Italian is a simple cuisine so why complicate it. The secret, as with many old traditional cuisines, is the quality of the ingredients. Just visit any early morning food market in Italy and watch the women handling and selecting each piece of fruit and vegetable, each must be perfect for what it is intended for. Near enough is never good enough. There is no comparison between those luscious tomatoes from Marzano and the watery versions without taste from market gardens elsewhere, and so the list goes on.
Raised in Sydney, where quality Italian restaurants abound, I had been eating Italian regularly since mid teens, yet 15 years later on my first visit to Italy [Milano] I was shocked to discover that I knew nothing about Italian food, it was all so different?.the major reason was the available ingredients!
My first meal in Milano so many years ago was similar to my first meal at Seminyak Italian restaurant at the new luxury Double Six Hotel. Robert Marchetti does it perfectly. Starters were Raw Yellow Fin Tuna, on almost every quality menu in Bali you say? Correct but prepare yourself for something totally different, the layered tuna has been marinated in basil oil with fresh baby basil, lemon and pomegranate. The tuna has just been sliced from the fish 'a la minute', its freshness obvious by the taste, the subtle flavours are complemented by the wonderful finish of crunching the icy cold pomegranate bubbles.
It then got even better.
Salumi is an integral part of Italian cuisine, meat products mainly pork apart from the beef bresoala. The description here is 'Everything we have' and that is what you get. Rows of perfect sliced ham, prosciutto, bresoala, and the best mortadella I have ever tasted, together with chunks of salami and Italian sausage spread across the plate. There is enough to share, if you are not too greedy, but it is impossible to stop taking yet another piece. The basket of freshly cut crusty Italian bread and bread sticks have already been delivered to your table, no need to order it, and all included, no extra cost [in Italy you would probably be charged for each piece you took?].
Pasta? You can not eat an Italian meal without a plate of pasta. I love Ravioli but here in Bali and most everywhere else outside of Italy it is far too often too thick and 'doughy', and sadly not cooked correctly. At Seminyak Italian the Ravioli Zucca takes you by surprise. The sachets are so thin they could almost be described as delicate, stuffed with pumpkin and mustard fruits and floating in a sea of burnt sage butter. First bite and the flavours are released, you eat them one by one, savoring the taste combination.
Upon visiting Seminyak Italian, it is on the mezzanine of the Double Six Hotel [just between where the bungy tower and the disco bar used to be on the '66' of old], there are two glassed-in rooms worth looking at.. the air controlled Salumi room [the crusty Italian breads are also kept here so they stay fresh till served] and the pasta room where an impressive Italian pasta machine turns out perfect pasta of every shape and size.
The front terrace has an amazing material overhead that reduces the UV rays by 80%, so you sit in the open without the heat, a gentle breeze wafts over you from the ocean just in front.
This is a traditional Italian restaurant so you will find all the menu items that you expect, no chef?s creations. Why try to change a cuisine that has been tested by time? Although Rob Marchetti does do a couple of them 'My Way' just like Frankie did.
The Beef Carpaccio is Bresaola [air dried] with a salad of roasted hazelnuts, white peach, watercress and horseradish, sprinkled with 10yo balsamic. Prosciutto is with old Reggiano and hot pastry scrolls. Mixed Salami is with warm marinated olives and grissini.
Calamari Fritti is with zucchini, garlic aioli and mint [touched with green Tabasco and lemon], Arancini [4 cheeses and lemon] and Frittata [with black truffles] are all on the entree list as is a perfect Salt Baked Baby Beetroot Salad, tossed with fresh goats curd, beet juice, beet pepper, spring onions and shallots.
All the pasta is made on the premises in a special air-con glass caged pasta room. You can watch the chefs at work. The Tortellini can be filled with crab meat, chives and fennel or with salumi [mortadella, prosciutto, sage, Parmesan and black truffle]. Lasagne, Bucatini, Orecchietti, Penne, Tagliatelle are all available as is many versions of good old Spaghetti [Vongole, Arragosata and Marinara] as well as a range of Risottos.
Mains continue the old trusted formula. Cotaletta Milanese is as you would have it in Milan, baby veal crumbed with Parmesan and lemon, cooked in virgin olive oil and served with steamed asparagus and lemon. Parmigiana is topped with mozzarella, parmesan, tomato passata and basil. Roasted Baby Chicken is stuffed with ricotta, lemon thyme and parmesan. Vitello con Funghi is veal baked with mushrooms cheese and a touch of garlic cream.
Minute Steak often means thin and dry, a piece of leather! Not under Rob Marchetti's care. He insists that it can only be cooked rare, just seared. A thin slice of imported rib eye of beef, drizzled with anchovy garlic butter, what could be better when all you want is a small meal with taste.
The desserts include all the favourites but the Tiramisu is a must for every visit. This is one of chef's very special specials!. it arrives with the waiter via a large serving bowl and it is ladled in to your plate in front of you. Always looks too big but it soon disappears, piles of strega, marsala, espresso, vanilla sponge and mascarpone. Then there is the crisp sweet Sicilian Cannoli filled with ricotta-candied fruits, chocolate zabaglione, vanilla cream and strawberry honey.
I know that many people avoid restaurants located in hotels. Too often they are overpriced and worse still, bland in taste. Seminyak Italian is different, reasonably priced for Bali and cheap by international standard. However I am shocked that in five visits, admittedly all lunch time or early afternoon, this 150+ seat restaurant has been empty, twice I was the lone diner.
Wake up Bali, this is a serious restaurant!
My only criticism is the over-zealous service [perhaps ex cruise ship with some of those annoying 'Americanisms'], I much prefer the natural Bali smile even if that means the ensuing service is not quite as professional, after all this is Bali! And as for being quizzed by a supposed PR girl as to whether you had actually stayed in the hotel and if not where and why you are there [whilst eating] is just as bad as it can get, and certainly not good PR!
Enjoy the wonderful Italian cuisine as it was meant to be, sitting at the outside deck gazing across the ocean you may even think you are on the Mediterranean.