A cuisine typical to the characteristics of the coastal region of Italy, Liguria and something I have never attempted before. I was both anxious and excited for my first ever encounter with Ligurian Cuisine at a venue I would never think twice before setting foot into. Le Meridien houses one of the finest fine dining restaurants of the city aptly named Bella Cucina, which literally means ‘beautiful kitchen’ and the ambience of this exhilaratingly colourful restaurant is worth raving about.
Chef Antonello, who comes from Genoa, Northern Italy christened the Food Festival at Bella Cucina with his expertise in the field of Italian style cooking. Mastering the art of Italian cooking might look like a comfort for a chef hailing from the country but successfully celebrating the cuisine amongst an audience, who have hardly ever been accustomed to authentic Italian cuisine, is a tough job in itself.
With almost six years in our country, Chef Antonello now possesses the ability to read the nerves of his clients. Though his love for the country has aroused a sense of emotional connection here, his fixation with Italian cuisine gave me the opportunity to partake of some of the most genuine Italian dishes that I have ever tasted.
Oh! And before I forget, this Italian Chef is no ordinary man. He is an entertainer in the true sense. I had a gala time as Chef Antonello tightened the strings of his guitar and churned out some beautiful numbers as he sang some….wait for it…. Bollywood numbers.
With a set menu provided to me, I had the good fortune of hogging into dishes that I have never heard of (forget about tasted) before.
Cappon Magro – A rich gentleman’s salad is what I call it. The seafood salad included salmon caviar, scampi, lobster, salsa verde and bottarge. The salad comprised of genuine Italian flavours and tasted heavenly until it lasted.
Now, there is this one thing that is typical of an Italian style dining experience. The portions here come in beautifully decorated, judiciously tiny sizes which are the perfect thing especially if you want to try and taste more variety.
Ripieni Alla Ligure – This ridiculous looking vegetarian Italian dish tasted out of this world. In simple words, the dish consisted of vegetables stuffed with marjoram, ricotta and parmesan. This one was fantastically done.
Minestrone Alla Genovese – With the eminent taste of spinach, basil pesto and eggplant, the thick soup of Genoese origin turned out to be a flavoursome affair. A vegetarian’s delight, the soup impressed even a hardcore meat eater like me.
Lasagna Portofino – The lasagna at Bella Cucina’s Italian Food Festival was simply incredible. The delicate pasta with basil pesto, pine nuts and green beans and add to it a notorious amount of parmesan cheese. You get a delicious tasting lasagna that will leave a lasting impression on your craving taste buds.
Seppie In Zimino – Brushing aside the complexities of the dish, ‘Seppie In Zimino’ literally means, Cuttlefish in a preparation that consists of vegetables and spinach. In this case, carrots, celery and artichokes. The dish tasted fine and the stewed cuttlefish was a delight to eat.
Dessert Platter – My immensely appetizing lunch concluded with a Dessert platter that consisted of three different varieties of desserts, all Italian. ‘Pesche Ripiene All’Amaretto’ is Italian for Baked peaches with cookies, whipped cream and toasted hazelnut. ‘Torta Sacripantina’ is again an Italian dessert that was a Sabajon cake filled with vanilla and chocolate buttercream with wine sauce. ‘Baci Di Dama’ was the third Dessert on the platter and comprised of Hazelnut and chocolate cookies mascarpone mousse with pistachios.
During my entire few hours of dining as I found myself immersed in the divine interiors of Bella Cucina and the unpredictable flavours of Italy, what really caught my attention was Chef Antonello Cancedda. The humble chef served us not just with food but knowledge too. As I sipped into my cup of coffee, a deep session of intellectual discussion left me intrigued about the Chef.
Chef Antonello Cancedda:
Prego, the fun dining Italian restaurant at The Westin Mumbai Garden City introduces to its diners, Chef Antonello Cancedda. Heading the culinary team of Prego as Chef de cuisine, Antonello brings with him over two decades of experience in authentic Italian fare.
Hailing from the renowned city of Genoa, the historical port city of Northern Italy, steeped in culture and famed for delicious Italian cuisine, Antonello has over the years spent time heading Italian restaurants in leading hotel chains in India. A graduate of Scuola Alberghiera Restaurant and Hotel School of Genoa and an alumnus of Hotel and Restaurant school of Alassio, Italy, he has worked extensively in Europe, the United States and Canada before venturing into Asia. Antonello drew his inspiration of becoming a chef from his father who loved exotic ingredients and flavours and introduced Antonello to the world of food at an early age. Antonello’s love for food and his need to be creative led to him formalizing his profession in the culinary world.
During his time in India, Antonello developed a keen understanding of the Indian palette and developed his style of authentic Italian cuisine for the discerning Indian audience. At Prego, Antonello introduces us to his specialities like pasta with the famous Genoan Pesto sauce (Vegetarian), Lasagna Portofino (Vegetarian), Torta Pasqualina (Vegetarian), Tenderloin Carpaccio with Aragula and Parmesan (Non-Vegetarian) and Asparagus Scaloppine (Non-Vegetarian) among many more.
A little-known fact about Antonello is his passion for strumming the guitar and belting out well-known Bollywood songs for his diners. Again, inspired by his father who was Tenor, Antonello’s love for India has translated into the pursuit of his hobby of music with well-known Bollywood songs. He is a familiar sight in his restaurant, tossing up delectable Italian cuisine and regaling guests with his singing prowess.
About Bella Cucina
Bella Cucina literally means a “beautiful kitchen”. The recently opened restaurant is already being lauded for serving some of the most talked about delicacies influenced by the central & northern regions of Italy. At the heart of the beautiful kitchen lies an imported Molteni. A legend in premium stoves, Molteni sits in the heart of most renowned restaurants in the world and is born into ancient craftsmanship, wisdom and detail. No two Moltenis are the same and the one in Bella Cucina is specially crafted according to Chef’s needs.
Some of the dishes served at the restaurant include Caprese Salad, Seared Yellow Fin Tuna with Poaced Egg, burnt Garlic and Spinach Risotto, confit Chicken Tortellini, braised Pork Belly, Chicken Parmigiana, Scallop and Tiger Prawns, Dropped Lemon Tart, 8 Layer Chocolate cake. Bella Cucina also boasts of an impressive Wine and Beverage list and some amazing Cocktails.
The charming decor of pristine creamy sandstone & Travertine marble finish, rich colourful leather seating, 3 private dining rooms & playful coming together of artistic pieces will transport you straight to the regions of Italy its culture & cuisine.