Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Love Lost 'N Found : Pali Village Cafe (Mumbai) to Casa Toscana (Calcutta)

A couple of months ago I had the most nightmarish dining experience at Pali Village Cafe in Bandra (Mumbai).

PVC is "the new place to be" in Mumbai. We took the pain of making a reservation 24 hours in advance and were even threatened that the table wouldn't be held for us if we were more than 15 minutes late. We should've seen the signs and run towards another restaurant, but we didn't and ended up having one of the worst dining experiences of our lives.

We were hustled through our dinner on an evening that was meant for catching up with friends over a leisurely meal. The waiters were rude, asking us every few minutes if they could bring out our next order, and when we could finally take it no more and asked for the bill, the waiter made a very obvious 'finito' like gesture to the restaurant manager, right in front of our eyes!!

One definitely doesn't expect such blatant rudeness and lack of customer service at a fairly high priced restaurant at Bandra, of all places. We were at the supposedly trendy Pali Village Cafe, not the neighboring Janta after all. Even the folks at Janta let you be. For a detailed narration of the horror that PVC was, you can read The Knife's account here.

Cut to August. There's a cozy Italian restaurant on Chowringhee in Calcutta called Casa Toscana that I'd been wanting to visit for a long time. Finally went there last weekend. It's a restaurant I fell in love with the moment I entered it.

The owners have leased out part of an old bungalow and converted it into a restaurant. The concept is that of an Italian trattoria offering alfresco as well as indoor dining. The ambience is cozy - the indoor section has wooden chairs & tables, stone flooring that will give you a feel of the cobbled streets/piazzas of Italy & yellow lighting, while the outdoor seating area has wrought iron furniture, candle-lit tables and is laid out like a patio. The menu includes starters, soups, salads, pizzas, pastas & desserts.

The reason I compare Pali Village Cafe and Casa Toscana is that the restaurants are very similar in terms of ambience...

Pali Village Cafe, Bandra (Mumbai)

Casa Toscana, Chowringhee (Calcutta)

...yet there's a world of a difference between them in terms of the service and dining experience. I would definitely recommend Casa Toscana to someone looking for a nice Continental restaurant in Calcutta. Not sure I would recommend Pali Village Cafe to anyone.

The food at Casa Toscana is awesome, definitely the best Italian food I've had in Calcutta outside of 5-star restaurants. (You see, there are a lot of restaurants in Calcutta that claim to serve Continental food but haven't a clue what authentic Continental food tastes like!) The menu is a little limited though and service is a tad slow but that doesn't seem to deter people from patronizing the restaurant as was visible from the crowd. Some people might argue the restaurant is a little expensive by Calcutta standards - a (non-vegetarian) starter would cost you between Rs 180-Rs 220, an entree (non-vegetarian again) between Rs 240 - 340 and a dessert around Rs 180. We paid around Rs 1400 including taxes for a meal for two that included 2 starters, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, a beer & a Breezer, so I'm inclined to believe it's a moderately priced restaurant. Cheap even, by Mumbai standards.

Casa Toscana is not a lounge-around kind of place. It's a place you'd like to visit with your spouse/partner/family for a nice dinner on a weekend, or on a date. And get lost in the aromas of Italy.


Moonshine said...

It looks really nice.. i mean the cal one!!!! Looks like out of a book!!

The knife said...

wow must visit this place when I go to Calcutta. Which I hope should be soon

Scarlett said...

@Moonshine - It is! It's got a very European feel to it...the lay out, the furniture, the lighting...everything! And the food's good too.

@The Knife - That was my reaction too. I was so mad at A when I went to Casa Toscana. I'd wanted to go there for a really long time & A kept saying he'll take me but he never did b/c he doesn't like Italian food. You (or we) must go there when you're in Cal :) But I must warn you, the menu is slightly limited.

Archana Bhui said...

Hey I've been there regularly, actually everytime I'm in Cal and according to me they make the best Bolognese Pasta in India, its only close competitor being Cafe Pascucci in Bangalore!! I feel sad for not taking pics, ever, cuse I never thought I'd write abt my food sojourns. But its great u did!! (P.S. I did burrp about it long time back :)

Supernova said...

Yeah, I really liked Casa Toscana too when I went there last year...esp. the ambience...plus I love Italian food anyways..:)

Some friends promised to treat me at Pali Village Cafe when I go to Mumbai next, but you and Kalyan are making me feel like it might be a masochistic exercise...hmm..

Scarlett said...

@Archana - That's quite a compliment for the place! I hope they keep their standards up. And I wish I'd discovered them earlier.

I had a pesto fettucine pasta and honestly, I haven't had such flavourful pesto anywhere else, as far as I can recall. The dish was green in colour without an overpowering smell or taste of pesto. I wonder how they managed that.

@Janet - You'll be better off trying one of the other relatively newer places in Bandra...such as Saltwater Cafe, Global Fusion or Ray's Pizza. Coincidentally, all in Bandra :)

Kalyan usually doesn't whip out his "I'm a food blogger and I'm gonna rip you guys apart" card (though he's too much of a 'bhadralok' to ever get that combative I feel:) but he did after our experience at PVC. He'll tell you all about it :)

The knife said...

I love Yellow Tree the most these day