Ciocaffe': A hidden gem for Italian food lovers
Crave Italian food and people throng to Domino's and Pizza Huts. The more refined palettes head to five-star restaurants that serve over-decorated dishes that you don't even know taste authentic. This void is filled by certain places that know exactly what they are doing. Somehow, I was not able to find this sweet spot in the city of joy until recently.
Few days back, the Consulate of Italy in Kolkata did a photo exhibition on a heritage tram. My better half, who happens to oversee the tramways in the city got this Italian food recommendation in Ciocaffe' from the Consul General, Dr Gianluca Rubagotti himself.
Earlier started as a dine-in and pick up joint, the Ciocaffe' is a cloud kitchen now that serves truly authentic Italian home food. Ciocaffe' is literally and metaphorically a hidden gem, run by Monica Galbardi, who belongs to the northern part of Italy, from a lovely place called Lago di Garda.
The name Ciocaffe', am told is inspired by the combination of the words Cioccolato and Caffè, which in Italian language means Chocolate and Coffee. The idea was to blend together the two favourite flavours of the Tiramisù, one of the most famous Italian desserts worldwide.
The food was neatly packed. The presentation was good. It gave that vibe of a Mediterranean lunch by the sea, with local cuisines. You get the authentic Italian feeling on the first glance itself.
Pasta with grilled chicken and red yellow bell pepper (Rs 450), Margherita with cherry tomatoes (Rs 350), Tuna, eggs and lettuce salad (Rs 290), Profiteroles, box of four (Rs 200) and Tiramisu (Rs 180).
I started with the classic Italian pizza, Margherita. It was a thin-base pizza with a topping of in-house tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella and had been finally garnished with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves with a drizzle of olive oil. It was simple but very delicious.
In the pasta section, I had the penne pasta cooked in a thick cheese-based white sauce which had then been tossed with slices of grilled chicken breast and yellow
and red bell peppers. The best part of the preparation was that it had not been bombarded with any spices or condiments as one finds in regular Italian restaurants in India. The pasta and all the other components in the dish innocently retained their inherent basic taste.
Same was the case with the salad. It was plain vanilla but very flavourful. Canned tuna fish pieces had been tossed with roughly chopped fresh lettuce, halved fresh cherry tomatoes and halved hard-boiled eggs in a dressing of olive oil. It had a beautiful texture-crunch from the vegetables and the softness from eggs and tuna.
Profiteroles are filled choux soft pastry balls with a typically sweet and moist filling and are usually topped with the same filling. The profiteroles here were available in four flavours - coffee, hazelnut, chocolate and custard cream. The four pastry balls were filled with a gooey, almost runny filling
of coffee cream, hazelnut cream, dark chocolate and custard cream respectively. They were topped with a layer of the same filling. I liked all of them but hazelnut was the yummiest.
I ended my meal with the classic coffee-flavoured Italian dessert, Tiramisu. It was made of alternate layers of ladyfinger sized biscuits dipped in coffee and a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese, finished with a dusting of cocoa.
WHAT I LOVED
Technically everything. Monika made everything from scratch and the way it is served in the Mediterranean. The pizza was flavourful, the pasta simple and salad soulful. The desserts stole the show with sensous profiteroles and calming tiramisu. The flavours linger on much after you have finished your meal.
If you want real home-style Italian fare at your place, just pick up your phone, dial 9073271887 and order from Ciocaffe'. The owner, Monica Galbardi runs it with passion which is visibly evident in every bite. Her dream has always been to enclose all the authentic Italian regional products under one roof and bring true and genuine Italian cuisine to the city of joy: Tilottama Kolkata. Cheers to this: Salute! (Sah-loo-tay).
(The columnist is a food connoisseur who loves experimenting with culinary delights and a career bureaucrat in the IRS Income Tax)