An Italian Republic Day

960, Next to Gold’s Gym,
12th Main, HAL 2nd Stage,
Indiranagar, Bangalore

26th January, 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s now time to hoist the Indian flag. I request you all to please stand for the national anthem.

Phoo-phoo-phoo’ – Flutes! ‘Pah-pada-paaah‘ – Trumpets! ‘Rad-dada-dad-dada-dad‘ – Drums! ‘Rrrrrrrrr-whoooshhh‘ – Planes! 

He’s gone mad!“; “He’s absolutely nuts!“; “Lost his marbles, he has!“; “It’s the madhouse for him!“. Some of the sentiments of the American voters when ‘Ha-he-won’t-be-President-holy-crap-he-is-!’ Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy for President of these United States of America. Right now, you might be thinking the same of me. After all, what does instruments, planes, and the Indian national anthem have to do with food? I’m sorry to disappoint some of you, but I’m as sane as the next guy (and in India, that’s a 40:60 possibility).

Now to the significance of the sounds. There are only two days in an Indian calendar when one would expect to hear such noises – Independence Day and Republic Day. The former takes place on the 15th of August every year, so that means the noises that woke me up the morning of 26th January, 2017 must be…. 


10 a.m. – The morning of 26th January, 2017 began as most 26th January mornings would. The blaring of flutes, trumpets, drums, and planes from the Republic Day Parade on television, accompanied by the near dog-attracting decibel levels of patriotic tunes and new-age, body-swaying Bollywood ‘item’ numbers, enough to wake even the heaviest of sleepers. Still in my pyjamas, I was witness to the colony’s Republic Day celebrations (which was nothing more than elderly couples sitting in a semi-circle talking about them good ol’ days!)  from the bedroom window. As the flag was being hoisted on the pole, a faint but familiar smell caught my nose. A smell I hadn’t smelt in a long time. I gazed up at the sky – a clear and bright day – as I tried to catch the scent. It wasn’t smoke, it wasn’t garbage, nor was it the aroma of a well-cooked meal. As my eyes drifted back down, I noticed small drops of water falling on to the ground. It wasn’t until I saw the attendees downstairs place a handkerchief or scarf on top of their heads, that I realized that it was drizzling! On a bright day such as this? Yes! Ah! The smell of rain! Watching the pitter-patter of raindrops fall, I knew that I didn’t want to spend the whole day at home.

3 p.m. – Fedex has arrived! Not the global courier service company, but the Swiss legend himself! Roger Federer in the HOUSE! Still worried about my sanity? Don’t worry, let me clear that up for you. It was the semi-finals of the Australian Open. A match for the history books. The Battle of the Sweeses (or Swiss for you grammatically correct people) – Federer vs Wawrinka. First set to Federer. YES! Second set to Federer. YES! Maybe I was mistaken, this was just going to be a one-sided affair. “Prady, I’m going out for a movie”. Third set to Wawrinka. Okay. A minor setback. “Did you say something mom?” Fourth set to Wawrinka. What? What is happening? “Yes. I’m going out for a movie. You and your sis can be at home.” The fifth set began, but suddenly I wasn’t paying attention. Rather, I was staring at my mum, eyes wide and mouth open. How can she go out without us? I don’t want to be home on such a fine day. If she’s going to go have fun on her own, we’re going to have a good time by ourselves. That’s it! We’re going to go for dinner outside! Ding! Ding! Ding! Messages rushing in to my phone in a right flurry. Fifth set to Federer. Another Grand-Slam final! YES!

6 p.m. – It was finally time to decide where we were going to have dinner. About time too. Only an hour and a half before supper. Choosing a restaurant is a very delicate and methodical process, especially in a town as big as Bangalore. My process involves three criteria – 1) Location; 2) Cuisine; and 3) Ratings/Review. Finding a restaurant that met all the aforementioned criteria wasn’t too hard. We knew we didn’t want to travel too far, given Bangalore’s notorious reputation for heavy traffic jams. Hence, our location preference – Indiranagar. An enquiry made to my sister about her preferred cuisine, and moments later, the second criteria was answered. Our preferred cuisine – Italian. Lastly, a quick review online of the top Italian restaurants across Bangalore, and we found the perfect choice. Our preferred restaurant – Chianti.

7 p.m. – Ready. Set. Left. We stepped out on to the road and were met by an unusual and eerie silence. Perhaps it was a Republic Day miracle! It was half-past seven in the evening when we finally reached the restaurant. As we climbed the steps to the restaurants, we were warmly greeted by the receptionist, who enquired whether we had a reservation. Upon replying in the negative, we were immediately seated at a table outside. As we sat down, I surveyed the restaurant and found not a soul, even inside! My assumption was that it was a full house waiting to happen. Given the pleasant weather on that day, there were no complaints to be made.

Flip!” “Flip!” We opened the beverage list. If only it was a year ago, I would have had a second look at the extensive list of alcoholic beverages, but like a sober-pledged alcoholic at a pub after his first AA (not the battery!) meeting, the eyes refused to budge towards the alcoholic section of the menu. And so we settled for one Mint and Lemon Blush, and one Virgin Mojito.  

Born to Tamilian parents, who are huge admirers of Bollywood movies, I would more often than not be dragged to watch movies in languages that I do not fully comprehend (and that’s an understatement!). For hours on end, watching actors spew incomprehensible memorized dialogues, my eyes would be transfixed to the bottom of the screen, where the translations (or in this case subtitles!) would appear.

Flip!” “Flip!” “Flip!” The significance of translations has never been more prominent as it was when we opened our menu. I had to take a second look at my surroundings to make sure that we were still in India. Apart from one Italian painting on the wall, I was fairly certain I hadn’t teleported 4,000 miles to the Italian countryside (I clicked my heel thrice just to be sure). The descriptions of the dishes on the menu were as authentic as those you would find in a menu at any restaurant in Italy. 

The drinks are here! Yo-ho-ho and a glass of mojito! Hang on a minute. What’s this? So curious! Presented on a wooden plate were four ingredients – three slices of baguette, three slices of cherry tomatoes, three leaves of Basil, and three cloves of garlic. Puzzled by the odd pre-appetizer, any doubts we had were immediately vanquished as the waiter placed a placard by the side of the plate. Despite the low lighting outside, I was able to read what was written – Make Your Own Bruschetta! On the House! Wow! Never in my years of dining at Italian restaurants have I seen something so exciting.

I recently bought a glass cabinet from IKEA, and as most IKEA products are sold, it was a do-it-yourself model. This meant that the next hour or two would be spent carefully assembling the cabinet (remember it is glass!). To assemble it right, we needed the help of our instruction guide – a detailed and methodical description of the assembling process. Do it right and you have yourself a brand new glass cabinet; do it wrong and you might find yourself walking on eggshells (or in this case glass shards!).

The same can be said about our pre-appetizer D.I.Y. bruschetta. When done wrong, biting into the bruschetta was a tangy-filled, leafy, bad breath-making disaster. And note to readers: we did do it wrong the first time! But when done right, the bruschetta was abundant in flavours. When instructions were followed, it was as if the supplementary ingredients on the plate were actually on the bruschetta itself, rather than just the flavour. 

It was time to order our appetizer, and we decided to go vegetarian (Shocker innit?! Well even the waiter thought so after we told him we were carnivores). As we do in most restaurants, we opted to go for the Crostini Di Verdue – Bruschetta’s brother from another mother – topped with toasted mushroom and garlic. Not wanting to wait any further for our main course, we thought it best to order our dinner. As the waiter cleared the pre-appetizer plate, we told him that we were ready to order our main dishes (and this time we went carne) – Fettuccine Siciliana and Pollo del Chianti.

Over the next few minutes, we spent time talking to each other (topics varied) and staring at incoming diners. Turns out they really were house-full! 

 ( From left to right ): Do It Yourself Bruschetta; Crostini Di Verdue - Toasted Mushroom & Garlic; Pollo Del Chianti; Fettuccine Siciliana; Bomba Di Cioccolato
(From left to right): Do It Yourself Bruschetta; Crostini Di Verdue – Toasted Mushroom & Garlic; Pollo Del Chianti; Fettuccine Siciliana; Bomba Di Cioccolato

Our starter (or antipasti as the Italians call it) arrived as I was getting hungry. Topped with a mountain of mushroom, the crostini were hardly visible. My initial thought was “Hmmm…maybe it’s going to be too mushroomy”. To say that my judgement was absolutely bang on would be a slight exaggeration. Yes, the most prominent flavour you tasted in the crostini was mushroom, but that’s not to say that it was the only flavour. You could certainly taste the garlic, and surprisingly a whole lot of melted cheese, which formed the base on the crostini. After all, what else would one expect from a dish called ‘Toasted Mushroom and Garlic’ crostini?

It didn’t take too long for our main course to arrive. I remember still having to digest the appetizer before I could take a bite of my main course. The Pollo (Chicken) was perfectly placed on a bed of mashed potatoes and steaming vegetable ragu, and was topped with a creamy mushroom and smoky cheese sauce. My sister’s plate was crowded with fettuccine drowsed in tomato sauce, mixed with shredded pieces of chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and red chilli, and topped with a slice of garlic bread.

I’ll start with the fettuccine, which I had a chance to try out the next day as the heaviness of the dish was too much of a challenge for my petite sister. The pasta was perfectly cooked; the tomato sauce was not overpowering; and the chicken was moist and delicious. If there was a fault in the dish, it has to be that neither the chicken nor the pasta was flavoured with pepper, a common ingredient in Sicilian cuisine. Now for Los Pollos Hermanos. The dish, upon being placed on the plate, seemed on the heavier side. I was highly doubtful of my stomach’s capacity to store the entire dish. Turns out, I was wrong on that front. In no more than five to six bites I was able to polish off the chicken and most of the mashed potatoes. In terms of flavour, the chicken was slightly on the drier side, however the addition of the creamy mushroom sauce and the equally creamy mashed potatoes made it seem less so. The steaming pile of vegetable ragu, which sat on top of the mashed potatoes, added a crunchy texture to the overall dish, which would have otherwise had a monotonous taste.

Before we get to the next course, I would like to talk about a peculiar addition to the table in the form of the bread basket. In most Italian restaurants that I have had the pleasure to dine in, the bread basket has always been served as a pre-appetizer. So for it to arrive in the middle of the main course was certainly odd and unnecessary. Had they forgotten to bring it earlier? Is this their normal routine? Your guess is as good as mine. We certainly didn’t have space in our stomachs to try it out, and we made sure to tell the waiter when he took it back in. 

What we did have room for in our stomachs was dessert. When dining with my sister, I have always left the choice of dessert to her. La sua preferenza è la mia preferenza. We avoided the caffeine-based desserts and headed straight to the blueberry cheesecake. “Sir may I make a suggestion?” chimed in the waiter, sensing our inability to make a decision. “How about the Chocolate Bomb?” My sister stared at him as though she had heard an unspeakable word. She went back to reading the menu, and seconds later she voiced her frustration in being unable to find the dish on the menu. “It’s below the Tiramisu” I said. Seconds later, she approved of the dish, and thus the order was placed.

The dessert took a while to get ready, but when it did, it was a feast for the eyes. The chocolate “bomb” was placed on the side of the plate, opposite a dollop of vanilla ice-cream, and next to a cocoa-art of a fork. It was tempting to put the phone down and straight-away dig in, but duties come first. Click! Done! Time to break the bomb! I let my sister do the honours. No sooner had she pushed her fork in than the gooey melted chocolate flew out with a vengeance. It was a sight that sent a smile to my face. I knew we were in for a good treat. The sweetness from the chocolate dumbed down by the near frozen vanilla ice-cream and the cocoa powder was insane. It was truly every chocolate lovers’ fantasy. The only ingredient that looked off on the plate was the smearing of mango paste on the side of the plate. The flavour of the mango threw me off a bit and it certainly did not gel with the rest of the ingredients on the plate. 

Ready. Set. Left. Once again. Full with chocolatey delight, we called for the cheque. Given the crowd that had entered the restaurant at the time, the delay in brining the bill was understandable. Feeling that we got our money’s worth, we paid the bill, collected our doggy bag, and headed out to the exit. As we climbed down the steps, ready to head back home in our hired Uber, it began to rain. A perfect ending to a perfect night. On a side note, to any potential Chianti diner, if you’re feeling guilty after eating such a heavy meal, do not fret! Wait in the restaurant for an hour after dessert, call for the bill, and head on east, down a block to Gold’s Gym for a late night exercise!  

Chianti Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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