A trip through Italian hinterlands will take you past fields of pomodoro tomatoes, clusters of olive trees and past the famed black truffle hidden away in the forests. And there is cheese made by the Dominican monks that accentuates each meal. Italy is that cornucopia of flavours that the new Chef De Cuisine, Chef Roberto Apa at the Sheraton Grand's Bene has curated with a traditional essence. His new menu aspires to bring to the heart of Italian cuisine. Chef Apa’s Napoli origins find pride of place in this new menu (lots of seafood), and so do his forays at Michelin-star restaurants throughout his career, which started at the tender age of 13!
Bene sits atop of the Sheraton Grand at the Brigade Gateway fourth floor, with a beautiful outside gazebo seating, and swanky interiors. The perfect place for a lavish meal.
From their handsome bar at the centre came a fruity-teneted Mistletoe, a cocktail with vodka, cranberry and triple sec. Refreshing for the summer was the Aperol Spritz, a bubbly cocktail made with Aperol and Soda.
The in-house bakery's bread basket came with a medley of freshly baked wonders that we dipped into olive oil and balsamic with glee, and also with pomodoro, sundried tomato and cheese dips… till the elegant amuse bouche sauntered to our table. A small crisp dumpling of pizza dough with pesto, delish. The La Fruttarola salad with lollo rosso, walnuts, groundnuts with pear and apple was perfect and subtle and the zuppa de pomodoro with stracciata cheese was alright, the croutons were too mushy.
For the next course came the chef’s favourite tortellini, with a duck meat filling and parmesan cheese. We loved the play of pulled duck meat in a pasta with that delicious creamy parmesan, though the tortellini was a bit too tough. The scallapino di polo, a chicken breast with mushroom sauce and a delicious mash came next, the breast was too dry, surprisingly. And it could have been more flavourful.
We loved the vegetable lasagna which Chef Apa regaled about being a dish that is a grandmother’s meal favourite… not found in restaurants at all. It was delicious, with mushroom, and fresh and crusty at the ends.
The Pasta Caprese stuffed with burrata cheese was perfect… soft parcels filled with gooey cheese with a play of flavours - tomato, basil with leeks. Very good.
The woodfire oven at Bene is a must-order exercise, and we had the yummiest pepperoni pizza with gooey mozzarella, crispy thinnest of thin slices of pepperoni with a sauce that had just the right tang and taste. Must-must-have!
The tortellini and its doughy toughness was disappointing as the flavours were wonderful, also as handmade pasta usually melts in the mouth. The chicken could have been juicier too. Especially since the chef is a veritable pro of Italian classics.
The masala chai-loving chef has had stints across the world, in Shanghai, at Monte Carlo on a private yacht and a few Michelin star restaurants, so he has the leanings of a perfectionist. Apa then went back to his chopping board, to study at Gualtiero Marchesi (the father of Italian cuisine) Academy where seasoned chef hone their skill.
The menu sees Apa’s love for seafood, and classical dishes like a puttanesca, carbonara or a simple risotto. “I change the menu every three to four months, as a business hotel, we have people who spend long stints here. Every menu is a study, this one is based on tradition and classics. A tour around Italy with wholesome recipes from the regions. The leaning is towards the northern regions that have a rich repertoire which Indians like, and a few dishes from the south,” says chef Apa who respects classics implicitly, and has incorporated techniques learnt through his career. Apa's Tiramisu is seeped in tradition too and fantastic. The versions we’ve had earlier across the city fade in comparison… The others have too much emphasis on the liquor, cocoa and cake. This was perfect. The most delectable, creamy mascarpone with dollops of cake, hints of cocoa, and liquor. Delectable. The chef who busts some myths about Italian food, especially for those asking for pink or white sauce, which Apa says is non-existent
in Italian cuisine.
On the job changing 90 per cent of the menu frequently, Roberto is ready to dish out potions of Italian… and the menu is replete with myriad options. Some more flourish and finish would definitely add much more to Bene. With a chef who's heart and soul is Italian to the core....