There’s a new Italian Chef de Cuisine in town at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain’s Primavera. Liz O’Reilly went along to say hello to Chef Delfino and check out his latest innovation, Mamma Mia Mondays.
Italian food. What can you say really? There’s an emphasis on simplicity and super-fresh, tasty ingredients and it would truly be hard to come up with something that’s both exciting but doesn’t buck those traditions too far.
The secret Chef Delfino has imparted to his Mamma Mia Mondays menu is in taking classic dishes and doing them exceptionally well – the perfect showcase for both his homeland and his restaurant and at the very reasonable price of BD15 per person for sharing platters that more than satiated our very healthy appetites.
Speaking of simplicity, I do love a bit of bread and cheese. So, it was great, on arrival, to be served a selection of homemade breads with chunks of Parmesan replacing the usual butter. However, myself and my guest held back in anticipation of the goodies to come – and it was just as well!
The set menu starter is mixed anti-pasti served on a cute wooden board. This changes regularly and on our visit comprised Bruschetta – one of my favourite things ever and a delicious crunchy, sweet, savoury and herby triumph; and Vitello Tonnato – not something I have tried before, this is described as ‘usually a main course dish or for an exceptionally elegant anti-pasti option’ and it’s easy to see why. Tender, thinly sliced veal is served with capers and a mayonnaise-type sauce that’s delicately flavoured with tuna. It’s a really interesting combination.
There was also Panzerotti, a dough turnover stuffed with delicious dried tomatoes and cheese. The pastry, though obviously fried, suffered not a hint of grease and was, instead, crispy, light and flaky; perfect for a starter plate. The Mozzarella Carrozza, on the other hand, was a little too heavy for my taste – a traditional fried cheese sandwich, beautifully presented but not great in a mixed setting.
Bringing up the rear were traditional anti-pasti favourites Bresaola and Eggplant Parmigiana – truly, what’s not to like here?
The mains were, indeed, the stars of the show highlighting two classically Italian dishes. Grigliata Mista di Pesce – an impressively varied mix of grilled fish and seafood, made up of seabream, seabass, hammour, prawns, squid and calamari – was served with lemon and lightly battered veggies. I’ve not had calamari in a while and was delighted to recall just how much I love it when cooked well – which this certainly was.
Each portion of fish was grilled to perfection, the flesh firm but crumbly and the flavour intact. The delicate tang of the seabream was perfectly complemented by the riper, stronger taste of the hammour and the huge shrimps were equally succulent and satisfying; though I did draw the line at eating their heads which were fried and served separately!
The second main was a veal chop served Milanese style with rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan shaves and arrabbiata sauce. I have to confess that I do not usually eat veal but decided to give it a try and could instantly see what people rave about. The meat was super tender, almost melting on the tongue, and sweet in flavour.
We finished with a selection of desserts of which the pannacotta with nuts and berry coulis was declared the best my dining companion had ever eaten – not bad for a Monday night set menu!