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Bellisimo!

The Europeans know how to warm up during the cold season so it seems apt to try Italian food for an evening out in the holidays

“Food speaks to you if you cook from the heart. Slowly and naturally you will start communicating with the food through your senses. Cook from the heart, to suit every mood, respect your ingredients and eventually the food and you will have your signature dish right in front of you,” says Chef Roberto Apa, Head Chef, Bella Cucina, Le Méridien Gurugram as we settle down to taste the special menu curated by him.

It highlights the best from his revamped extensive menu for Bella Cucina that is known for experiential dining taking cues from the mood of the diners and is heavily based on the conversations that the chef has with the guests.

The world of Bella Cucina meaning ‘A Beautiful Kitchen’ is an instant treat to your senses, right from the time you enter it. The whiff of freshly baked bread coupled with the elegant vibe of the restaurant uplifts your mood and sets the tone for the evening. The gorgeous Molteni stove that is the centrepiece of the tastefully done kitchen plays a huge part in enhancing the look and ambience. The sounds from the open kitchen like the chefs braising, frying and sautéing the vegetables, herbs and spices sizzling or juicy meats being cooked in harmony, make for an appetising background score.

Cosying up in the warmth of Bella Cucina’s tasteful interiors, done up with stylish Italian furniture in soft palette, the walls are covered in art that brings to life the Italian landscape and lifestyle, showcasing the architectural variations that exist there along with a line-up of photographs featuring automobiles used by in that country over the years is a true delight. To add to the comfort of Bella’s space, ostrich and camel leather upholstered chairs and round tables and ornate ambient chandeliers make it the ideal place for a meal that lifts up your mood.

Each signature dish tells a unique story. The philosophy here is to offer classic recipes in simple Italian cooking techniques. ‘Risotto Barbabetto’ is an interesting take on a traditional Italian favourite — the risotto. It allows one to explore new tastes and flavours by adding beetroot to the risotto which not only lends to the flavour but also adds colour to the dish.

‘Cannolo Siciliano’ is one of the staple dishes in South of Italy and is something chef Roberto grew up eating. This dish offers an ideal play on textures by mixing the firm cannoli shell filled with smooth ricotta filling and laden with pistachio garnish. ‘Tortelli all’amatriciana’ is a traditional pasta dish, hails from the city of Amatrice and combines all flavours as it is rich with Italian cheeses, sweet with balsamic vinegar and crispy with bacon.

Chef Roberto can’t stop taking about his favourite ‘Stracciatella’, a famous Italian soup that consists of a meat broth and thin shreds of an egg-based mixture which he delicately prepares by drizzling the mixture into the boiling broth and stirring it well.

Round off with his signature dessert, ‘Torta Caprese’, as he explains, “It’s one dessert that actually inspired me to start cooking in the first place. Torta caprese is one of the cake recipes that my aunt often used to cook. We thoroughly enjoyed indulging in it during festive gatherings as a kid and eventually I learnt the recipe from her. Since then there has been no stopping for me. Every time she cooked something new, I became my aunt’s apprentice and started cooking and enjoying this art. So today this is my signature introduction in the menu and my interpretation of this dessert and my childhood memory.”

When it comes to beverages, chef Roberto has a soft corner for ‘Vassi Nicola’. “It’s a drink dedicated to Vassi Nicola the person responsible for bringing Basil into Napoli, one of the most important Italian ingredients common to most of the traditional Italian recipes. And as gin happens to be Roberto’s favourite drink, a basil-based gin had to be selected as the signature drink of the outlet.”

With its myriad culinary offerings, tastefully done interiors, a pleasing chef for memorable conversations, any day is a good day to dine at Bella Cucina and dive into an authentic menu that transports you to the rich Italian landscape with gourmet food and exotic wines.