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Towering Tuscany

NEHA MUJUMDAR
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FOOD Vittorio Greco wants the simple produce of Tuscany to shine through

THE FAMOUS TRIOOlive oil, tomato, basil can be alchemical in combination, believes chef Greco
THE FAMOUS TRIOOlive oil, tomato, basil can be alchemical in combination, believes chef Greco

Sunday afternoons for Vittorio Greco meant one thing: his mother, in the kitchen, rolling out gnocchi. “Classic Sunday lunch,” he says. Greco, who is in Bangalore as a resident chef at the ITC Gardenia, hails from Tuscany and has lived in Australia, where he ran the Da Vinci Osteria restaurant.

Most of his staff in the restaurant was Indian, he recalls; they would often talk about India. So when an opportunity presented itself to stay in India for some time, he grabbed it. “One month down, I like it (India),” he says thoughtfully.

One of the first things he has done in India is to put together a festival of Tuscan fare, which is on offer at the hotel till December 16. He ticks off the three hallmarks of Tuscan cuisine: olive oil, tomato, basil. Simple, elemental ingredients that, combined artfully, can be alchemical. He wants you to note that in Italy, butter and olive oil sit on opposite ends. The southern regions tend to use more olive oil, while North Italy, which is much colder, is dominated by butter.

Tuscany has a coastline on the Tyrrhenian sea; its climate is very conducive to “lots of olive trees,” says Greco. “We get to use a lot of local produce.”

And that’s why he’s pleased to be bringing the flavours of the region to India: he doesn’t have to import material, leading to a high carbon footprint. “You find some nice local products in India. The tomato is small here, not that beautiful. In Australia, the tomatoes were much bigger, but they were like water.”

For the food festival, Greco took help from the resident executive chef, Vijay Malhotra, on how to select dishes that were authentically Italian but still close to home – focusing on tomatoes and paneer-like ricotta, for instance. He says you can expect pasta that isn’t drowned in heavy sauce, and other food that’s made with local produce.

Flavours of Tuscany is on at the Cubbon Pavilion, ITC Gardenia, till December 16, from 7p.m. to 11.45 p.m. Expect to spend about Rs. 2700 per person. The menu changes daily. Call 22119898 for reservations.

NEHA MUJUMDAR

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