Prego gets a new menu, and a chef named Alessandro Bechini who can tell you a thing or two about extra virgin olive oil.
THERE is no secret at all!” exclaims masterchef Alessandro Bechini, as we gaze upon the plate of creamy risotto with wild mushrooms that has been placed before us. “It all depends on how you finish it. You must know when it’s done finally,” he says. It appears in the menu at Prego, the Taj Coromandel’s speciality restaurant, as Risotto Porcini e Tartufo. For ordinary mortals, this translates into creamed carnaroli rice with wild mushrooms and truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil. Therein lies the clue to some of the secrets that chef Bechini hides under the curly pepper and salt cap of hair that he keeps stroking back with his hands. He can’t wait to get back to the kitchen. For he comes from the medieval town of Pistoia in North Tuscany that is famous for its extra virgin olive oil, it’s emphasis on simple ingredients, slow cooking and a fierce pride in its traditions.
All in the genes
Did we mention that some sources say that the word, pistol, also borrows its name from here ever since they started making it in the 16th century? No. It’s enough to say that the soups that chef Bechini serves have been inspired by those that his nonna, or grandmother, used to make. The secret is in the making of the stock in which ingredients are cooked, be it for the risottos, or the wonderful soups such as the classic Minestrone Casalingo—that is served with a dark, richly flavored pesto sauce from Genoa—or the egg drop soup, with fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil. The main course of chicken with prosciutto ham and slices of oranges and carrots drenched in lemon butter is a delight to behold.
It’s difficult not to exclaim that, in Italian, the food sounds like we are eating a work of art by a grandmaster. May we just mention here that pistoia is also famous for having produced the sculptor Marina Marini (1901-1980) who is famous for his horse and rider sculptures? Or that the original San Lorenzo restaurant where chef Bechini first stirred his risottos was Princess Diana’s favourite watering place in London. That’s just by the way to explain that Prego now has a world-class chef within its elegant interior. And in case you don’t know it, the dessert Delizia al Cioccolato is a reminder that Tuscany is also famous for its artisanal chocolate makers.
Around Rs 3,500 per head (including a glass of wine).
— Geeta Doctor