Chef Nicola Costa is curating a menu drawn from the south of Italy and focusing on recipes well loved such as those learnt from his grandmother among other sources. The chef hails from Naples and when you speak to the shy chef, his love for food and passion for ingredients is apparent.
The pop up meal began with a choice of anti pasti. A rucola arugula salad with roasted pumpkin and goat cheese (my choice) and a toasted brioche topped with a poached egg, sauteed asparagus and truffle oil. Since I am not a fan of runny yolks, and I love roasted pumpkin, that was my choice. The sharp taste of the arugula a nice contrast against the pumpkin, the roasting of which enhanced the sweetness, the star of this simple salad however, was the goat cheese cloud like mousse, with all the flavours intact.
The asparagus anti pasti looked very photogenic and got a big thumbs up from my fellow diners.
For the soup course, we had a chick pea soup with fried angel hair pasta. Think a thinner version of hummus, whats not to love? Mild with just a seasoning of olive oil and garlic infused into the soup allowing the flavour of the chickpeas to shine above all.
The main course naturally was a pasta course. The pasta was freshly hand made. The choice was between a home made linguini with parsley, garlic, chillies and capers and a whole wheat pappardelle wit bell peppers and a lamb ragout, which was Chef’s grandmother’s dish.
The stand out dish was the linguine, a green hue lent by the parsley added to the dough. It was sublime with the flavours of parsley and garlic that paired so well with the capers. I wish I had ordered this one instead of the pappardelle. The pappardelle was robust and complimented the meaty ragout, but was not something that I particularly enjoyed. It was good, but the linguine clearly outclassed it.
We ended the meal with a parmigiana gelato which for me was the stand out, mainly because who would have thought that a cheese in a gelato would render it creamy and yet maintain the subtle vanilla notes without overpowering it? I also liked the ricotta amarone tart, very indulgent with sharp fruit and tangy accents from the red wine reduction. There was also a hazelnut and chocolate covered tart which had a lot of fans.
Rarely do we get to experience home style cooking of a cuisine that is not our own. Given how much we love italian cuisine in India and the pedigree of excellent food turned out by Tuscany consistently, this is a treat. The chef brings a lot of him signature dishes to this festival, but the underlying theme is simplicity. Perhaps his nonna is nodding in approval?
The Pop up is on till the 22nd of June and is available A la carte for dinner at Tuscany at Trident Hyderabad.