Friday the 12th of July’13 saw the launch of Grano Armando, a premium Italian Pasta Brand by De Matteis, Italy. The Prego restaurant is a perfect setting to celebrate Italian food in Mumbai. Chef Ajay Chopra’s personal attention to preparation, presentation and service ensures a high quality dining experience in a casual environment. The outdoor patio was blessed by the rain gods, who decided to focus all their attention on delaying the guests arriving from South Mumbai.
To warm up the proceedings, beautiful Tuscan Casamatta (White, 2011) and Bran Caia (Red, 2010) were served along with finger food. Tuscan was a perfect partner on a warm evening with delicious chicken and mushroom finger food passed around the venue.
We were told that Grano Armando is made from wheat grown by the company at the Apennine Mountains, about 220 kms north of Rome in the Irpinia, Puglia and Basilicata region. We received first hand training from the very own master chef, Ajay Chopra, who taught the guests the importance of cooking pasta “al dente”. “Al dente” is pasta cooked just right, whereby one can bite the pasta, and nothing sticks to the teeth. Pasta that is cooked al dente, has a far lower glycaemic index than the soft, overcooked pasta we get across in most Indian restaurants. The sample dish prepared live by Chef Ajay Chopra prepared pasta with simple veggies, herbs and olive oil with each ingredient identifying itself clearly, and coming together very well for the dish.
The chef demonstrated his simple yet tasty samplers, and the leftover pizza dough stuffed with cheese, spinach and corn deep fried to make a crisp, tasty and soft appetizer that was hard to resist. For non-vegetarians, the pick of the treat were the chicken sticks. No comparison with the chicken strips you may get at the nearest Hypercity, these strips were light, the chicken soft and the batter fresh and crisp. I had to request the waiters to keep the dish away from me, as I wanted to keep some space for the main course.
After amazing starters, beautiful wine and a crash course in cooking pasta, we moved indoors to a sit down main course. The starters were three types of capanaca – chicken and fish, along with a macaroon. The starters were too small for my liking and the macaroon a little too hard for me.
The main course was a small portion of chicken pasta with vegetables and olive oil, which was light, tasty and fresh. The vegetables were crunchy yet cooked – releasing their natural flavors with each bite. The pasta was delicious, yet strong in its presence in the dish. The mild flavors may not be to everyone’s taste – not if one is used to the overtly sauced up variety from a food court kiosk.
The experience was international, in a easy style comfortable environment that Prego extends, despite being in a 5 star hotel. I cannot wait to go back and try the new menu by Chef Ajay Chopra, who is bringing a lot of soul to food through Prego.