Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Venetian Rhapsody

Olives, Chianti, Pizza’s, Pasta’s….that is Italy to the core. Fast food joints like Smokin Joe’s, Domino’s have catered to the wants of millions of Indian’s…children and adults alike…but have you ever imagined a place where one could get unlimited Pizza’s, pasta’s, Venetian Cheese and Breads and a spread of hot food and desserts for just double the price of a single 12 inch Pepperoni Pizza.

It’s here in Goa, the Saturday Night Market….at Il Camino, the Italian eatery at The Fort Aguada Beach Resort. Il Camino means – The Oven. As you enter the restaurant, you see it…the place where your pizza’s are made, before your very eyes. This quaint restaurant, its décor would transport you right into the heart of Italy…has a unique concept every Saturday Night…The Venetian Buffet.

We sit down, wondering where to start once our drinks are served…one would definitely recommend the wine with the food. The restaurant boasts of its own wine cellar…where one could taste the wine before ordering one’s choice. We look at the rows and rows of wines placed horizontally…(it has to be placed that way to prevent corking)….Italian wines like the Cal de sasso, New Zealand wines like the Azure Bay, Cabernet Sauvignon, South African Wines like the Two Oceans, Sauvignon Blanc or the Chardonnay, South American Wines from Argentina, you name the wine growing country, the wine is there. It was like an educational experience for me….but our main focus was the food.

The buffet spread was enormous. .there was Zuppe (Soup), Selezione de Anti Pasta (Carne)..that is meat or Vegetarian, Salads, Venetian Cheese and Olives, the Main Buffet with both Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian preparations, the live Pizza Station, the Pasta Station and the Desserts. I mentally counted the items…thirty…not taking into account the varieties on the pasta station and the desserts. Wow…I should have fasted for a week…where does one start.

The selection of Cheese and olives. I had always imagined olives came in two types…green and black. But here were the Almond stuffed Olives, the Jalpeno stuffed Olives, the Kalamata Olives, the Pitted Black Olives…one could do a research on olives at that counter. And to go with it? The Breads and the Cheese. Garlic loaf, Chilli bloomers, Onion foccacia, ciabatta…no these are not bad words in Italian just the preparations of breads with Gorgonzola, Fontina, Scamoza, Provolone..the cheeses. There were many more varieties…but I would not complete my column by just mentioning them…and I am only on the first counter.

It was then the Zuppe..the soup. One has a choice of the Thyme scented Lamb broth or the Zuppa di Fagioli(Tuscan style Beans and Pasta soup). Or a little of both…its help yourself…but I would not recommend it…you should not just fill your stomach with soup.

And now the Pizza. I was always a ‘Pizza freak’. The waiter discreetly asks for the topping. I cannot resist. The crispy thin crust pizza, baked right before me comes to the table. The strains of the music played by the Cotta family wafts through the restaurant. The waiter asks if I would like another…I am tempted to say yes….but the sight of the other food allures. I take a sip of the wine, add on a mental burp and proceed towards the Salad and Antipasta counter. can mix their own salad. The lettuce is organic…but besides that there are Caprese di Bufala, Insalata Carrabba, Funghi Mariati (Mushrooms in herb and chilliolive oil), and the Insalata il Camino (salad with lettuce, celery pears, parmesan cheese slices, walnuts and maple syrup). I have only mentioned the salads I could take on my plate…besides that there are a few more varieties.

Then there is the Antipasta……Melanzane Farcite, simply speaking slices of eggplant wrapped and stuffed with raisins and peppers, aked in olive oil and Fresh tomato sauce, the crostini Misti, the Arranchini di Pollo (crispy chicken ragu stuffed with Arborio rice balls). There is also the selection of homemade cold cuts..the roulades (chicken and meat) and the shrimp terrine. We have only reached the appetizers so far…a long way to go.

But we did get a small respite…no, not a sorbet…that delicious chilled flavored ice water….…Italians do not believe in it…..but Edmondo…the Illusionist. He has many a trick to fascinate you as he comes to the table to entertain. He gives you a choice…cards, coins or even vegetables…no not to eat…he is fantastic the way he makes things appear and disappear.

But the rest of the counters did not disappear.the Pollo al Funghi (the grilled chicken breasts glazed with wild mushroom sauce) and the Pesce e Aglio (the fillet of sea bass with diced tomatoes) deserve special mention. There are also two meats and four vegetarian dishes on the hot counter.

But it was the pasta hot section that had people queuing for more. Yes, my friends the restaurant was full. I am given to understand that reservations are taken only till 8.30 pm, the tempo builds up later in the night. There is a wide choice of pasta to choose from Penne, Fusilli, Fettucinni…there even make their own Tagiatelli. You have a choice of a cream or a tomato based sauce.

By now we have spent an hour in the restaurant…and enjoying every moment of it. We savor the music of the Cotta family as they go from table to table. They create the mood to enjoy the piece de resistance…the desserts. The counter is set to one side, and justly so…the colorful display fills the palate…even before your plate is filled. A full variety of 12 desserts…can one ask for more? Zucutto and the cheese cake with the white chocolate passion center….I feel it is the best I have eaten in Goa, and the Tiramisu, Fruit crumble, Crème Brulee, Hot Chocolate mud pie, , Linzer torte…… take your pick, or eat all if you can…’s possible if the spread was not so filling.

I had only one request, as we made to depart….I wish Edmondo had the ability to make more room for eating those splendid delicacies that night.

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