Crazy for Italian food and people flock to Domino’s and Pizza Huts. The finest palettes are heading to five-star restaurants that serve overly decorated dishes that you don’t even know the authentic taste of. This void is filled by some places that know exactly what they are doing. Somehow I wasn’t able to find this perfect place in the City of Joy until recently.
A few days ago, the Italian Consulate in Calcutta made a photo exhibition on a heritage tram. My better half, who oversees the city’s trams, received this recommendation for Italian cuisine in Ciocaffe ‘from the Consul General, Dr Gianluca Rubagotti himself.
Previously it was a restaurant and take-out restaurant, the Ciocaffe ‘is now a cloud kitchen serving authentic Italian food at home. Ciocaffe ‘is literally and metaphorically a hidden gem, run by Monica Galbardi, who belongs to northern Italy, from a lovely place called Lago di Garda.
The name Ciocaffe ‘, I have been told, is inspired by the combination of the words Cioccolato and CaffÃ¨, which in Italian means Chocolate and Coffee. The idea was to mix the two favorite flavors of Tiramisu, one of the most famous Italian desserts in the world.
The food was carefully packaged. The presentation was good. It gave that atmosphere of a Mediterranean lunch by the sea, with local cuisines. You get the authentic Italian feeling at first glance itself.
Pasta with grilled chicken and red yellow pepper (Rs 450), Margherita with cherry tomatoes (Rs 350), Tuna salad, eggs and lettuce (Rs 290), Profiteroles, box of four (Rs 200) and Tiramisu (Rs 180).
I started with the classic Italian pizza, Margherita. It was a thin-based pizza with a topping of homemade tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella and was finally topped with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves with a drizzle of olive oil. It was simple but very delicious.
In the pasta section, I cooked the penne pasta in a thick cheese based white sauce which was then mixed with slices of grilled and yellow chicken breast.
and red peppers. The best part about the preparation was that it hadn’t been bombarded with spices or condiments like you find in regular Italian restaurants in India. The pasta and all the other components of the dish have innocently retained their inherent basic taste.
Ditto for the salad. It was simple vanilla but very tasty. Pieces of canned tuna had been mixed with coarsely chopped fresh lettuce, halved fresh cherry tomatoes and halved hard-boiled eggs in olive oil dressing. It had a nice crunchy texture of vegetables and the sweetness of eggs and tuna.
Profiteroles are choux pastry-filled soft balls with a typically sweet and moist filling and are usually filled with the same filling. The profiteroles here were available in four flavors – coffee, hazelnut, chocolate, and custard. The four balls of dough were filled with a gooey, almost runny filling
of coffee cream, hazelnut cream, dark chocolate and pastry cream respectively. They were covered with a layer of the same filling. I liked them all but the hazelnut was the most delicious.
I finished my meal with the classic Italian coffee dessert, Tiramisu. It consisted of alternating layers of lady’s finger sized cookies dipped in coffee and a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone, all dusted with cocoa.
WHAT I LIKED
Technically everything. Monika has made everything from scratch and the way it is served in the Mediterranean. The pizza was tasty, the pasta simple and the salad touching. Desserts stole the show with sultry profiteroles and a soothing tiramisu. The flavors linger a lot after you finish your meal.
If you want real home-style Italian food at home, just pick up your phone, dial 9073271887 and order from Ciocaffe ‘. Owner Monica Galbardi runs it with passion, which is visibly evident with every bite. His dream has always been to bring all the authentic Italian regional products together under one roof and to bring real and authentic Italian cuisine to the city of joy: Tilottama Kolkata. Well done to this: Hi! (Sah-loo-tay).
(The Columnist is a food connoisseur who enjoys experimenting with culinary delights and a career IRS income tax bureaucrat)