KOCHI:The pizzas you get in the city bear little resemblance to the thin, crunchy crusts invented in Naples. But we are too familiar with the soaked-in-cheese variant and slightly localised taste. In Italy, the wood-fired bread is served with minimal toppings - garlic, herbs, fresh mozzarella and basil on sparsely smeared tomato sauce. And if are interested to take a bite of the real, authentic pizza, head straight to Slice of Italy, the Italian food festival at Hilton Garden Inn. “Though a variety of pizzas are available now, the classic Italian pizza is an uncomplicated preparation of a few delicious ingredients,” says the chef.
Italy has clear-cut concept of meal structure where the diners indulge in an array of dishes in proper succession rather than sticking to a simple one or two courses. So a typical meal starts with minestrone soup, followed by Patate al forno, Spinachi alla Milanese, Spring green risotto, Beef braciole and
Chicken marsala. “It starts with the antipasto (appetizer), to a first course of pasta or other starches, a main dish of meat or fish with a simple side of vegetables, followed by salad, cheese and fruit, coffee, and possibly a digestive,” says the chef.
He adds that Italian food is a surprisingly diverse cuisine and each of the twenty Italian regions has a distinctive set of flavours, recipes, products, and ingredients. Across all regions, Italian dishes are straightforward preparations of a few choice ingredients, which are artfully combined. “It’s basically the climate and geography that defines local cuisine,” he says. So the creamy risotto is from the Northern regions, while the south boasts of bright olive oil and tomato-based recipes. They make the best beef steaks in Tuscany, from choice cattle raised in the Chianina Valley. There are unique ingredients like truffle mushrooms, special wines, cured meat (salami), and handcrafted cheese. “You will also find a wide regional assortment of breads and pastas. Italian breads differ significantly in size, taste, and texture. There are large, chewy loaves and thin, crunchy sticks,” he says.
Coffee and desserts are definitely part of the meal as the Italians cherish a soft spot for expresso drinks. Gelato Cookies, cakes, pastries, tarts and a lot others are usually enjoyed with coffee. There are some more exotic others like panettone, a buttery egg-bread laced with dried fruit and candied citrus which takes hours to make. Slice of Italy is on till March 26. Walk in anytime between 7 pm and 11 pm.