It was over a month ago that I promised to write more about a certain Chef A, whose menu I had featured in the Bastille Day story. Well, here he is – Chef Antonello Cancedda. Recently launched as the Chef de Cuisine at Westin Mumbai Garden City’s Prego restaurant, Antonello has brought about rather interesting changes in the menu and in the gourmet Italian food being served at one of Goregaon east’s most fine and ‘fun dining’ Italian restaurants.
For one, the menu is more extensive now, with many varieties of vegetarian dishes being added to each course. With two decades of experience in authentic Italian fare and several years of professional involvement with leading hospitality chains in India, Antonello’s menu at Prego delicately balances the best of Italian authenticity and Indian taste buds. Like any nation, Italy’s cuisine has varied shades and nuances, from region to region. Antonello’s expertise blends his native region of Genoa, a major port city of northern Italy. His inherent love for food and flavours was honed by his father – also a chef – and later sharpened with his learning at Hotel School of Genoa and Hotel and Restaurant school of Alassio, Italy.
After generously dishing out his specialties to gourmands of the western world, Antonello come to Goregaon’s landmark five-star hotel to mesmerise patrons here. It isn’t any over-estimation when I say “mesmerise”. Not only is his food unforgettably delicious but so also the dining experience created at Prego. Before I go into the details of my dinner, let me reveal some more about Antonello. The Singing Chef as he is called, loves strumming the guitar and crooning popular Bollywood numbers for his diners! Influenced by his father, an Italian tenor, Antonello passion for music is interwoven with his culinary art, as he regales his patrons with gnocchi and guitar alike.
And now for the food at Prego. The amuse bouche at the beginning of the meal was a delicate Asparagus Pannacotta. Soft and subtle, this teaser completely re-oriented the senses towards some really fine food. The next course was Antipasti that still comes back to me in my idle moments – a Pasqualina so elegantly rendered that it can be termed as a must-have vegetarian appetiser. Homemade ricotta, swiss chard and parmesan cheese came together with aromatic marjoram in a golden pie crust. If you find yourself avoiding conversation and making it your mission to finish every crumb of this, I wouldn’t blame you! Antonello chose to serve the Pasqualina with a pretty platter of Proscuitto – little roundels of melon and provologne cheese served with parma ham and mint. The chef’s fine balancing skills – of colour, texture and flavour – were already well spelt out by this time.
Few things are as comforting as Zuppa – or soup, as the Italians call it. All the more so is a classic Minestrone soup. This thick soup was a simple rendition – its thick broth populated with fresh seasonal vegetables. Warm, healthy and wholesome, the Minestrone plays a perfect comforter on a rainy afternoon, when all you want is a glow inside your belly. An excellent seafood option was Aragosta – a soup with chunks of fresh lobster vying for your senses with a seasoning of fennel. Indulgent dining, you think? Of course, that’s a foregone conclusion if it’s a kitchen like this one!
By indulgence I don’t mean to depict as rich or exorbitant food but literally as cuisine that is a treat to the palette. While flavours compete for attention, they don’t put each other out. They complement one another and go down like a mature melody.
For sure, the pasta here is significant. It is fresh homemade pasta cooked and plated to perfection. I sampled the Lasagne Portofino layered with Grana Padano cheese aged until two years. One of the first hard cheeses to be made, the Grana Padano it is considered to be one of Italy’s most famed cheeses. The Lasagne Portofino at Prego does justice to this legendary cheese with Genovese basil pesto cream sauce, pine nuts and green beans taking stage together for a great show of Primi Piatti or fresh homemade pasta.
I mentioned the extensive nature of the new menu, which includes quite a listing of pasta, risotto and main course or Secondi. Prego Posh is select section of half a dozen dishes that feature fine ingredients like black truffle, arugula pesto, sea bass, lamb, and more such.
As a part of the main course, the Indian salmon was a great choice. Within filo dough, came a filet of this rich fish doused in a zesty red pepper sauce and accompanied by vegetable quinoa. I would recommend this as a very healthy option for one trying to go easy on the dietary front.
Then again, one can’t really watch the diet when faced with the dessert menu, can one? So why would I bother with healthy suggestions? There’s the Cassata, a childhood favourite for many. At Prego, it comes with ricotta cheese and gianduja a typical European-style chocolate made of chocolate and hazelnut paste. There’s a memory re-written for you now! The Cannoli – also featuring ricotta cheese and chocolate with pistachio ice cream and candied fruit – is always a visual delight. A true Sicilian dessert, the crunchy pastry roll is a thrill to bite into and a great way to punctuate an otherwise soft Italian meal.
But the Tiramisu wins hands, forks and knives down. “Cheer me up”, “Lift me up” could be the usual interpretations of this dessert. At Prego, it’s a stairway to heaven, alternately lined with the softest mascaporne cheese, espresso and brandy-soaked sponge cake. Ascend it and gently sit on your share of cloud nine.
The ambience at Prego is designed to lend a relaxed, no- rush feel to diners. Savour each course with ease, allow your tastes to be treaded on by gentle flavours and your selves to be transported temporarily to Italy’s kitchens.
It’s a joy to welcome such a fine artist in our neighbourhood. With Chef Antonello’s gracious and welcoming spirit, a sharp and twinkling set of eyes and his musical flair here’s a meal you can easily weave a fond story out of.
Note: This review was conducted by invitation