A pursuit for good Italian food in Chennai is most likely to lead you to the city’s gourmet food restaurants. Gourmet prices aren’t always friendly on the pocket, and can almost instantly stop you from daydreaming any further about Italian food that you suddenly felt like having. So if you are someone who has recurrent cravings for crostinis, pastas and other things Italian that can’t be always be satiated at a high-end Italian restaurant in the city, The Pasta Bar Veneto is just the place for you.
When I visited The Pasta Bar Veneto, I was accompanied by a vegan friend. Although an Italian restaurant isn’t exactly a vegan’s dream come true, on special request, the vegetarian dishes we tasted were made to order with little or no cheese (and it still tasted good). Our food orders were placed almost entirely on the recommendations of the executive of the restaurant who accompanied us for lunch.
I’ve always loved the ambience of large bungalows converted into restaurants, and The Pasta Bar Veneto at Burkit Road is no exception. The heart of the restaurant opens to the sky and is home to a seemingly long-standing tree. Sitting at one of the tables in this part of the restaurant has a charm as it gives you a slight feel of an outdoor dining experience and is yet uncompromising on the comforts of an air-conditioned environment. The other section of the restaurant offers seating within a more regular four-walled room.
Starters and Accompaniments
Our elaborate lunch began with a non-alcoholic Green Apple Mojito (Rs.95), which was as good as the mocktail could get. The drink was followed by a variety of starters. The Bruschetta al Pomodoro (Rs.95) which we were served was a great example of how humble ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil can transform into a refreshing starter if just the right herbs are used. The Crostini di Funghi (Rs.125) was a disappointment as the flavour of the mushrooms was entirely lost amidst an excess of rubbery mozzarella. The Sesame Chicken (Rs.150) was altogether avoidable in retrospect – there was nothing distinctly Italian about it and my guess is that its odd place in a seemingly Italian menu is to cater to customers who simply cannot do without a helping of crumb-fried chicken even while at an Italian restaurant.
Our main course comprised of helpings of pasta, pizza, piadina and pisces. The Primavera Meditarenee (Rs.225) which we specially ordered with chicken (add-on chicken costs Rs.40), had a flavoursome pink sauce and sun-dried tomatoes that added a delightful tanginess to the pasta. It was interesting to hear that tomatoes are dried in the terrace space above us for use in the different dishes that the restaurant plates up. As a big fan of just about anything with a great pesto sauce, I ordered the Pesto Al Genovese (Rs.210) but found it very dry and its sauce lacking in flavour, rendering an otherwise spectacular Italian dish almost unpalatable.
The pasta that truly did stand out was the Aglio e Olio e Pepperoncino (Rs.210). It is a must try for anyone who believes that there are pastas beyond those which come with white, red or pink sauce. To be honest, I never would have thought that simple ingredients like chilli flakes, garlic, olive oil and spinach (the menu, however, describes the leafy ingredient as aragula, and not spinach) could make one of the best pastas I have ever eaten. I am told that the key to the recipe is the chilli-infused olive oil which is used with the pasta (red chillies are kept soaked in olive oil until the oil gains a reddish tinge). Amazingly, the chillies and garlic work magic together, as they make every bite delectable and bursting with flavour. This pasta once again reaffirms my belief that some of the best Italian foods are made out of elements that are unimaginably few, simple and easy to get. There is no doubt that I will return to The Pasta Bar Veneto very soon for more of this wonderful pasta.
While the thin crust pizzas at The Pasta Bar Veneto are undoubtedly both thin and crusty, they do not even come close to the texture of wood-fired pizzas. The Pizza Saraceno (Rs.235) which I tasted could, at best, be described as mediocre, and I would only rate it a few notches higher than my neighbourhood bakery-made pizza. I found the stuffed Italian flatbreads at the restaurant to be a far better bet as I quite liked the Piadina Napolitano (Rs.145), with its crisp shell and melee of fillings that blended fairly well with each other. The last main course entry was the grilled fish – Pesce alla Griglia (Rs.285) – which was too bland for my palate and might have fared well with stronger seasoning.
It was hard not to notice that the desserts are rather unassumingly named in comparison to the rest of the menu. The chocolate Brownie (Rs.75) that I sampled was nothing exceptional. On the other hand, the restaurant’s Mud Pie (Rs.135), I was told, is one of their best-selling deserts and it’s hard not to see why; one bite was all it took this dessert to win me over. I liked it so much that I was completely willing to overlook my minor grouse of the portion being slightly small and the occasional ice crystals in the ice cream.
My verdict on The Pasta Bar Veneto is that it’s a good place to grab an agreeable Italian meal without burning a big hole in your pocket. The Aglio e Olio e Pepperoncino is definitely worth a visit to the restaurant, and so is the Mud Pie if you have a weakness for all things chocolate. If you don’t go expecting food from Tuscany or Parma on your plate, and if you’re willing to ignore the occasional not-so-Italian dishes that feature on the menu, you’re likely to find yourself enjoying a good lunch or dinner, even with that unfriendly end-of-the-month budget.
Food: 3.5 | Ambience: 4.5 |Service: 3.0 | Overall: 3.5
Meal for two: Rs. 1000| Alcohol: No | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Address: 32 / 59, Burkit Road, T.Nagar, Chennai | Telephone: 044-4212-6680
– Prithika Jose