Focaccia, the new Italian restaurant at Chennai's Hyatt Regency, sports a menu that is unexceptional, even predictable. The slim bill of fare is dominated by the pasta-pizza section with a dash of other staples such as the risottos, parma ham and the regulation steak.

On the face of it, this may seem like a singular lack of ambition. But this restaurant seems to know what it is doing, is comfortable doing it, and does it reasonably well.

Don't come here if you are chasing the exotic — your spaghetti stained with squid ink, your risotto layered with gold leaf, or something flavoured with rare white alba truffles. Focaccia banks on serving up the popular honest-to-good Italian cuisine that the world has come to love.

The kitchen is open, the ovens are wood-fired and the pasta made in-house. Chef Massimiliano Pauletto is particularly good with the antipasti section, the unfussy grilled vegetables with a rosemary and balsamic reduction deserving a special mention. The frailty of the spaghetti aglio wins over the robustness of the penna putanesca, but this could be a reviewer's bias against the so-called ‘whore's style' pasta, the adaptive 20th century invention that is indiscriminate about what goes in. Do try the agreeably unfussy sea bass, lightly seared and served in a sauce so minimalistic you may miss it.

The racks of the wine library are a little thin at the moment, but the accent in Focaccia's airy window-framed interiors leans heavily towards the food. Yes, it walks the road well travelled, but it negotiates it with an easy confidence and in the comfort that it offers what people like.

Bottomline Unexceptional menu, but honest-to-good food.

Foccacia, The Hyatt regency, Chennai. Average price for two: Rs. 1800.

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012