What you see - Have you ever wondered why Little Italy serves only vegetarian food? Well, we think we have the inside information. It is because the owners of the company are Gujaratis.
Now here's another piece of background. The brand was actually started by an Italian chef called Don Giovani, 17 years back, when he came to visit Osho's Ashram in Pune. So he started something called La Pizzeria that still runs in Pune with the same name. Little Italy was started later in time.
The brand has now expanded to multiple cities like Mumbai, Goa and our very own Hyderabad. And while Giovani is no longer the owner of the company, he makes it a point to come to India to advice on the menu and the cooking style. After all, Little Italy is known for its authentic Italian cuisine.
Little Italy in Hyderabad reminds you of a small cottage. Homely in appearance and minimal when it comes to decor, this Mediterranean cuisine restaurant does not really have a glass façade that let's you see what's in store for you inside. So if no one from the restaurant's staff is standing outside, you could as well walk by.
The people behind Zafraan Laguna, however, seem to have realized this. For they have someone standing outside to usher you in. In fact, you step out of the elevator and the door of Zafraan will be opened for you - even while you are deciding among Zafraan, Malgudi and Basil, all of which are located on the same floor.
What you get - As far as the ambiance is concerned, Zafraan gives you a pleasant experience with earthy colors like dark brown and cream for furniture, walls and ceiling. A dash of color is splashed around with flora paintings on the walls. A small water body in the interiors adds the element of panache. Dim lighting accentuates the ambiance, making it apt for a quiet dine-out.
Now this place is not for you if you are looking at having your regular fare. Lebanese, French and Italian cuisine is what is primarily on offer. There is ample choice for both the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians.
We tried the Iced Tea (Rs. 80 each) and Vegetarian Caesar Salad (Rs. 200). The Iced Tea was just right in terms of flavor, temperature and portion size. Now to be honest, the reviewer is not one of those who would binge on salads. However, the Caesar Salad changed the perception with its croutons, lettuce and bell pepper with the perfect dash of salt, pepper and creamy dressing.
We moved on to some Lebanese kebabs. This actually did not impress us much in terms of authenticity because we found it more Indian in taste. Then the pita came along with its dips. While the pita was average, the dips were worth stealing recipes for.
Zafraan Laguna also has domestic and imported wines for you to sample. It even has a separate soundproof corner for drinks and music where you can hold a party for about 25 people. They even have a DJ coming in once a week. Apart from that, the restaurant takes up outdoor catering and home delivery orders.
The verdict - The restaurant is ideal for quiet personal or official meets. The food is different and good to taste. While several of its dishes rate high on the authenticity front, some of them slip. Service is prompt and courteous. Prices are on the higher side and so it is a little heavy on the pocket. Parking is not really an issue because it is located in a mall.
Hyderabad Restaurants has been written by Shah Barkha for MetroMela