Restaurants in five star hotels rarely seem to have any soul or character to them but Cena Pranzo, the newly launched restaurant at Grand Hyatt Gurgaon seems to be an anomaly. At the far end of the hotel, Cena Pranzo is a cosy warm space filled with laughter and warmth as groups of people enjoy their meal on an incredibly cold and foggy winter night in Gurgaon.
At the entry we meet with executive chef Mario Carmella who works closely with chef Mauro Ferrari, a third-generation Italian chef with over four decades of culinary experience and heads the kitchen at Cena Pranzo. Offering authentic Italian flavours, the restaurant offers a delightful journey to the heart of Italy.
In our conversation with chef Carmella, he tells us there is no such thing as heirloom recipes and yet everything is an extension of heirloom recipes. He says, “There are no recipes from your mothers and grandmothers. They only put those flavours in your mouth and then you take it from there and try to replicate that same feeling.” He explains further that when you grow up in an environment where fresh eggs are lent from the neighbour and you have extra chicken so you lend it to the neighbour–that sense of community in the kitchen, everything feels like an extension of that experience, every recipe evolves from that kitchen. So, while nothing is inherently from your own kitchen it arises from the community.
As for the cuisine at Cena Pranzo, its honest simple Italian food without any frills. Chef Carmella says there are only three rules to good food, “Less is more. Keep it simple. Don’t forget the basics.”
TLM’s rapid review of Cena Pranzo
With the bread now on our table, chef Carmella left us with a final statement, “One thing that can’t be wrong in an Italian kitchen is the bread, it’s always fresh.” And, he wasn’t in the least bit wrong; from their focaccia to their pizza dough—it was all spectacular, and just the right amount of airy and crisp. We particularly loved the first round of sauces that came with our serving of bread—Papa Al Pomodoro and the Ravigout with chopped chillies, bell pepper, garlic, onion and olive oil.
Our main dish, Homemade Tagliatelle with Duck Ragout, Pistachio and Pecorino was everything a good pasta dish must be. The Tagliatelle was perfectly al-dente and the duck ragout gave it an umami punch. The pistachio further gave it that gentle crunch, adding an additional texture. The other thing we really loved was the Hand Rolled Parma Pizze with Mozzarella, Parma Ham, Rocket Leaves and Parmesan Flakes, it was among the best parma ham pizzas we’ve had in the city. Who doesn’t love parma ham that melts in your mouth?
The amuse bouche, a Wild Mushroom Cappuccino, was a segue to the meal and just what we needed on a chilly winter evening. If you love mushrooms and their umami flavour, it’s a must try. The Focaccia with Cherry Tomatoes topped our list of favourites as well, thanks to its golden crust and soft interior. It was crisp, fluffy and supremely well-baked. The cherry tomatoes gave it that added soft texture and added a refreshing hint to every bite.
The Morbido Al Cioccolato, which included a chocolate nest with almond crumble, mango, and raspberry puree was an interesting dessert but the many bold and contrasting flavours together did not work for us. While the raspberry puree tasted great by itself, the chocolate and mango puree were overwhelming flavours.