The era of comfort Italian food was ushered in to Delhi eighteen years ago, when Aseem Grover and his wife Fawzia Ahmed opened the Big Chill in East of Kailash, all cheesy sauces, generous portions, and thick milkshakes. When they started, the couple did a little of everything, from chopping to serving. In 2009, Amici refined the formula slightly, incorporating a few of the more sophisticated Italian touches from its grown-up sibling, Baci. Both the Big Chill and Amici brought Italian food out of five-star hotels and into colony markets, as a whole new crop of Dilliwalas learnt to differentiate their noodles from their pasta.
While we’d never say no to a plate of Big Chill arrabbiata followed by a generous slice of Mississippi mud pie, the city’s casual Italian dining scene has felt a little tired of late, with both Big Chill and Amici having expanded into cookie-cutter chains. Even more expensive fine-dining spots like Diva and Artusi have multiple or affiliated locations. Enter EVOO, which extends its predecessors’ mandate of bringing pasta to the people (it’s located on the Shivalik Main Road), but where the focus is, at least for now, squarely on the food.
A Room with EVOO
EVOO is family owned—it’s also run by a couple of Grovers, husband and wife—and family-friendly. We’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a Benetton ad: a multiracial group of expat kids and parents are finishing off their meal while the owners’ kids play at another table. A portrait of Margherita of Savoy (supposed muse for pizza margherita) benevolently surveys the scene from amongst other photographs of Italy - all neutral stuff, but with a personal touch. We wish the generic pop soundtrack was a little more in tune with the décor, but that six-year-old bopping to “Shape of You” would probably disagree.
The menu is concise but goes deep, with tempting surprises, especially in the pasta department. Skipping the antipasti and panuozzo (sandwiches in fresh-baked bread) for this meal, we order a maple-roasted pumpkin salad. It’s the only item of the night that lacks punch.
Crust In Me
A pizzeria is only as good as its dough, and on this count, EVOO does not disappoint. Our grilled fig pizza, with a full-fisted sprinkle of pine nuts, threads of caramelised onion, and globs of goat cheese, has a very good crust, with that well-hydrated, slightly under-salted taste and texture that makes it so easy to eat more. We order another, this one with Calabrian pork sausage and shreds of fatty pancetta cut with sweet, crisp slivers of red onion and red chilli. A bottle of rosemary-infused olive oil among the table condiments ensures that no crust is left behind.
If the lamb ragout cappelletti—rich and meaty lamb bits swimming in roasted tomato sauce, between the “little hats” stuffed with herbed ricotta—is any indication, oil be back for the range of handmade pastas here. For now, we treat ourselves to two of EVOO’s immaculate confections, a rummy tiramisu and a pot of dark chocolate crémeux, and a crema-topped Americano that absolutely hits the spot. Espresso yourself over.
Getting there: EVOO Eatery & Pizzeria, B-2 Ground Floor, Shivalik. Call 83684-28737. Meal for two about Rs 1,800.
Accessibility: There is a flight of stairs up to the restaurant. Parking is limited.
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