Tuesday, 5 February 2019

GO ALL-ITALIAN AT LA TERRAZZA

                  Italian antipasto with special Italian breads, wines and art at La Terrazza Restaurant, Lounge & Art Gallery

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (5 February 2019)

Nairobi has several Italian restaurants. But only one can convincingly boast of offering not just amazing Italian cuisine but also a complete Italian ‘experience.’
La Terrazza Restaurant, Lounge and Art Gallery on the top floor of The Green House offers a kind of ‘immersion experience’ into Italian culture, says Jacopo Rusticali.
“We’ve got all things Italian here: the food, the wine, the art and even the music,” says the son of La Terrazza’s founder and master chef Stephano Rusticali, who formerly ran La Salumeria in Valley Arcade.
                                                                  Stephano Rusticali, owner of La Terrazza

As we listen to the music of great Italian opera singer the Luciano Pavarotti in the background, Jacopo explains his father’s expertise in Italian wines.
“We have wines from every part of Italy,” chimes in Stephano who proudly points to two glass cabinets filled with delicious red and white wines.
But it isn’t only wine that the Rusticalis import regularly from Italy. Everything from the art by Gian Paolo Tomasi to the cheeses, assorted cured meats or ‘salumi’ and fresh cream to the Italian coffee, freeze-dried mushrooms and assorted herbs are flown in from Milan.
“The key to preparing real Italian cuisine is the ingredients,” says Stephano whose menu is encyclopedic when it comes to all the types of pizzas, pastas, antipasto and pastries that he serves.
                              Italian antipasto appetizer is delicious with cured salumi, cheese dipped in honey & jam

Granting that his fresh vegetables come from Limuru every day and his fish are flown in from the Coast regularly, Stephano is eager to give us a special ‘starter’, serving us fresh Stracciatella cheese from Naples.
“We don’t even put the stratcciatella on the menu, because we only receive a limited amount and the demand is quite high,” explains Stephano.
“I got a call yesterday from someone who wanted to know if the supply had arrived. They wanted to come especially for the stracciatella,” adds Jacopo.
Served on a platter that was meant to be passed around, the creamy fresh cheese lasted only seconds as we all took generous scoops which we ate with Stephano’s special Italian ‘focaccia’ bread.
                                            Murielle, Jacopo and Stephano at La Terrazza at the Green House

With the arrival of diminutive Murielle Minchella, Stephano’s culinary partner, we get serious about making our orders since Murielle is the mistress of the kitchen. She’s the one who’s trained all the kitchen staff and who’s responsible for all the incredible Italian recipes and their preparation.
“I taste every single dish that we serve from our kitchen,” says Murielle who is so petite one can hardly believe she’s the taste master and quality controller.
             Murielle's recommendation: Baked red snapper wrapped with lemon & olive oil with lots of fresh vegetables

As I am not a big pasta-eater, Murielle suggested I have the baked red snapper, which sounds perfect to me. Meanwhile, my friend has the Carbonara spaghetti and loves it.
Stephano insists I must dip into his antipasto platter which includes a beautiful array of salumi and cheese accessorized with dishes of honey and marmalade, baby onions and olives. “You must dip the cheese in the honey and discover the taste,” says Stephano who’s passionate about his food and must have guessed I’d never tried mixing cheese and honey. But he is right. It’s an extraordinary blend of sweet and cheese.
                                               Stephano had two different Raviolis, one filled with Ricotta and Spinach, the other Ricotta and mushroom 

Jacopo orders beef tagliata, a platter of finely sliced steak baked in olive oil that comes with perfectly cooked cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and tomatoes. Each slice of beef is dabbed with cheese for adds flavor and beauty to this colorful mix of meat and veg.
                                       Italian Tagliata (thinly sliced beef) with perfectly cooked fresh vegetables

By the time my baked fish arrives, all wrapped in aluminum to retain the flavor, moisture and shape of the red snapper, I am delighted to open this healthy gift. Stephano later notes I also could have had octopus, lobster, king prawns or crabs, all of which he has flown in from the Coast. But I am thrilled with my delicious white fish.
As we had filled up on Stephano’s focaccia (which we dipped in his creamy sauces, one made with avocado, cream and herbs, another with zucchini, another with tomatoes, chili and cream) before our main course had come, I cannot think of dessert.
                                                  Adonijah's Carbonara spagetti with bacon, spices and cheese

 Again I could have had tiramisu or profiteroles or an almond parfait with assorted ice creams. But I am happy to top off this delicious lunch with a macchiato, an espresso with a dab of milk foam that I’d discovered on my first trip to visit family in Venice.
I have to say that as much as I love Kenya coffee, there is nothing to compare to Italian espresso. It is one more marvelous taste that is unmatchable and exclusively Italian.
                                        La Terrazza offers a total Italian experience --Photo by Jacopo Rusticali
                                                              The writer with Jacopo Rusticali at La Terrazza



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