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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rishikesh, India: Authentic Italian Cuisine In Northern India

A Tavola Con Te
Badrinath Road, Tapovan Sarai (Laxman Jhula) 
Rishikesh 249192, India

Phone: +91-812-685-9654

Website

Prices: $$$$$


A Tavola con Te was recommended to me by Maria, an acquaintance from Columbia whom I met in Dharamsala. She told me that an Italian couple had just opened a restaurant and guest house in Rishikesh and that they made wood fire oven pizza, so I had to go there on my first evening in town.

The owners are from Milano (Milan) and have recently moved to Rishikesh. The property is up an alley off of the main road, so use TripAdvisor's directions or GoogleMaps and follow the signs up the alley about 1oo meters and look for the gate with a sign on your left. From there you meander another 50 meters or so past some houses and through a garden to the restaurant and Namaste Guest House.

They have a small terrazzo (terrace) that is nicely done with bamboo roof and decorative cement pillars, overlooking the garden, giving the dining area a rustic feel, and making me feel as if I were in an agriturismo in Italy. There are also a couple of tables on the grass under the stars (or sun), but no indoor option.

They serve pizza from 5:30 PM on, so do not expect it any earlier as the oven is lit around 3PM and takes a couple hours to reach the proper temperature. I ordered the "Buffalo", a 14 inch pizza with imported Italian (Vesuvio) tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella - a specialty of Campania, Italy), and fresh basil leaves, a favorite of pizza napolitana (from Naples, Italy) lovers, which I am one.

My pizza was very good although a little dry because the tomato sauce was very thinly spread and the heat of the wood oven had dried it out. A little more sauce (or fresh tomatoes) or some olive oil (preferably olio picante) drizzled over the top prior to serving would have been wonderful, but I wolfed down my pie nonetheless as it was very tasty and the best pizza I have had since I was in Italy last. 

My wife, being from Napoli (Naples), would complain about the crust because Neopolitans (napolitani ... my wife will kill me when she reads this because she is actually Sicilian and refuses to admit that her family has lived in Naples most of her life) are pizza snobs because pizza was invented there and Naples admittedly has the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD. Pizza crust in Naples is a science and nowhere else on Earth will you find such soft, yet crisp on the bottom crust and fresh, flavorful toppings as you will find in Napoli.

The crust at A Tavola con Te is definitely "Northern Italian", indicative of pizze (pizzas) in Rome and north and considering the fact that Il Pizzaiuolo (pizza maker) is from Milan, appropriate to the situation. I prefer the crusts in Naples, but who am I to complain because it was very good, not burnt, and crispy but still a tad chewy. Bravissimo!

I returned a few days later for my birthday dinner and everyone wished me well, very thoughtful of them to remember! I started with the pumpkin (zucca) soup, which was creamy, rich, and excellent, but just lukewarm, not hot, and accompanied by four slices of warm bread.


For my entree, I had the vegetarian lasagna (250 rupees/$4.00), a decent size slab that was, again, not very hot and layered with pasta, melanzane (eggplant), bechamel and tomato sauce, and cheese. The eggplant was a bit chewy and the lasagna needed a little more mozzarella, but otherwise it was quite tasty.

Having had the panna cotta after my previous dinner, my birthday dessert had to be the tiramisú (170 rupees/$2.70), layers of savoiardi cookies soaked in espresso, and encased in sweet mascarpone cheese, then sprinkled with cocoa powder ... delicioso!

On my next visit I tried the Pizza Vegetariana (260 rupees/$4.10), coming topped with mushrooms, eggplant, onion, bell peppers, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Again, the pizza was very good, but a bit dry and with a negligible amount of mozzarella. Being 50 to 100 rupees (80 cents to $1.60) more than the "average" equivalent pizza in many restaurants in India, I would expect a bit more sauce and cheese, even if they are imported and more expensive than the varieties most Indian restaurants use.

FYI - I am much harder on Italian restaurants than I am on others because Italian food is my passion and expectations are exceedingly high, particularly when Italians are in the kitchen. So do not get me wrong by thinking I was unhappy with any of my meals here because I was not and they were the best I have had in my two months in India. A few minor tweaks and this place will be THE BOMB ...


1.  They could use some antipasti on the menu (bruschetta, cheese platter, olives/grilled vegetables, insalata caprese, etc) and bread because the pizzas and pastas are not filling enough on their own. 

2. The lights are a bit bright on the terrace at night, so some lower voltage bulbs and candles or lanterns would provide a cozier, more intimate feel.

3. Portions could be just a tad bigger for the price and attention to detail, ensuring that food is appropriately warm and not too dry, will go a long way in satisfying hungry customers.

I really want this restaurant to succeed because the owners are extremely nice and have positive, professional attitudes, the location has great "bones", the food is very well done, and the prices are reasonably fair. Please visit A Tavola con Te and tell them CombatCritic sent you because I want to come back next time I am in Rishikesh ... a presto (see you soon)!


CombatCritic Gives A Tavola con Te 8 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More BOMBS Are Better!




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Title: A Tavola Con Te ... Authentic Italian in Rishikesh, India

Key Words: Rishikesh, A Tavola con Te, tavola, con, te, Italian, restaurant, ristorante, food, pizza, pasta, Himalaya, Himalayas, Dalai Lama, dalai, lama, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, TripAdvisor

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