Who knew that you could move all the way to India and still discover beautiful Italian food almost as good as you find in Rome? I would never have guessed it…not until last week. Purely by accident, we stumbled across a fantastic Italian place called Romano’s. In my opinion, it is the best-kept secret of Mumbai’s restaurant scene. (Tripadvisor loves it so much that it ranked Romano’s #2 out of all 13,362 restaurants in Mumbai.)
This beautiful restaurant is black, sleek and modern with retro chandeliers, dark woods and geometric stained glass windows…the perfect blend of elegant and casual.
Now let me go on record saying I love real Italian food. Not American-Italian, but the kind of fresh pastas, light sauces, delicate seafoods and lovely cheeses that Italy is truly famous for. Romano’s delivers all this and more. This dedication to classic food, cooked in the Italian-style is a remarkable achievement here in Mumbai, where Indian spices and heavy flavors work their way into almost every other type of cuisine.
Indian sauces are thick and heavy, the food intense and heavily spiced. Indian food is a delicious assault to all your senses at once…like the city itself. For those reasons, I thought that a restaurant in India would not know how to make the most of the delicate and subtle, light, clean flavors of true Italian food. I need not have worried.
The large, open kitchen creates some of the the best Italian dishes we’ve had outside Italy. Romano’s creates beautiful food, consistent in quality and always served with warmth and genuine kindness. From the moment you walk in, you feel that everyone there wants your evening to be something you will remember forever.
We had the great fortune to meet the food and beverage Executive for the hotel that houses Romano’s, a man named Marsh Kinny. Marsh is the kind of restaurant manager you dream about. He is open, informative, friendly, smart and has the kind of devotion to detail and gift for multi-tasking that supervising multiple restaurants requires.
Everything in this restaurant was designed to make visitors there feel as if they’d had a singular experience. They imported their head chef from Italy. His name is Roberto Zorzoli, and not only does he create the dishes; he also supervises everything that comes out of his kitchen, making sure that each tastes truly of Italy. No Indian spices sneaking in here. All of the basic fruits and vegetables are locally-sourced from organic farms…even the edible flowers that they use for garnish. Many signature ingredients are imported. Even the espresso machine and coffee beans are imported from the motherland; and special courses are given to the staff on how to make the perfect cappuccino! Nothing at this restaurant is left to chance.
We eased into the evening relaxing in the hotel’s lounge, ordering the Indian version of sparkling wine that we love: Rosé for me, Brut for Leon. In fact, the lounge is where we met Marsh, our guide for the rest of the evening. He didn’t like the look of the pour of my wine, (not sparkling enough for him!) Before I even took my first sip, he opened a new bottle for me to remedy the situation. (Told you the guy has skills.) As we were chatting with Marsh, he told us about the restaurant he loved so much and asked if we’d like for him to make reservations for later in the evening after we’d had our quiet time. We, of course, said yes. About 45 minutes later, we headed over, and the hostess already knew exactly who we were, ushering us to a large, but cozy booth in the corner with a view of the large open-kitchen.
Our waitress, Sushmita, walked over with two glasses of exactly what we were drinking in the lounge earlier, saying that the restaurant wanted to make sure our night was perfect. I instantly fell in love not only with the restaurant, but also with Marsh, who had orchestrated everything, and with our adorable waitress, who is so friendly and great at her job that you can’t help but be happy in her presence.
We started dinner off with the Burrata, one of my favorites, this time served with tear-drop tomatoes and a fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette. Organically farmed especially for the restaurant, it was a creamy and perfect way to get to know the head chef’s style. Our pasta course was equally delicious, a tagliolini with a lovely, light tomato sauce and pecorino cheese…the flavors were so delicate, so subtle and sooooo Italian.
We took about a 20-minute pause before the main course, just to enjoy hanging out. Marsh appeared at our table with their signature cocktail, “The Godfather Negroni.” It starts with distilled neutral spirits, herbs, spices and bitters, blended together, then aged in a wine barrel for at least five months. The coolest part of this drink though, is what they do when they’re ready to serve one. They pour the aged liquor into a decanter and shoot cherry-wood smoke into the bottle before stoppering it, allowing it to sit for 5-10 minutes so that the smoke enhances and blends all the flavors together. Then, they serve it to you in a crystal, whisky tumbler over a giant ball of ice. As Marsh poured it, the smoke crept into the glass as well. It was like the best “Bill Nye, Science Guy” episode ever! And then, quietly Marsh slipped away, leaving us alone to finish our romantic dinner.
My husband and I spent at least the next 15 minutes just talking to each other about how amazing this restaurant was. And what a charmed night it had been. We really reveled in all the specialness of this place,saying to ourselves, “I think we might just have found our new home away from home.” The second we were ready for the main course, it appeared…as if by magic.
For our main, we had their signature fish dish. Branzino is a gorgeous, flaky white fish often served throughout Italy, and when cooked properly, it is delicate and rich, flavorful and subtle — all at the same time. This one did not disappoint! Wrapped in parchment paper purses like little goodie bags, the fish was accompanied by a beautiful melànge of roasted vegetables. Every bite…simply perfect.
Another pause and then Marsh asked us wandered back over and asked us if we’d like to see the lounge and private dining room upstairs over coffee. Of course we said yes. The top floor is loft-like, overlooking the main dining room with a long rectangular bar that runs the length of one wall. Their head bartender, Tejas, has something of a name here in Mumbai, having won several bartending competitions. He prepared us a couple of after-dinner specialty drinks: lightning Sambuca for Leon, something with Baileys for me. And we snuggled up on the sofa in the corner and waiting for our desserts.
We tried one of everything: chocolate salami (their signature dessert), tiramisu, chocolate fondant, homemade panna cotta, and about three others…by this time I was so full, I was almost asleep. All of the desserts were wonderful. But, if you forced me to choose, I would have to say that the chocolate fondant was my favorite: molten, dark chocolate center of a dark chocolate cake, rich, but not too sweet, with just the right amount of bitterness and tang to complement the sweetness of the freshly whipped cream. Every bite, a little taste of heaven.
Leon and I snuggled together on the sofa for quite a while, and reveled in what a wonderful night this had been — and how charmed we felt that we were given this wonderful gift.
As we left the building, the doorman bowed deeply and asked how we had enjoyed ourselves. I told him we loved every, single minute. He smiled this beautiful, huge smile, looked me right in the eyes, and said, “I hope you will consider us as your second home, away from home.” All I could think was, “We already do.”
If you’d like to see the tripadvisor link to Romano’s: https://www.tripadvisor.in/Restaurant_Review-g304554-d8408070-Reviews-Romano_s-Mumbai_Bombay_Maharashtra.html
If you’d like to look at the zomato’s review of Romano’s, it’s here: https://www.zomato.com/mumbai/romanos-jw-marriott-mumbai-sahar-chakala