness but hey, I’m not complaining! There are a lot of vegetarian options at Tonino as well and I’m pretty sure they won’t disappoint you guys either!.
The bill came up to around 1800 INR including taxes and minus drinks which wasn’t such an expensive bargain for authenticity on your plate. Each meal mind you starts roughly from about INR75 and goes up to max INR 550 which I think is a steal deal.
As the Italian saying goes “Chi Mangia Bene, Vive bene!”……… “Who Eats Well, Lives Well!”
Address: 1st Floor, PVR Plaza Building,
H Block, Connaught Place,
New Delhi- 110033
Contact: (+91) 9871474753