Lightest Italian fare in town

Lightest Italian fare in town

The menu at Bene changes every few months as Chef Roberto wants people to experience the full range of Italian cuisine

Parmigiana de Melanzania

Bene, the fine-dining Italian restaurant inside the Sheraton in Malleswaram’s Brigade Gateway, boasts of not just imported cheese, olive oil, and pasta, but an imported (if I may) chef who has under his belt several stints in Star Michelin restaurants in places as diverse as China and Monte Carlo. Hailing from Napoli in Italy, Chef Roberto Apa spent some time talking to us as we partook of a 5-course lunch he had put together, keeping in mind our dietary preferences.

The menu at Bene changes every few months as Chef Roberto wants people to experience as full a range of Italian cuisine as possible, beyond the usual pizza-pasta-insalata-gelato routine. He explained that given Napoli’s closeness to the coast and mostly pleasant weather with very few extremes, the cuisine isn’t as rich or cheese-laden as dishes from say, the northern parts of Italy. With this verbal entrée, and some background into how he came to choose culinary school early in life, lunch was served: both vegetarian and meatarian.

The meal included an entrée, a salad, two main courses, and a platter of desserts, out of which two things stood out: an almost deconstructed version of eggplant parmesan (Parmigiana de Melanzania), made of thinly sliced aubergine rounds fried to a crisp, topped with tomato confit, basil sauce and a creamy, airy mozzarella-parmesan mousse that instantly converted me into a fan. I’m used to crumbed eggplant smothered in tomato-basil sauce, topped with golden brown cheese, and admit to being a sceptic of this dish the first time Roberto mentioned it to me while at the World Café. But there is something about this inspired version of the dish that is just perfect in its marriage of flavours and textures.

The second dish that stood out was what I thought was ravioli -- Pasta Caprese (again, not the kind I am used to), burrata-filled pasta served on a base of tomato coulis, with crisp-fried leeks that added an interesting peppery, piquant quality to an otherwise mildly flavoured dish. There were six on the plate, and I am not ashamed to say I ate every single one of them.

And what to say of the desserts? I believe we managed to taste everything on the menu but one item. There was hazelnut gelato, pistachio gelato, and vanilla gelato, a crème

caramel, a Torta Caprese covered in molten chocolate, (don’t miss) and (but of course) tiramisu.

Take it from me on this: nothing says come to mama like savoiardi that have communed with espresso and shared their loves and disappointments with rum or coffee liquor or Marsala, accepted the cloudy
embrace of sweetened mascarpone, and then welcomed the drizzle of cocoa powder on top in abject surrender.

We were in for a pleasant surprise after the meal. Chef Roberto, who is being educated in Indianisms by his colleagues, prepared a pot of masala chai for us. He insists his palate now can handle the spice level of an average Indian, maybe even higher.

I’ll reserve judgement on that, but I’ll give him this: the cup of masala chai was the best I have ever had in all of my years.

But I still would have preferred to finish with an espresso or an affogato. And come to think of it, we never did get to the wine. Maybe next time.

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