I strongly maintain that there is a dearth of new restaurants opening at High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel. Most of the restaurants have been there since many years now, and most of us have frequented them umpteen times. So the news of a new Pizza place launching there got me super excited.
Francesco’s Pizza is not new to Mumbai’s culinary scene. They have a take away counter at Kemps Corner since a while now. I thought it was a wise move to launch a dine-in at Phoenix, and with an expanded menu that includes not just pizzas. We were a group of food bloggers who broke bread that evening, with a common interest and common topic of conversation that entire night: Food!
Ambiance: I simply loved the bright, cheery feel to this place. It is small and cozy, giving out an Italian Cafe vibe. The entire place was done in stark neutral colors of white, red and black. It has a minimalistic and classic decor with wooden chairs, large white tables, huge armchairs, low lying industrial lights and mirrors all over. You can walk over to their counter and see the specials on the menu. It is a small place but does not end up feeling cluttered or crowded. I guess one can say it’s because of the bright lighting and the huge glass doors.
Service: Service was fairly decent. The food was brought out quick. The servers were able to field questions about the food which was good considering how recently they had opened. Special mention to our server for the night Savio, who insisted on serving each one of us with a smile on his face.
Food: The menu was an interesting mix of antipasti, pastas, pizzas, desserts and a non-alcoholic beverage menu. No alcohol served here, and they intend to keep it that way. So I decided to have a Virgin Strawberry Mojito, and imagined the alcohol in it. The strawberry mojito was fruity, cool and refreshing. Perfect drink to go along with your food in this sweltering heat.
One of the first dishes to arrive at our table was a Beet and Argula Ambrosia salad. This dish is usually made with pears but we opted for the beet version that night. It had lightly poached beet slices and Rocket leaves seasoned with Balsamic reduction topped with walnuts. It was a light and fresh salad with a good balance of the dressing and the leaves. But nothing exciting to write home about since I’m not a fan of beets.
Next was some heavenly Norwegian Smoked salmon with salad on the side, which was absolutely delicious. This is on the specials menu, so ask them if they have it. This dish is heavy on the wallet, but light on the palate.
The Fettucine and Porcini Mushrooms were a sinful blend of creamy white sauce, pieces of Porcini mushroom and al-dente Fettucine pasta. What I liked what it was full of flavour yet not too heavy on the stomach, like many white sauce pasta dishes can get.
The Beet Ravioli in brown butter, hazelnut and parmesan with a Swiss chard and ricotta filling was unanimously a favorite of the crowd. Clearly not for someone who is counting their calories.
The penne in the Avocado Pesto sauce was delicious, but I could taste no Avocados in the pesto. But it’s a safe, fall-back pasta dish. I loved the Parmesan crisp that was perched atop all the pasta dishes.
The Peri Peri Paneer pizza has tiny paneer pieces, green onion, heaps of mozerella and coriander. This was an Indianized pizza, the paneer giving off an achaari flavour. Again, a conventional and foolproof option. Tasty nevertheless. All pizzas were on this lovely thin base with a tangy, tomato sauce. We were told that the tomatoes that make up the sauce of all the pizzas, are imported all the way from Italy.
The Bianca Salmone comprised five cheeses and a smoked salmon slice placed on top. The pizza was less cheesy than expected from a five cheese pizza. Utterly avoidable.
The next two pizzas were the stars of the night. The Notorious Nachos Pollo was a Mexicanised fusion pizza. Nachos and pizza can go this well together….who would’ve thought? It has refried beans, salsa, spiced chicken, jalapeno chunks and sour cream. And not to miss the topping of nacho chips. I loved this one for its uniqueness, and a nice blend of two of my favourite cuisines.
The Pollo Brutus is not my kind of pizza. Salad and pizza do not mix in my head. But I’m a convert when I tasted this one. It is a classic Margherita pizza topped with a classic Chicken Caesar Salad. Two classics that when combined together, were absolutely delicious.
With barely any stomach space left we still attempted to try out everything on the Dessert menu. We were strongly recommended to try the ‘Red Velvet Waffles’, another fusion dish. Now I’m a huge red velvet fan, so I was fantasizing about this dessert throughout the meal. It turned out to be dissappointing as the only ‘red velvet’ part of this dish was its colour. It did not have any flavour of red velvet at all. Completely avoidable.
The ‘Crostata di Mele’, or the Apple pie was my favourite of the night. Perfectly done apple pie, served with vanilla ice cream. I only wish it had been served warmer, like apple pies are supposed to be served.
The ‘Torta di Formaggio’ or the mini classic cheesecake, was a small bite-sized portion. The first cheesecake we received was cold and dense, not like how cheesecakes are supposed to be. The second batch was light, airy, and creamy.
The server brought out the specials of the day. First one was a dry, and crumbly marble cake which went untouched.
The Chocolate Chip Cake was a crowd favorite and highly recommended. It was warm, chocolatey, moist and makes you reach out for a second spoonful.
Francesco’s Pizzeria has a bright future considering the location, the price point, and the kind of consumer friendly food they’re serving. They need to slightly tweak the desserts and iron out the teething problems, and then there’s just no looking back.
Shop No, 9, 10, 11,
Next to Lavista Furniture,
Lower Parel west.
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