PICS: RUBY TUESDAY
To the delight of foodies in the Valley, a little bit of Italy has come to Darbar Marg. Little Italy restaurant chain, a popular fine-dining eatery offering vegetarian Italian cuisines in India, has opened its first outlet in Nepal. You might be wondering :Italian and completely vegetarian? The idea takes a little getting used to especially for an inveterate carnivore like me, but once you get over the initial shock, Little Italy does not disappoint.
The moment I opened the menu, I was intrigued by a sign that read: Jain on request. When I asked the helpful and informed maître, he told me that Little Italy accommodates religious and cultural dietary restrictions and will prepare meals without onion, garlic and all underground vegetables at the request of Jain patrons.
The 'ristorante and bar' sports mint green walls offset by dark wooden furniture. It's uncluttered and the ambient lighting creates an aura that is chic in its minimalism. The thick glass walls insulate the noise so you forget that you are in the midst of bustling Kathmandu.
We started with the Fungi Trifolati (Rs 380), which is made of tiny fresh baby mushrooms sautéed with garlic and Italian herbs, served with a side of garlic bread. Since the restaurant bakes it bread daily, the ones on our plate were fresh with a crispy crust. The Insalata Mista (Rs 255) salad with lettuce bits, tomatoes, cucumber mozzarella cheese in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil dressing was light and fresh.
Little Italy is renowned for its wood-burn pizzas and as there are a lot of choices, we went with our servers recommendation, the Sicilia (Rs 430). A thin pizza with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, garlic and here it gets very interesting, pickled onions and sun-dried tomatoes marinated in chili sauce, garnished with fresh basil. The sweetness of the pickled onions and the texture of the sun-dried tomatoes elevate this dish beyond the ordinary. And the cheese comes from the restaurant's factory in Pune.
The Pasta Al Sole Di Sicilia (Rs 410) is a dish I imagine Don Corleone's nonna would have prepared for him. Simple and easy, but packing a bunch of flavours, this would have had the Mafiosi kissing his fingers and shouting, "Bellisimo, eccellente!"
The perfect ending to my very excellent meal was the chef's specialty, the chocolate bomb (Rs 280), an oozing mess of warm melted chocolate baked in a light chocolate sponge casing served with vanilla ice cream. I was in dessert heaven.
Little Italy deserves a special mention for sticking to its roots. When I ordered my dishes, I was fervently hoping to be served authentic cucina italiana instead of the usual cumin, coriander, and asafetida laden 'Indianised' version that other Italian restaurants in town dole out. But Little Italy gets full marks for creating truly authentic flavours and textures. Also I really like that the table is set with a tray of condiments so you can season your meal with spices and sauces to suit your taste. I will definitely go back and take my friends and family along because it serves excellent food that is meant to be shared.
How to get there:
Little Italy is in Darbar Marg, on the third floor of a new complex opening up next to Bentley's and Benetton.