Food should be consumed in tranquil and sunny setting with quasi Quaker furniture and a sense of timelessness. I had lunch today in exactly such a setting with a colleague at the Pasta Bar Veneto, in the heart of the city (I mean T.Nagar). It’s situated on Burkit Road opposite the McRennet bakery. (It has a branch in Alsa Mall as well.) Turning a part of a heritage home into a calm oasis for a good ol’ Italian lunch, brunch or dinner would not have been easy. Remember, the Italian theme has been done to death already with Bella Ciao, Little Italy and all coffee shops attached to restaurants or independent offering at least one Italian item on the menu. And unlike Amethyst or Anokhi, even though it serves coffee, it’s not a Coffee place; you can’t hang around here for hours. Yet, Veneto has its own advantages. Like a focused menu, uncluttered spaces and attentive staff.
I started off with a spicy sausage appetizer Salsicce alla Griglia. The sausages were cooked to perfection melting in my mouth while the spice was just right. My vegetarian foodie friend settled for the classic bruchetta, which she assures me, was delicious. I saw the little mole hill of chopped tomatoes on the bruchetta slices, the tomatoes almost glistening in the sun and agreed in theory. Oh, it’s a glass-roofed restaurant, which means you can enjoy the glories of the weather without dipping yourself into it. I loved the feel of the sun’s warmth on my face even as I was settling in. Usually, that is the first cause to change tables but here I just stayed put. It did help that I felt like the whole restaurant was all ours given that on a Friday afternoon it was practically empty. I am sure the patrons will come once word gets out. Then, I shall have to find a different workday lunch haunt. Sigh!
We decided on sharing a pizza and pasta for the main course. The pasta was Diavlo meaning diabolical. I fell in love with the name first and then found out the ingredients: bell peppers, roasted vegetables, onion, chilli, tomato, olives, and basil in cheesy mozzarella sauce. The pasta was light, the cheese was not dense, and the smooth gravy in which it was resting made the farfalle look at home. However, I have had better pastas. This is not the best pasta in Chennai but there was something very homemade about it. The pizza was fresh and tasty as well. But I preferred the starter to the main course. (I am not sure this was because of the lack of non vegetarian fare in the main course in this lunch.)
As cold beverage accompaniments, we chose a strawberry and curacao mojito each. How can anyone who has read about Hemingway refuse a mojito? The curacao mojito was a little piece of heaven in a glass. These are faux mojitos so the white rum was sorely missing but the taste was every bit as delectable.
Finally, what is lunch without dessert? Many people I know trudge though bucketfuls of food and refuse dessert thinking it to be sinful. Of course it is but it is also sensual. I can never refuse dessert. It’s my theory – do not say anything logical or medical at this moment – that desserts don’t occupy stomach space. They fall in between the food particles! I choose a caramel cheese cake; my friend chose a chocolate mousse. Both were gorgeous to look at and so yummylicious that I couldn’t stop eating till the last bite.
It was a great place to eat. The only irritant if you may call it was a bunch of loud teenagers who walked in later and peppered the air with spurts of giggles and silly shouts. But that would have been avoided if we had sat farther from them or vice a versa.
Veneto claims to offer Italian food at un-Italian food prices. I agree. A meal for two would come up to about Rs. 1000 including taxes and excluding tips.