My boss the Sheikh paid the gondolier a 100 Euros and he sang through the canals of Venice, past the tall shuttered building, into the best restaurant in Venice. The Sheik ordered my food. I had flat pasta with tomatoes and cheese and mushrooms and the Italian Apple Pie, said my friend Alexander who globetrots with a Middle Eastern potentate.
We were sitting in La Dolce Vita on the first floor opposite the Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel. La Dolce Vita, which was redecorated in 1996 by Siddhartha Gopalan and made to look like an Italian country kitchen is owned by Chandan and Ranjan Kayastha who got hold of Chef Franco Simon and the more recently Florence based Antonio Secchi to create a menu using local ingredients.
For starters, the Crostini Misti where the accent on mushrooms and capers and garlic added flavour to the tomatoes on toasted Italian bread and had my friend Ashu calling for more.
Alexander said that the mushrooms topped with cheese and baked took him to Florence, where the Sheik overtipped and his wife the Sheka, quite exhausted after the dayâ€™s shopping, asked for a Cream Di Pomodoro, which is herbed cream of tomato soup, to perk up flagging spirits.
At La Dolce Vita the Pomodoro was so good, my friend Ashu left the Tuscany Minestrone a soup full of vegetables which he declared to be the best in Kathmandu and proceeded to take alternative sips of both. We thought fondly of the Sheik and which of our orders he would have given many a Euro tip for.
Chandan Kayastha has a secret favourite at La Dolce Vita, the Spaghetti Appetitosi, which is chicken and fresh Rosemary in a tomato and brandy sauce, poured over home made spaghetti. All the pasta at La Dolce Vita is home made.
Ranjan Kayasthaâ€™s favourite is the Lasagna. It is the most elusive lasagna in the world. I have been to La Doke Vita at least once a month for several months and asked for the lasagna only to find that others diners have devoured it. Kayastha clout brought me the layers of pasta smothered in mince meat and tomato sauce where several spices intermingled and a bechamel sauce added a touch of cool..
My friend Sangeeta Verma and my friend Raju Shah make a Cacciatora that begs for second helpings.
This medieval hunterâ€™s creation called Pollo Cacciatora has chicken, olives, mushrooms and cream in a rich sauce, and like Ashu very sensibly did, it should be washed down with red wine. The Sheik would have purchased the chef.
We had a go at the Pollo Diavola which was a grilled chicken crusted with Rosemary and served in a white wine sauce. We had enough to make us slight tipsy. And then we asked for more. Itâ€™s lovely to be full and high at the same time.
Alexander had the Mellanzane Parmigiana which takes the common garden Baingan or Eggplant to new heights. It is a sort of Moussaka done the Italian way with layers of eggplant and mozzarella, baked in a tomato and cheese sauce and Yuvraj Tiwari who was helpful through out the meal and is a captain at the restaurant said, â€œyes, yes, yes â€” there was oreganoâ€™â€™.
I personally feel that a pizza is a pizza is a pizza. Itâ€™s thin in Italy and thick in America. But its origin in Italy bespeak itâ€™s traditions as a poor manâ€™s food.
When the poor came to a housewifeâ€™s home in Italy in the mornings they were given leftovers piled on dough covered with cheese and baked. We all have our pizza moments but Alexander, Ashu and I would return to try the pizza. And theyâ€™re all there, the one with mushrooms, the one with salami, the one with aubergines and garlic, and the one with pesto and olives, which I love.
Alexander wanted to bring back the memories of Rome so for dessert he ordered the Crostata Di Mele which is basically an Italian apple pie with a topping of cream and cinnamon.
I went back to my youth with Cassatta Dela Casa which at La Dolce Vita, has more nuts and dried fruits in home made ice creams, both strawberry and vanilla.
We skipped the ten types of coffee including the delectable sounding Cafe Affagato which is Vanilla ice cream topped with espresso.
As we returned into a darkening Thamel, I wondered what the Brothers Kayastha would have Chef Antonio Secchi bring to La Dolce Vita when Secchi returns to Nepal early in 2005.
Any questions you have about La Dolce Vita may be addressed to Anand Nepal or Yuvraj Tiwari at 4700612.