Italian feast at Grandmother’s Table

Lioce (left) and guest chef Bruno Magno serving baccala stew to Palme De Or Technologies director Dr Federica Antonia Pellegatti.

LONG afternoon lunches catching up with loved ones is a good way to spend a Sunday.

Diners looking for such an experience can try Nero Nero, an Italian restaurant in DC Mall, Damansara City.

On the first Sunday of every month, the restaurant holds an event called Grandmother’s Table, where diners can enjoy a variety of south Italian dishes and mingle with other guests.

The ideal way to enjoy this is to come with family and friends, said executive chef Giuseppe Lioce.

“If you are a lone diner, the restaurant will seat you with a group. You might leave with new friends, ” said Lioce.

To begin, diners are not immediately seated upon arrival. Lunch starts at noon but the first hour is spent at the entrance with snacks and drinks.

Crostini with ricotta cheese, cherry tomatoes, tuna and olives tapenade. — Photos: MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The StarCrostini with ricotta cheese, cherry tomatoes, tuna and olives tapenade. — Photos: MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

Vantguard Asia Pacific regional manager Enzo Comes was the bartender on this day when we sampled his delicious Negroni cocktail — he even has the recipe tattooed on his forearm.

Entertainment came in the form of a balloon sculptor, a live orecchiette (a type of shell shaped pasta) making demonstration by Lioce and local alternative blues musician Brendan De Cruz.

Young children tried their hand at making orecchiette. Other diners were seen throwing coins into the wishing fountain inside the restaurant.

The Tuna Crostini with Cherry Tomatoes and Pureed Olives was a delight. This was topped with rocket leaves, giving the crusty snack a slightly pungent note. Olives and sun-dried tomato dumplings were also served.

The main theme of this meal hinges on the flavours Lioce had grown up with in the region of Puglia, Italy. His most vivid memory is of people making fresh orecchiette with semolina dough, water and salt in the streets of Bari.

We were given a glimpse of what life would have been like for Lioce from the 12 different types of Puglia fare laid on the table.

On the cheese board were caciocavallo and stagionato, which are aged goat’s milk cheese as well as buffalo milk mozzarella and chilli cacioricotta, a soft cheese embedded with red peppers.

Subtly flavoured and rich with creamy notes, the first makes for an interesting conversation piece because caciocavallo literally translates to horse cheese although it is made using cow’s milk.

Eight antipasti dishes came after, served in bite-sized portions comprising fried meatballs, onion and tuna pies and the Italian version of curry puffs known as panzerotti.

Salted cod fish stew with potatoes and olives.Salted cod fish stew with potatoes and olives.

These had fillings of mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil. More mozzarella was also found in a platter of puff pastries, filled with béchamel sauce and sun-dried tomatoes. Biting into one was like sinking your teeth into a crisp, light, buttery cloud.

The highlight was baccala, a dried, salted cod fillet similar to our local salted fish, but less fishy and pungent. To rid it of salt, some kitchens are known to soak them in water for several days followed by a two-hour milk bath just before stewing.

Potatoes are always used for their salt-absorbing qualities while onions and olives give this dish a depth of flavour. The result is a flavourful broth derived from the fish itself.

Baked Rice with Potatoes, Mussels, Cherry Tomatoes and Goat’s Milk Cheese came after the antipasti with much fanfare, served in a huge stainless steel pot, rolled in on a trolley with waiters ringing bells.

Lioce’s orecchiette was cooked al dente and soaked in a rich, bright red sauce made of sweet San Marzano plum tomatoes. It had a salty and slightly pungent flavour with the cacioricotta.

The main course of Rolled Beef Rump, cooked overnight in oregano, bay leaves, sage, rosemary, thyme and tomato sauce is a must-try.

This hearty, flavourful dish was served with a potato salad topped with friselle bread crumbs. Made of durum wheat flour, the bread crumbs reminded one of deep-fried Chinese fritters.

Chicory with fava bean puree and extra virgin olive oil.Chicory with fava bean puree and extra virgin olive oil.

For dessert, the sporcamuss which means “dirty mouth” in Italian, comprises a puff pastry which gets its moniker from an exploding lemon custard filling.

Served together on a dessert platter are almond and hazelnut biscuits, shortcrust custard tarts with amarena cherries, sweet crackers and a sponge cake made with extra virgin olive oil, apricots and apples.

The Grandmother’s Table promotion is served on the first Sunday of every month from 12.30pm to 3.30pm and is priced at RM168++ with soft drinks and RM298++ with alcohol.

NERO NERO, L3-02, Jalan Damanlela,

Damansara City Mall, Damansara Town Centre, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 013-469 4546). Business hours: noon to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm on weekdays, noon to 10pm on weekends. Non-halal.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

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