Love, in my books, can take on many forms. Love can be seen a-glowing in the arrival area of an airport as travel brings people closer. It can be seen in the furious back and forth of a dog’s tail as it vociferously shows just how much it missed you for all the 2 hours you were away. And for Chef Davide Cananzi (formerly of Mezzo Mezzo), love takes form one plateful at a time.
Ebullient, effervescent and convivial, Davide is the brain and the heart behind the newly opened Eat Pray Luv and I admire the fact that the place doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. It’s a slice of Italy lovingly served up as Davide knows it, learning his craft first at his mother’s side before mastering it in a more professional capacity. It shows too,with each dish standing at the crossroads of humble homeliness and high-end finesse.
The menu groans under the weight of the collective meat and cheese on offer (as any faithful Italian menu would) and by the end of the evening, so were we. Like an insistent grandmother who refuses to take no for an answer, Davide plied us with enough food to feed a small army (and then some) all the while imploring us to try “more, more” and sending us sliding down a slippy slope towards a state of torpor.
Long, long ago, in a land not too far from here, this would not have been a problem. I could out-eat the best of them despite having the frame of a wiry whipper-snapper. However, I no longer possess the inclination or the stomach to gorge on food as I once did. I wish I had gotten the memo on the sheer quantum of food, I would have slipped into a pair of maternity pants. They’re much better suited to downing this much grub at one go.
Our invite to Eat, Pray, Luv, saw us have a table reserved for us in the al fresco area, which is where you’ll want to be when you pop in here. With the deck overlooking azure waters and a cerulean tiled wood-fired oven (that Chef Davide calls his first love with a twinkle in his eye) adjoining the bar area. It’s perfect for date night, what with the dim lights and sparkling waters sparking a bit of romance.
And to get you in the romantic mood, go with EPL’s sangria. With peaches and melons marinated in wine, this sangria doesn’t have the unpleasant harshness that most sangria’s have. This wine is the equivalent of that Katrina Kaif ad where she asks you to come hither, except that there’s some action to be had after the visual foreplay in this case.
To say it’s a party on the palate is an understatement as it is easily one of the best sangrias in the city, bar none.
Just as French Fries is so quintessentially French, Pizza is the essence of all things Italian in the eyes of most people. We were served up a pair of pizzas to begin proceedings, the first of which was a Parma Ham and Rucola pizza while the latter was a Parmesan and Mascarpone pizza with Truffle oil and Rocket Leaves. There is a simplicity and robustness to both pizzas that screams Tuscany, where Davide hails from.
While the latter had the meat salted a little too much for my taste, the latter was perfect in my eyes, with the gritty nuttiness of the Parmesan complementing the so-smooth-it-should-have-worn-a-tux Mascarpone perfectly. With the cherry tomatoes going off like little flavour bombs, it completed the pizza perfectly and makes it my de facto choice of pizza whenever I make my way back to these shores.
A meal well begun is a job half done, and of all the starters we tried, the Baked Aubergine with Ricotta and Ham and the Cannoli with Tuna stood out most to me. The former came in a lovely tomato sauce with thin slivers of aubergine that boasted just the slightest hint of garlic and the star of it was the ham balanced atop like a ballerina. The crispness of the ham ensured it lingered longer in the memory as I savored every bite of it.
How crisp, you ask?
Crsiper than the autumn air in Paris as you run home to thoughts of cozying up to that book that has grabbed your imagination by the cojones while you sink your mandibles into some warm, buttery scones, an experience you supercharged with some marmalade and a cup of hot chocolate.
The Tuna Cannoli came with a sibling, but while the Tuna soared high, its cream cheese brethren crashed and burned for me. It was joyless and dour, making me wonder if the sole point of its existence was to act as a juxtaposition to the tuna, highlighting how lovely it was.
How dour was the cream cheese cannoli, you ask?
It was dourer than that friend of yours that doesn’t stop droning on and on about his life problems, which includes that time his pet hamster committed suicide out of boredom, the time the delivery boy failed to get him exact change for a Rs. 500 note, and that one time a visiting cuckoo cooed for a few seconds longer than it ideally should have.
Somewhat mystifying as well was the Seafood soup, which would have made Poseidon very cross for it contained a fair number of his subjects in it in what can only be called the very brown and very dead sea. Briny to the taste and packed to the gills (wrong choice of word, perhaps?) with all kinds of assorted seafood, this soup was a very earthy meal-in-a-bowl that I’d recommend to those that like their flavours to be decidedly continental and subtle, with a ton of seafood thrown in for good measure. Aquaman does not approve.
The Potato and Basil Pirogi, Jerk Spiced Chicken and Chicken Wings stuffed with Spaghetti came and passed me by in a blur, because the food seemed to coming at us left right and center. I felt a bit like a toddler manning a car on a highway driving down the wrong way, with people zipping past me from all sides, horns-a-blaring and gaalis a-giving. I was in way over my head by the time these 3 dishes came around.
Of the three, the Pirogi stood out to me most. It managed to mention quickly to me that it was a distant cousin of ravioli, at which point I promptly snapped it in half and asked it to stay silent as I was trying to enjoy a meal. I savoured the silence that followed and the slightly citrusy notes of the sauce it came in, with the lemon complementing the basil perfectly. I wasn’t a fan of the potato stuffing, but then I’m a carniwhore and my opinion on vegetarian fare is often invalid.
What followed from this point on were 4 dishes that I had earmarked for tasting even before I got here. The first of the quartet was the Burrata, a dish I was surprised and delighted in equal measure to see on a menu. Davide explained with great passion how he stayed with the vendor in Surat for 60 days as it took time to get the pH levels of the cheese just right.
To say the Burrata is a bundle of joy born
of his labour of love would hit the nail approximately on the head.
A ball of mozzarella cheese with more cheese ensconced inside, some salad on the side and caramelized figs on top provide bursts of color and flavor to this dish. Sliced open, the cheese oozes out seductively while saying “I know you want me”. Delicately creamy, sour, and earthy all at once, the accompanying figs add a touch of sweetness to the dish while the bitterness of the arugula rounded things up perfectly. The kerala chips on the side were an odd addition, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. This is not a dish you can fly solo on though; you’ll need a co-pilot to finish this mission.
By comparison, the Rissotto with Asparagus and Rose Petals was not something you’d wax eloquent about, even if it was very good. Creamy but not cheesy, the arborio rice was al dente with tender asparagus helping it rise to the occasion. The edible rose petals were perhaps a bit gimmicky, but we live in a city that’s filmy and full of gimmicks. Why can’t our food be so?
By this time, we were hankering for something sweet to round off the meal, and so some helpings of Dark Chocolate and Chilly Jam Mousse made its way to the table. Served in a martini glass, this dessert stirred and shook us out of any reverie we might have been in thanks to the mild burst of chilli that mixes perfectly with the strawberry jam and dark chocolate to create a bunch of 3 stooges that are very odd company, but work together perfectly. I was of the opinion that this couldn’t be topped.
I was wrong.
Out came the Tiramisu, one of Davide’s signature dishes that eschews gelatine and tetrapck whipped cream, instead opting for fresh mascarpone and basked biscuits that rub shoulders with just the right amount of coffee. Smooth and sinful with a hint of bitter, this is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best, if not the best, Tiramisus in Mumbai.
How smooth and bitter is it, you ask?
As smooth as 2 bi-curious liberal arts majors wrestling outdoors in an inflatable tub filled with jelly and lube with the ambient humidity recorded at 92%. The bitterness is supplied by the neighbour casting jealous glances with eyes the color of jade, wishing he had been born in this life as that inflatable tub.
As with any new establishment, Eat Pray Luv, there are hits and misses on the menu. But when things go right, they do so fantastically well and for that I doff my proverbial hat in Chef Davide’s general direction. The proof of the pudding (or as it is in this case, the Tiramisu) is in the eating, and if that is all it boils down to, I can safely say that like Arnie, I’ll be back, maternity pants at the ready for a gorgeous evening full of gorging of gargantuan proportions.
NB: This meal was an invite extended by the team at Eat Pray Luv