With handmade pastas and ladyfinger biscuits, Roberto Zorzoli hopes to transport you to a rustic home in Milan
Could it be that I’ve finally found a tiramisu I would actually go back for? At first glance, it passes off for a large scoop of ice cream dusted with chocolate powder. But a swift slice of the spoon reveals the handmade ladyfinger inside — for once not soggy, it is partly soaked with espresso (take note, you non alcoholics) and neither the mascarpone, nor the cocoa or caffeine fight for your attention. It is as humble as the soft-spoken Italian who laboured over it five hours ago. Inspired by his grandmother, Roberto Zorzoli realised that his heart was in the kitchen, while he was just a boy. His eyes light up as he talks about Valle Sana, the school where he and his friends learnt about food for one half of the day and spent the other half cooking.
More vegetables, please
A specialist in handmade pastas, Zorzoli believes in keeping things simple, and is incidentally from Milan, in the Northern half of Italy, where the food is much lighter in contrast to the South. The 32-year-old spent six years under the guidance of reputed chef Antonio Donnaloia in Shanghai, and it was Donnaloia who not only recommended he join a hotel, but also trained him in its functioning and nuances. Needless to say, his resume caught the attention of Hyatt Regency and he set foot in Chennai for the first time on January 27. Under his guidance, the team at Focaccia — who recently bid farewell to their former Italian chef, Massimiliano — are gearing up for a showcase on the specials of Milan and an all-new menu that will feature “handmade pastas, very light risotto, more vegetables and desserts.” After citing a chocolate salami, cream caramel and Paris mille feuille as examples, Zorzoli insists we taste as we talk, and hurries behind the kitchen counter.
A simple plan
With the panache of a seasoned chef, he dishes out a salad, readies a risotto and simultaneously enquires from across the counter, “Do you like tomatoes?” Still crunching through my yoghurt-dressed salad, I manage to nod in reply, and watch him signal for the sun-dried version of the fruit. As we put the first spoon of the risotto into our mouths, we hear Zorzoli again. “Just tomatoes, risotto and some bocconcini. I keep it simple. Nice?” Another affirmative, and he gets busy with the lamb rack and baby potatoes. We then talk of experiments with homemade sausages that might be part of a risotto on offer, of caves in Milan homes where they mature cheeses, and of Indian beers that have left the mostly non alcoholic chef with a headache. Before long, the tiramisu arrives and the conversations cease.
The Milan festival starts on March 6. Meal for two at Rs. 2,800 plus tax. Details: 61001234
– Ryan Peppin
Pics: P Ravikumar