A true taste of Italy at Trattoria’s Italian food festival

ITALIAN CUISINE ON DISPLAY

Once in a while a writer’s dream comes true and they get sent to cover something they or their tummy are truly passionate about. In my case it was all to do with the Italian food fair. What’s not to love about platters of bruscetta, cheesy pizzas, creamy risotto, pastas and decadent tiramisu?

This year, The Italian food Festival took place from the 28th of February to the 6th of March at Trattoria to celebrate their 30 years of being in the business. In fact my first dabble with Italian cuisine was at Trattoria and they have set the tone for the rest of Italian restaurants in Kenya. Hence what better way to commemorate this landmark than a celebration of Italian cuisine?

The wonderful owners flew down an award-winning Italian chef, Stefano Tabacchi who has years of experience with Italian cuisine and who initially cooked up a storm in Kenya. The aim was to showcase a different region of Italy everyday, highlight the culinary delights of Sicily, Lazio, La Toscana, Emilia Romagna, Piemonte and Veneto.

I also heard from their lovely PR and event organiser, Shymaloe Thakrar that key ingredients were flown down from these regions to give it an authentic feel.

As Thursday dawned m y waistline quivered with excitement. Walking into Trattoria was like walking into mamma Lorenzo’s kitchen. The aroma of freshly baked bread wooed us in accompanied with the soulful rhythms of NB Jazz. Each table had a cute glass with the colours Italy and a tea light candle accompanied with a cute wire model Coca-Cola Vesper.

We were immediately sat at the rooftop terrace by our lovely server, Jimmy K and a wonderful concoction of berries and sparkling wine was set in front of us. We were told we would sampling cuisine from the Emilia Romagna region.

I thought I was quite an Italian cuisine expert but turns out I was wrong. There’s much more to Italian food than your pastas and Pizzas. For instance I was most familiar with culinary delights from the Tuscan region as that is what we are used to here e.g. Tiramisu, Biscotti from the Prato region, chicken stewed in Florentine style, homemade pappardelle in duck sauce etc  but I had never heard of Emilia Romagna.

Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pasta made with soft wheat flour. Romagna sub-region is also known for pasta dishes like cappelletti, garganelli, strozzapreti, spoglia lorda and tortelli alla lastra.

Our Appetizers set the tone for the evening, with delicious mini pizzas, focacce and Brushette with the usual accompaniments of olives, mint, pepper, tomatoes and cheese deliciously melting in our mouths.

yummy starters

The terrine of vegetable and chicken infused with balsamic vinegar and the parma ham and sweet melon was to die for. I also had my first affair with Garganelli which I learnt was a form of chewy, homemade penne pasta. The green lasagne “gratinated” with 4 cheese sauce was equally delicious and my dinner partner actually had to loosen a notch on his belt to be able to lick his plate clean.

GARGANELLI

I wasn’t adventurous enough to try the eel stew but I did opt for the baby goat cooked in the Piacentina style. While chewy the aroma and flavours were appealing. My highlights though were the delicious vegetables -the potatoes stuffed with tomatoes and the mouth watering spinach gratinated with Parmesan cheese would easily have turned me into a vegetarian!

Dessert ended our night perfectly with an apple cake infused with cinnamon and the Zuccotto cake with Alkermes Liqour! The chef was kind enough to indulge our every whim and when we asked to try the Tiramisu with mascarpone he obligingly did so-which by the way is the best in town!

At the end I would have loved to know more about the region and I would have welcomed a chance to speak to someone who had more knowledge of the cuisine but I won’t grumble about that as the cuisine was deliciously divine, the service and setting exquisite and the company enticing. Truly worth my tummy’s while.

as published in The Star 14th March 2011

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