No-9, H Block
Plaza Cinema Building, Connaught Place
New Delhi, India
Connaught Place, a very large circle (roundabout) in central New Delhi (a series of concentric circles actually) just south of the main train station, is brimming with shops (shoes, clothes, electronics, you name it), a massive Metro station (Rajiv Chowk), street vendors, a large park, relentless hawkers, and restaurants of all varieties. The large white buildings occupy an entire city block and are labeled sequentially with letters (A-L), making businesses a little easier to find.
We spotted Caffé Tonino while strolling one evening, shopping for a Kindle for my newest family member, a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Sonam who had been my pupil in Dharamsala. The exterior looked more inviting than most and the menu was comprehensive and reasonably priced, so we entered.
The restaurant is nicely decorated in modern earthy tones and brick offset by more colorful and lively décor, giving it a clean and inviting feel. The large wood fire pizza oven sits prominently in the back with a pizzaiolo cloaked in white with his large stainless stell spatula at the ready. We were warmly greeted and seated, one of just three parties in a restaurant with 15 or so tables. We found out that they have only been open a few months and are awaiting a liquor license in order to serve wine and beer, a rarity in India.
The menu items, mostly Italian, are almost all spelled correctly, another oddity in India and a good sign, indicating that they have at least a reasonable understanding of the country and cuisine they represent. We started with the mixed vegetable antipasto, Antipasto della Tradizione con Verdure (440 rupees/$6.90), which came with grilled and/or marinated mushrooms, eggplant, onions, green peppers, and olives accompanied by two small crostini, one with a small slice of pecorino (goat) cheese. The menu claimed that it came with marinated artichokes with potatoes, sundried tomatoes, and tomato mozzarella basil, but we found none of these on the plate. The antipasto was accompanied by assorted breads, spicy diced tomatoes and an olive spread, nice additions, and was decnt, but a bit bland and a disappointment at $7.00, being nearly twice the price of an average meal in India. I also had the Bruschetta (95 rupees/$1.45), diced tomatoes on three slices of toasted garlic bread and sprinkled with fresh basil, which was very good and an excellent value.
For our primi (main courses) my wife ordered the Ravioli Ripieni di Pere e Pecorino con Salvia, Burro e Mandorle (ravioli stuffed with pear and goat cheese in a light butter, sage, and almond sauce – 380 rupees/$5.95). It was very tasty, light and savory, cooked al dente and a much better value than our more expensive vegetable appetizer.
I had the Fusilli Carbonara (also 380 rupees/$5.95), a strange pasta choice as carbonara is normally made with spaghetti or similar pasta, but while tasting good, the bacon and egg were barely noticeable. Being a vegetarian country for the most part, I asked specifically about the bacon and egg and was told that the bacon was “pork” and the eggs, chicken of course. In any event, not tasting like any carbonara I have had, it was still very good and not too heavy on the sauce as has been the case at most restaurants I have eaten pasta at in India.
In all, nice atmosphere, good food, decent prices (for Delhi), excellent service, and slightly above average value. The service was outstanding and the environment warm, clean and inviting. Their bathroom was the cleanest and best stocked we have seen in India in over two months here (Western toilet, clean, toilet paper, soap, hand towels). Hence, …
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