I’ve had many wonderful meals at Prego – the fun dining Italian restaurant at The Westin Mumbai Garden City, but I knew this one was going to be different even before I walked in. Reason? Prego’s all new Chef de Cuisine – Chef Antonello Cancedda, known for the mastery he exudes over his craft. May that be creating the most exquisite Italian dishes, highlighting the recipes from his hometown in Genoa, or his ability to serenade the diners with his guitar. No wonder why he’s called ‘The Singing Chef’.
‘Life is incomplete without good food, good music, and good wine. And every good meal should have all three key ingredients’, chef exclaims. And it is this experience he tries to recreate every single time. I sat down with a glass of Riesling, to chat with an extremely affable Chef Antonello, and dined on an exquisite meal that was going to last four hours long.
Everyone loves pizza. And everyone loves surprises. And when the two get somehow connected it’s guaranteed to get everyone excited. So when a bunch of food bloggers were invited for a surprise launch one evening at Pizza Express, Colaba we were all thrilled. Few of us would not only be spending an evening sampling some scrumptious pizzas, but also be the first to know the secret. My mind went crazy thinking about the possibilities. Was it a new product launch or a new store launch? Or the start of a new campaign? Only time would tell…
Now I’m a huge fan of Pizza Express. I remember travelling frequently to Colaba when they had just launched for my share of pizza and cheesecake. Luckily they have expanded with outlets in BKC and Andheri too. So I’m never too far from my favourite cheesecake in the city. In my opinion, they’re one of the best value-for-money Italian restaurants in Mumbai. So I made sure to trek to Colaba for ‘The Big Launch’ at Pizza Express inspite of being down with a flu on the previous day. All for the love of food (and cheesecake)!
It was a packed house that evening. All of us excited to find out what the big surprise was. We were introduced to the existing ‘Summer Special’ menu and would be eating some of the dishes from there.
Head Pizzaiolo Shri then arrived to speak to us. A pizzaiolo is a pizza chef, the guys who wear the black and white striped t-shirts at the restaurant. To become a certified pizzaiolo at Pizza Express, one needs to go through 12 weeks of intense training. He then proceeded to give us some insight about the restaurant. The Pizza Express franchise comes to us all the way from the United Kingdom with branches all over Europe, Hong Kong, Middle East and now is in India!
He took us on a tour of the restaurant. We got to see the pizzaiolos in action, flipping pizzas around. Not as easy as it looks! Shri also pointed out the Rudyard Kipling quotes placed strategically at various spots in the restaurant and parts of the submarine placed on the ceiling. I’ve never paid attention to these details before.
Finally the huge secret we were all waiting for was revealed to us. It was the launch of the #YearLongPizzaTrip campaign. We all love clicking pictures of our food and then uploading them on Instagram, right? What if I told you doing that could get you free pizza for a year? Just upload a picture of your favorite dish at Pizza Express, write a brief review of the dish, and use the hashtag #YearLongPizzaTrip. Don’t forget to tag the @PizzaExpressIn guys. The pictures with the maximum likes wins free pizza for an entire year. Un-frikkin-believable!
Now it was time to sink our teeth into some yummy food. The starters started to arrive. First came the Polpette- chicken meatballs in chicken Bolognese sauce with fresh parsley, served with dough sticks. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The meatballs were succulent, delicious and was complimented perfectly with the tangy Bolognese sauce. We wiped the sauce off the plate with the breadsticks later.
As we waited for more food to arrive, the staff kept us entertained with a quiz about Pizza Express. We were divided into teams of four and the team with the maximum correct answer won prizes. And they also got to reveal the campaign poster. Best prize of them all! We also tried our hand at juggling artificial pizza dough. Some of us were naturals, some of us not so good. But such a fun game that kept us in splits.
The Baked Mushrooms were next. These are button mushrooms filled with mozzarella, pesto and pesto rosso, and served with dough balls. Now imagine mushrooms, coated with their famous pesto sauce and then enveloped in cheese. Yummy!
I was sipping on a Berry Fresca cooler as I gobbled my food down. A fun, summery, berry flavored drink.
The Polpette Bolognese is the new pizza included in the summer menu. It has chicken meatballs with chicken Bolognese sauce, jalapeno peppers, mozzarella, and rocket leaves on top. I’m not a fan of rocket leaves on my pasta. Salad and pasta are two separate, beautiful entities and should not be mixed. But I actually liked the combination here. I just wished the pizza had been a tad bit more saucy.
The Risotto Pollo Funghi, as the name suggests, was a risotto made of portobello mushrooms, chicken, pesto and parsley topped with rocket leaves, shaved emilgrana. Anything with pesto and I’m a fan. This was a lovely risotto which was not overdone with cheese unlike most risottos in the city.
The dish I was most looking forward to taste was the Farfelle con Salsiccia which had farfelle pasta cooked in a white wine and cream sauce, with pork sausages and rosemary. The pork sausages were delicious, unfortunately that was the only thing I liked in this dish. The pasta was sadly undercooked. Most restaurants overcook pasta making it too soft such that the pasta is no longer ‘al dente’. I think these guys in wanting to not overcook the pasta, ended up undercooking it.
And they saved the best for last. My main reason for visiting Pizza Express has always been the cheesecake. The best cheesecake in the city in my opinion. Feel free to tell me your favorite.
We had a delicious Mango Cheesecake that night. Fine pieces of alphonso inside the classic cheesecake. Absolute beauty she was! And unlike most restaurants that serve cheesecake with cream, they serve it with their in-house vanilla icecream which is yummy by itself. I enjoyed this summery dessert, wish it had more mango pieces though.
We then ordered another round of the mango cheesecake. And we weren’t done yet. Classic Cheesecake toh banta hai boss! It is a ‘classic’ for a reason, because nothing can beat the original.
We downed three cheesecakes between four people, but it was worth that extra kilo I put on.
Such a fun, foodie event this was. Pizza Express remains one of my favorites in the city. And the fact that they’re sending some lucky few on a #YearLongPizzaTrip adds some major brownie points in their kitty.
(As I type this, my friend Harsh aka MumbaiFoodLover has won himself free pizza for a year. Are you next?)