Artusi Ristorante glitters, quite literally, with a trail of lights that follow you inside. It is inviting, warm and luxurious. The walls are adorned with paintings and there’s an actual fireplace with a live fire in the centre of the room! How often do you see lit fireplaces in Delhi*?
For me, the watershed moment in my love for Italian food was when Julia Roberts ate a plate of spaghetti while Mozart played in the background in the movie Eat Pray Love. I wanted nothing more than to devour that plate of pasta. After many unsuccessful attempts to replicate the dish, I have been on a lifelong quest to find the perfect spaghetti.
Artusi represents food from Emilia Romagna in Northeast Italy where pasta is the hero. They leave no stone unturned to perfect the dish. The pasta is entirely made by hand so the noodle is noticeably rough as compared to the smooth spaghetti cut by the pasta machine. This lends well to the spaghetti being ensconced in the tomato sauce, covering every ridge. It was not by chance that my plate was accompanied by crab. I would happily eat this spaghetti in a movie.
One of the finest dishes on the menu is a simple cheese with mushrooms and bread. Tomino is a soft cheese sourced directly from its motherland, Italy. It melts magnificently over the bread, sticking to the mushrooms, garnished with white truffle oil. Seemingly modest, the flavours are intricate and delicious. Try this dish even if you don’t love mushrooms. You will be converted for life. For dessert, pick the Panna Cotta. It is fluffy and soft, wonderfully offset by the crunchy praline, almonds and fig.
Do attempt to hide your shock when you don’t see pizza on the menu. I assure you that you won’t miss it. Pizza is a southern Italian signature whereas the northern regions have influences from countries such as Germany. Ask the owner, Oscar Balcon about the food from his homeland and he will passionately and painstakingly explain the regional variations in food across Italy. He’ll throw in a joke or two, staying true to his Italian heritage. This restaurant, he says is his retirement project. I can only hope that my retirement project is half as majestic or delicious someday.
Location: One Horizon Centre, Golf Course Road, Gurgaon
Meal for two: Rs. 4000
We’re hitting ice cream season early this year (global warming at work again, do you think?) with the newly opened American ice cream chain – Cold Stone Creamery in both the Ambiences in Delhi and Gurgaon. I think there is a special charm in eating ice cream in the winters. First, it doesn’t melt. Second, you feel like a warrior, fighting the odds.
Cold Stone has been around in the US for about 3 decades now and has been rapidly expanding into other countries over the last few years, including our flavourful neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Creamery boasts of the famous frozen stone slab (on which ice cream is folded), often found in its natural habitat – Instagram stories.
You can add your preferred toppings to the parent flavours and shuffle between waffle cone sizes, choosing from a list of ice creams already curated for you or freestyle and go crazy with your own combinations. Go on, no one is judging. For the lactose intolerant, there are a couple of tangy sorbets on display including Passion Fruit and Pomegranate. Those who are delusional enough to want to be healthy while in an ice cream shop, can fool themselves with smoothies or carry some ice cream home for a cheat day. There is something for everyone. Ice cream is very inclusive.
When I walked into the Creamery, the employees simultaneously burst into a chorus of 90s pop music and kids songs. Though startled at first, I found myself humming along soon after. Now I do not know if I had the special privilege of being serenaded by ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’, but I sure have a new found admiration for live music with my cup of ice-cream.
Price: About Rs. 160 for one ice cream
Location: 1st floor, Ambience Mall, Gurugram (the one I went to)
Majnu ka Tila or MKT as we called it in college, is a Tibetan refugee colony tucked away in the by-lanes of North Delhi. What it offers is an insight into the exuberant culture and food of Tibet. Bustling with people at all times of the day and night, the narrow lanes are almost always under a flooding crisis but it doesn’t stop the hawkers from selling little trinkets, Tibetan prayer flags, colourful woollen caps and gloves. Every once in a while you bump into a beautiful Tibetan temple with puppies playing in front of it.
The food in MKT is best represented by two of my favourite joints called by almost the same name – AMA Café and AMA Restaurant. AMA Café has the city’s best pancakes on offer. They can be customized according to your taste but being a traditionalist, I go for the banana and Nutella variety. The pancakes are fluffy but not bread-y which is key in pancake making. They are only available till noon so get there early and stay put for the rest of the day. The Apple Pie is another beauty; crunchy crust and soft and crumbly on the inside, it is a scrumptious dish. The décor is bright and fun with Tibetan motifs and photos on the walls and travel books on shelves. It is a great place to sit by yourself next to a window on a winter afternoon, sip a cup of coffee, watch the hustle and bustle down the street and try to get some work done.
After spending most of the day at AMA Café and hopefully catching up on work, move over to the AMA Restaurant down the lane. Comfort food for me is mostly a plate of rice and stir fried chicken or a hearty bowl of meat soup. All and any combinations of Chinese food can get me out of a bad mood and the AMA restaurant serves some of the most affordable and delightful Chinese and Tibetan food in town. The place by itself is basic and not as pretty as its sibling but food is a showstopper. The Momos and Chilli Potatoes are mandatory eating and without a doubt lovely. For the main course, go for Chicken or Buff Thupka and Spicy Fried Pork with Steamed Rice. The pork is succulent and sweet, a taste you will remember long after it is gone. The food is not for the weak of stomach. Go with agreeable company. Eat at leisure. Return a happier person.