EVERYTHING Italians do, they do with passion. Just look at Ferrari, Belucci and cappuccino to name, a few. And since we are going to tell you a storia d’amore of a ristorante in Jalan Ceylon, we will add Stefano Panzeri, the head chef of Nerovivo, and their pizza Milano into the list.
It was love at first bite with the pizza Milano.
Not because we were impressed by the generous toppings of mozzarella, cecina (cured beef) and rocket leaves. It was because we loved the crust.
The Nero Famiglia general manager Leong Wai Keong said the pizza dough is kept to the basics of flour, water, salt and yeast.
The secret to this formula is a good, strong hand to stretch the dough followed by not one but two rounds of proving time.
Baking is done in a wood-fired oven.
The result; a soft bread which does not require one to do battle even after the pizza has been left for one hour on a bar top in an air-conditioned room.
Not surprisingly, pizzas top the best sellers’ list here.
Panzeri, 47, took charge of the Nerovivo kitchen in July after spending nine months in Hong Kong and China conducting training sessions for kitchens looking to serve Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Coming from a family of cooks, Panzeri hails from Como, Italy and one vivid memory he has of his hometown is the scenic view of the snow capped Lombardy Alps during winter.
The costolette d’agnelio fritte, which is deep-fried rack of lamb in an egg and Parmesan batter, served with mashed potatoes and roast vegetables, is reminiscent of the hearty winter fare he used to enjoy.
Rich and melt-in-your mouth best describes this meat dish.
The egg and Parmesan batter not only feels luxurious, it serves to tenderise the meat further and bring out the flavours of the lamb.
The mashed potatoes and roasted zucchini, aubergine and carrots coupled with the slightly sourish tinge of sundried tomatoes provides a healthy element to the dish.
A trained accountant, Panzeri left Italy in 1997 for the Canary Islands to open his own restaurant Casa Mediterranea, which catered to a regular clientele of Scandinavians and Norwegians who came to the Canaries to escape the winter, for six months, every year.
“I had no menu. Every morning, I’d go to Mercadona, which is something like your Tesco, and I’d get my meat and fish fresh.
“My guests were happy to let me cook what I wanted,” recalled Panzeri.
Among the recipes which made it into his guests’ favourites list and which he will present here are the melanzana al forno – a baked layered dish of eggplant, tomato sauce and Parmesan; gambieri e funghi - an appetiser of prawns and button mushrooms in garlic sauce and spaghetti al cartoccio - a pasta main with squid, mussels, scallops, tiger prawns and clams served in a flaming duck-shaped foil.
The eggplant is deep-fried until crisp before it is layered with tomato paste, mozzarella, Parmesan and basil and baked in an oven at 160 degrees Celsius, making the dish a yummy and creamy affair.
Those who like rice should also consider pairing the eggplant with arancini, which is deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with bolognese beef, mozzarella and served with an arrabbiata sauce.
We loved the combination of the fluffy and creamy textures when the oozy creaminess of the cheese coats the minced beef.
The prawn and button mushrooms is another Italian traditional favourite.
At Nerovivo, Panzeri uses tiger prawns from Sabah and cooks them with brown button mushrooms flavoured with garlic, dry white wine and brandy.
If you are out to impress, order the spaghetti.
Panzeri got the idea presenting this pasta main from his years of experience as a travelling cook.
Flavoured with generous doses of white wine and seafood, the pasta arrives at the table in flames!
Call it a dramatic way to whet one’s appetite.
While the food gets the thumbs up, there is room for improvement in the service, namely senior staff must be able to explain about a dish to guests.
For a sweet ending, do not miss out on the tiramisu. This is one rich dessert that will linger in your memory for a long time to come.
It may even become a good excuse for you to return.
- NEROVIVO, 3A, Jalan Ceylon, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 603-2070 3120. Business hours: 12am-3pm and 6pm-11:30pm. Closed for lunch on Saturdays.
- This is the writer’s observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro