It seems like most of the expat community of Chennai is at the Focaccia on a Saturday afternoon. We find laughing parents sipping on sangrias, as kids run about (some in pavadai daavanis, replete with mallipoo) — the mood is relaxed and perfect for a long drawn-out brunch. And in between all the cacophony is a beaming Chef Mauro Ferrari, the expat chef at Focaccia as he presides over the ongoing ‘Il Grande Pranzo’, featuring dishes from Tuscany. “We are looking at regional specials every month, so the buffet will reflect dishes from that particular region of Italy,” says the Italian Chef.
Even as we eye the drinks table laden with red and white wine sangrias, Chef Mauro ushers us to the starters — a table loaded with soft, spongy breads and an array of salads to choose from. We arm ourselves with tall glasses of sangria, as we pick the Cous Cous Di Pesce (fish cous cous), an amalgam of fresh tomato and garlic, infused with a very subtle fish flavour, making it light and refreshing. The Milanese Di Pollo In Saor (chicken Milanese) is sweet and sour in all the right proportions. But it is the Crostini Caldi alla Toscana (chicken sausage and cheese on bread) that we have second helpings of — it is the perfect mix of crunchy and cheesy chewy. The honey glazed cooked ham cold cut, smokey in flavour, sets the mood for the rest of the meal.
Italian food is nothing without its cheese.
If you want it in your salad, try the Pomodoro Mozzarella (tomato and buffalo mozzarella), a classic. Not a salad person? Head over to the next table where a luscious pot of melting cheese awaits you. The delicious cheese fondue is served with a side of warm potato, pickled onion and gherkins. And if all that cheese weren’t enough, there is the cheese platter — replete with emmenthal, scamorza, brie, gouda, parmesan and ricotta.
We cannot help but order some pasta from the live station. Curtains of colourful pasta are strung on the side of the counter. From the five variations, we choose the pillow soft Gnocchi Di Patate Agli Spinaci e Pecorino (spinach, cream, pecorino), which is deliciously creamy, and the Tagliatelle Con Regagli (beef bolognese, chicken liver), with spaghetti, which is subtle in appearance, but packs a punch.
Less is more
From the mains, we sample a platter of grills — gamberi (prawns), manzo (beef) and pollo (chicken), all cooked in their natural jus, with a tiny hint of Italian spices. “I believe that a dish must not include more than five ingredients to make it tasty,” informs Mauro. Sure enough, the Chicken Maremana and the Manzo All Dolcefortea (sweet and sour beef) are the poster dishes for everything Italian. We also cut ourselves a slice of Patate E Cipolle Frittata (the potato and onion frittata), with a mildly spiced filling for the fluffy egg omelette that holds it together. For dessert, we dig into the tiramisu, followed by a delightful chocolate-and-nut pudding before saying, ciao!
At Focaccia on Saturdays till February 28, 12.30 pm.
Meal for one: Rs 1,550 + taxes.
— Nandita Ravi