Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mezzogiorno: Romancing the South of Italy at JW Marriott

When I received an invite for an exclusive dinner with Chef Davide Cananzi of Mezzo Mezzo, showcasing South Italian cuisine, I realised, I just saw Italy has a whole. While I understand the subtle nuances of regional cuisine in several other parts of Europe, I'd never actually discovered that about Italy. And was I in for a surprise.

A table of chattering and excited food bloggers were brought to complete silence as antipasti and cocktails were announced, as each of us excitedly pulled out our cameras and walked towards the bar. There, lying in wait for us was a sumptuous spread.  It really was an antipasti (the antidote to pasta, because I doubt we'd have any appetite left for pasta once we were done making our way through this vast repertoire of Chef Davide's appetizers)

The antipasti
Fellow bloggers clicking away
What lay before us was several different kinds of salads, cheeses, breads, hams, olives and candied and pickled fruit. Chef Davide talked us through them, as we cradled chilled flutes of a beautiful  Prosecco that was everything I'd imagined Prosecco to be, fresh, light, and just the right amount of sweet.

Cheese. Spread.
And more bread
Say Cheese!
Once we got started, there was no stopping us. I made a beeline for the Mortadella, Proscuitto, an Italian version of Chorizo, and some sweet juicy olives. Service came with a vengeance, and several of us found our hands and plates full to an unmanageable extent. But none of us were complaining. Piping hot Arancini, Pizzas, Baked Mussels just kept on arriving as we milled about, discovering some beautiful flavours. What really took me by surprise was the seafood salad with sea bass. As a seafood lover, I couldn't imagine that a seafood dish could take me by surprise, but this was unbelievably light and fresh, and I could almost taste the sea in every forkful.

Pigging out on pig!
Beautiful Olives
Chef Davide talking us through the Antipasti
A slice from every season
I managed to pull Chef Davide aside for a quick tete a tete, where he revealed to me, that this menu was inspired by his roots, the time he spent in Sardinia  and Catania with his mom who was his first Executive Chef. He intended on serving the mains the way they would in a traditional Italian household, brought in pans straight off the fire onto the table. This time, you could tell it wasn't the chef speaking from his years of culinary excellence, just a boy from the South of Italy speaking of his mother, their roots, and the purest thing we all know- home cooked food.

Don't let the pose fool you, he's anything but coy!
Grabbing a bit of cheese, bread, an interesting 4 fruit mustard and a glass of white, we returned to our tables, awaiting the mains. And they came at us at a frenzied pace. Vegetarian Fusilli and Rigatoni (which I probably didn't get too excited about because it didn't have any meat) the wondrous pork spaghetti that made all of us wonder why our tomato sauces at home never turned out this good,  a beautiful seafood risotto (of which I had seconds) a really nice mushroom risotto, and a lovely chicken in herbed lemon sauce.

First came the veggies
Chef D presenting the next course
And then my plate was full!
But more just kept on coming
By the time dessert came around, we really were stuffed. But one look at that beautiful Cassata threatening to melt if I didn't devour it at once, got me back in the game. The sponge was light and airy, the chocolate ice cream deviously dark and salty! Winning combination. The jam tart too was rather nice, but probably too rich given how stuffed I was. However the tart base was absolutely brilliant.

Dessert, threatening to melt
Old friends, new friends, bloggers, foodies, we all finally tottered out, our bellies full of food that hadn't just touched our tastebuds and made them tingle with pleasure but also touched our hearts, and pulled at that little something called Nostalgia. Thank you Chef Davide for inviting us to your home, as well as the Marketing and PR teams at JW Marriott for making this possible with such efficiency.

Mezzogiorno: A parade of flavours from Southern Italy is on at JW Marriott Mumbai's Italian restaurant - Mezzo Mezzo until the 3rd of November 2013. Go give it a whirl.

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