Review: Ottimo At ITC Grand Chola, Chennai

It might be a city where larger than life cut-outs are commonplace but Chennai is still getting used to the imposing size of the ITC Grand Chola. It’s India’s largest luxury city hotel and spread over an area of 8 acres and if you have any doubts about the size they will be dispelled by the time you spin around this 600-room hotel and finally dock at the large porch.   ITC’s flagship hotel is a heady mix of size and opulence and that’s the first thing you will notice as you are led to your table at Ottimo. It’s not just large but full of niches that all have the potential to become your favourite cosy corner in the restaurant. The interiors are a welcome relief from the hotel’s public areas; bright, warm yet chic. Too elegant to be an Italian Trattoria and yet informal enough to make you loosen your tie during a working lunch even as you hear the banter from the open kitchen. The designers of KOH at the Intercontinental Mumbai have also played a part in crafting the menu at Ottimo.   Enigmatic chefs normally impose their presence on a restaurant and once you meet Ottimo’s Italian chef Massimo Gullota, the entire Ottimo experience falls into perspective. Ask him where he’s from and you will hear Rome, Sicily amongst other places; it’s a bit like the cuisine at Ottimo that is essentially pan-Italian. Massimo has none of the airs of a master chef and fortunately that’s rubbed on to the rest of the crew including Alina the Polish wine sommelier whose English accent is more Italian than Polish.   The menu is not overwhelming; even if you are in a plush restaurant you don’t want to wade through a menu that reads like a novel. Massimo’s quiet attention to detail and the quality of ingredients set this restaurant apart and deliver an authentic Italian culinary experience paired with an impressive wine list. Whether it’s the deep fried goat’s cheese or the succulent grilled prawns in the Antipasti section or the classic signature desserts like the Panna Cotta, Ottimo allows the ingredients to shine through, isn’t that what good Italian cuisine is all about?   GQ Recommends: The grilled prawns, the calzone, Seafood risotto, Tiramisu. Service: Warm and friendly Innovation: Carb friendly options for the occasional weight watcher. An exclusive Grappa Bar will go live soon Snooty factor: Medium to high Celeb-o-meter: Expats, local corporate honchos and socialites Classic Potential: High – there’s enough room for another Italian fine dining restaurant in Chennai    Vibe: Ideal setting for a power lunch or a relaxed dinner with the family Price: Rs 4,000 for two (excluding alcohol)   #63 Mount Road, Guindy, Chennai; 32 Phone (044) 2220-0000.

-Ashwin Rajagopalan

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