For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved food. This mostly comes from my mother being a terrific cook. Now, I know what you’re thinking, everybody says that about their moms, and it is most definitely true! My mother has cooked nearly every variety of food I know (within Indian cuisine) and as a result, I’ve become highly receptive to foods and flavors. But partly due to being a vegetarian and partly due to lack of exposure, I haven’t ventured into cuisines of other countries. Even during my brief one year stint in Dubai, I was happy to gobble away South-Indian food.

All that has changed ever since I started following Masterchef Australia. Watching that show and all the exquisite, exotic dishes put up by the contestants has made me realize just what I am missing out on by not immersing myself in International cuisine. These days I’ve made it a personal motto to order at least one new and unknown dish in each restaurant I visit. Keeping up with that theme, I took out a bunch of my friends for my sister’s wedding treat to Little Italy Ristorante - a chain of Italian restaurants in India. And I am happy to announce that it was some of the best food I’ve had.

Before talking about the food, I have to point out that the ambiance of the restaurant was really nice. While the soft lighting helped set the mood effectively, they enhanced the Italian theme of romanticism by lighting candles for each table. Despite all that, or maybe it’s just me, I felt they could’ve added a lot more Italian touches to the place, like adding portraits of Italian architecture, paintings, sculptures, for example. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful mood to have dinner in.

For our choice of Antipasti (Starters) and Soups, we chose the following:

  1. SPECIAL CROSTINI - Special farmer’s bread grilled and topped with exotic vegetables - Red and Yellow capsicum, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted aubergine and cheese.
  2. CROSTINI DELLA CASA - Sliced farmer’s bread, grilled and topped with sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic and roasted Italian aubergines.
  3. CROSTINI RUSTICI - Sliced farmer’s bread, grilled and topped with artichokes, mozzarella, olives, capers and fresh tomato sauce.
  4. ONION RINGS - From LI’s selection of Mexican cuisine.
  5. PASSATO DI VERDURE - Cream of vegetables soup sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and served with crunchy croutons.
  6. ZUPPA DI BROCCOLI - Soup prepared in the traditional Italian way with Broccoli.
  7. ZUPPA DI ASPARAGUS - Soup prepared in the traditional Italian way with Asparagus.

There were a handful of other starters that we ordered but all of us were so hungry - and the food, so delicious - that I can’t remember them even after looking up the menu on LI’s website. My favorite starter was the potato crisps (not listed above) which were served with an amazing sauce to dip them in. Unfortunately it is not listed on their online menu as well, but it just reiterated the fact that potatoes in any form are simply heaven on Earth. What made this dish was the sauce, again the name of which escapes me. As for the soup, I myself had the Passato Di Verdure. One of my buddies didn’t think much of it but I enjoyed it, though its taste was lost in the sea of starters we had ordered.

For our main course (Pizza and Pasta), we ordered the following:

  1. ULTIMATE - Fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, green peas, mushrooms, capsicum, aubergine and onions.
  2. PIZZA ALLA VODKA - Fresh tomato sauce with mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, jalapeno peppers, red capsicum, capers, pineapple and vodka.
  3. PASTA 4 STAGIONI (RAVIOLI) - A creamy tomato sauce with garlic, carrots, cauliflower, capers, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
  4. GNOCCO - Home-made pasta stuffed with three types of cheese, spinach, Italian herbs and tomato sauce sprinkled with Parmesan.

Again due to us being a huge, hungry crowd, I don’t remember the names of some of the dishes that we ordered. The ravioli above was a terrific dish. It was the first time I’ve had ravioli, thanks to Masterchef, and it was worth it. Pizza was as per usual, quite tasty, but not something I found very differentiating from those served in numerous other pizza parlours. I absolutely loved the Gnocco, though I couldn’t complete the portion on my plate. The three types of cheese in it were quite overwhelming, not to mention I was pretty stuffed by that point. But I’ve made a mental note to enjoy it thoroughly next time around.

Now, we come to the best part of the day, one where Little Italy shined brightest, the desserts:

  1. SIZZLING CHOCOLATE WALNUT BROWNIE (Served with Vanilla Ice-Cream)
  2. PANNA COTTA - A delicious creamy pudding.
  4. CHOCOLATE BOMB - Muddy melted fantasy chocolate served with vanilla ice-cream.
  5. BLUEBERRY CHEESE CAKE - Fresh blue berry with cheese cake served cold.
  6. SEMIFREDO AL MANGO - A delicate mango cheese cake served cold.

Apart from the above, we also ordered a bunch of other ice-creams. Singling out one dessert would be a very difficult thing to do for me since they all made the day for me. This is the first time I’ve had a Sizzling Brownie and my God was it worth the wait. The way the steaming hot brownie melted and combined with the vanilla ice-cream in my mouth was splendid. It was easily the most loved dish of the day. Only a few of us got to taste the Chocolate Bomb, and it was a winner as well. The melted fantasy chocolate just oozed out when we broke open the pastry, and the combination along with the vanilla ice-cream was almost divine. I loved the fantasy chocolate much more so than the brownie.

I felt the Panna Cotta lacked a bit of sweetness or maybe that’s just my palette or the fact that I had so many dishes in such a short span of time. Chocolate Mousse was fine but not as worthy of remembrance as the above two dishes. From the choice of cheese cakes, the Semifredo Al Mango was the clear winner, and it was the extra mango dressing on top that made it so. The cake just melted in the mouth and the mango was felt very strongly, with absolutely wonderful flavors. As for the Blueberry cake, we felt there wasn’t enough sweetness in it, though it was quite good as well.

To sum it up, Little Italy is a place that I would love to visit again and again. It had wonderful ambiance, waiters who served with a smile, exquisite, and perfectly flavored Italian food. For my first venture into Italian cuisine, I couldn’t have chosen a better place to do it. Others might consider it a tad expensive (understatement of the year) and it’s not really the kind of place you can visit every other weekend, but for those special days, it is going to be worth every penny.