Dario’s, Koregaon Park, Pune

I don’t know how many people have heard of the webpage, GourmetItUp. I found it on Facebook and decided to try the offer they had going for Dario’s. Since it was my last day in Pune, I wanted a place somewhat closer to the airport and a place whose food I enjoyed.  Dario’s has been my favorite Italian restaurant for a while now since I love the fact that all the ingredients taste very fresh unlike another popular Italian chain whose food quality, in my opinion, has deteriorated. The atmosphere is absolutely fantastic and you feel like you have come away from the city. This restaurant is situated right next to the Osho Ashram and the outdoor section is green and very calming. There are always a lot of foreigners at this café and it is one of the few places where you can sit alone on a table and enjoy your coffee whilst reading a book.

Gorgeous Trees surrounding the restaurant.

I booked my table for Dario’s online and immediately got a confirmation email, the SMS followed in a few hours. I wanted to make sure I would get a table on the exact date, hence booked almost a week in advance. The whole process went by very smoothly and even when I had to change the reservation’s timing, it was no hitch. We reached Dario’s at about 2:30 PM and were looking for a table outside so we could enjoy the beautiful winter afternoon. The restaurant was reasonably crowded, with most of the outdoor section full. We managed to get a table under the big purple umbrella and settled in.  At Dario’s they have a separate menu that you choose from for GourmetItUP customers. You have the choice of choosing from a four course menu (Found Here) which is quite filling for two people. I love this idea of a tasting menu! I’ve been to Dario’s at least once every 6 weeks but I am a complete creature of habit. I always order the same thing over and over again (the Tobasco pizza and the ravioli in a 4 cheese sauce, with Nachos to start with) that I have never bothered looking at the menu. In this case, I had to try something totally different and I loved it! I was pushed to make a different choice.

We decided to start with the ‘Polpette di Lenticchie (lentil balls served with a spicy tomato garlic sauce) instead of a soup. These were so delicious! They were deep-fried and it has been a while since either one of us has had anything deep-fried and we completely relished them.  These had a couple of herbs packing some good flavor into them, I know I could taste some beautiful thyme and the dipping sauce added just the right amount of spice to them. As much as my brain kept telling me to stop after one, I just could not and ended up having 3! They were worth every bite.

Dario's lentil balls served with a spicy tomato garlic sauce

Dario’s lentil balls served with a spicy tomato garlic sauce

Next up was the salad. We chose the Insalata Sant’ Agata , a fresh garden salad with roasted tomatoes, rocket leaves with a lovely light dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mixed herbs. It was light on the palate and the stomach. The salad was very fresh and the leaves still had a little crunch. That for me is the mark of fresh vegetables. I think Dario’s serves some of the freshest food and that was evident in this salad.

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For mains, we ordered the ravioli, which was stuffed with peas and cheese, in a pink sauce with smashed peas, rosemary and chickpeas. I wasn’t really sure about this when we ordered it but all my doubts were put to rest once this came on the table. The ravioli was tender with just the tiny hint of a bite. The stuffing was lightly seasoned and had a smooth texture with the ricotta giving it just a tiny hint of richness, which went just perfect with that rich, creamy herb sauce. I’m quite sure the rosemary used was dried which gave the tiniest hit of a crunch. Now, I’m not the biggest pea fan so while I did have a few bites of the sauce with the peas, I avoided them largely. The sauce is very heavy and creamy and you do feel quite full in a few bites. Nevertheless it is quite delicious and you know you are over eating but it is just difficult to stop! I’m not very proud to admit this but, I loved soaking all of that creamy, herbed sauce up with a piece of their fresh bread and eating it. So good!

homemade pasta parcels stuffed with spinach and cheese, served with tomatoes, smashed peas and chickpeas, rosemary and cream

homemade pasta parcels stuffed with spinach and cheese, served with tomatoes, smashed peas and chickpeas, rosemary and cream

Speaking of the bread, they normally provide a complimentary bread basket to every table but for some reason you always need to ask for it! They have about 2-3 pieces of bread in the basket, depending on your table size, and I’ve always loved their herb bread (rosemary, I think). This time when we asked for the basket, he gave us a stale one for some reason but when we brought it to their notice, they replaced it with a much fresher one. The fresh breads are divine! Just give me some butter and I’ll be a happy bunny.

No meal  is complete without dessert and when you’re in an Italian restaurant, you have to order Tiramisu. I personally think Dario’s has some of the best Tiramisu in town. The cake is soaked with delicious coffee and is super moist. The mascarpone layer is rich, yet somehow airy. The sprinkling of cocoa on top helps cut the extra sweet and gives a little explosion of flavor in each bite. Sooo good! I really haven’t found a better tiramisu in Pune.

Tiramisu

Service. The only thing that’s a pain at Dario’s. For some reason the service is rather slow even though they have so many attendants running around. I’ve always found the managers more pleasant than them. It is a challenge to get anyone’s attention and I honestly don’t know why. I always prepare myself mentally to avoid getting annoyed because when I do get annoyed I can’t completely enjoy the delicious meal in front of me.

I enjoyed trying the Gourmet It Up experience because it allowed to try something other than what I normally order. There was no hitch with the bill, no hidden costs and it was plain and simple. I will definitely be going to Dario’s again and will also be trying other restaurants in the Gourmet It Up list.

Dario’s get a 3.7 out of 5 from me for the food and their service. And of course, for the yummiest Tiramisu in town!

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Jimmy Hu, Koregaon Park – Pune

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I was back in Pune for a break and was happily enjoying my mani-pedi at the newly opened b:blunt in Koregaon Park. We got done around 5 pm and were wondering where we could go for a quick bite. I don’t think many people will know about this amazing, but super tiny, pizza place called Pizza Hot. It is completely negligible since he barely advertises it and a plant hides it now. They have 4 tables and can seat maximum 10 people in that space but they have some excellent pizzas! My first visit there was about 12 years ago when someone told my dad about it. At that time, there was only one Little Italy, the original one, which was in Hotel Srimaan. Little Italy too had maybe 20 odd tables. For a change, we decided to try Pizza Hot for their thin crust pizzas. We relished it completely! After that, we have gone back many times and have always been met with that smiling face offering the same, consistent quality of pizza. If you don’t mind taking home a pizza and waiting for 30 minutes for it, I highly recommend Pizza Hot!

 

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Coming back to how I found Jimmy HU, since it was 5 pm Pizza Hot wasn’t open (they open at 5:30 pm). We didn’t want to go too far and we remembered that a new place had opened where the old Yellow Chilli by Sanjeev Kapoor was. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to go and try it. At first glance, I loved that the entrance has two Vespa-like scooters parked in front. We entered and since we still had a few minutes of sunlight, we went ahead and took a table outside. We were probably 2 people of the 5 there at that time. The staff seemed busy organizing the place for the upcoming Christmas festivities. It’s a wonderful atmosphere outdoors with the all wood, red and turquoise décor. I enjoyed sitting on the high bar chairs which were surprisingly very comfortable. There are cute little knick-knacks around the place and on the tables too. The napkin holder is in the shape of a little pail and it definitely adds a burst of color to the place.  They have a Happy Hour everyday from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM where they have some really good deals. The menu is small and does not have a lot of options. Jimmy Hu is more a pub than a restaurant and I am glad they have designed their menu in keeping with the concept. We went ahead and ordered the Barbeque Mushrooms and the Chilli Potato. They classify these as ‘Food on Sticks’. It seemed perfect for us since we weren’t really that hungry.

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It must have been surprising for the staff that we didn’t order any drinks since that is exactly the atmosphere of the place. Our server brought over some cocktails that sounded very interesting. We tried a few sips from both of them but I personally found them very sweet. But then again, I prefer beer over any drink so maybe other girls may actually enjoy these. While we were waiting for our food I wandered indoors and loved the quirkiness I saw! One entire wall is covered with doorframes! Now I love old structures and these fascinated me! They had all different kinds of wooden door frames, some that will remind you of the ones you saw at your grandparents’ house, latches, old locks and windows! I just wish there was better lighting so I could’ve taken a better picture. But it is a wonderful sight especially if you are as silly as I am. They have a good-sized bar indoors and a couple of booths which make for a very cozy atmosphere. I also adored the bright pink barrels and the little cupboard. Very eclectic and definitely makes a statement. They do have a projector and a screen and I bet the place would be very lively at the time of matches.

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After taking some not so great pictures in the very dimly lit room, I went back outside to join Amy. The food arrived just as I was settling in. The presentation was simple and clean. The mushrooms came on skewers served in glass over some salad of onions and herbs. They don’t serve plates with these, which makes them perfect pub food. They’re quite easy to eat although it isn’t very elegant. The mushrooms were cooked beautifully. They were still firm and the sauce stuck to them well. There was a hint of smokiness and the flavors all came together very well. The chilli potatoes were a disappointment. They were not marinated at all so once you bit into them they were completely bland. They were under seasoned and we had to send them back. They did add some more salt and reheated them but they were nowhere up to the mark.

 

I have mixed opinions about the food since I loved the mushrooms but found the potatoes to be quite dissatisfactory. The service was good when we were there but then again there were only 2 tables that were occupied. They were polite and courteous and a few of them knew the food well. This is one of the two places I have gone to where the hostess explains the Happy Hour offers to you without you having to ask for it. I think that’s a great step. The menu is small but perfect for a pub and is quite well-priced.

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All in all, Jimmy Hu looks like a great place to hang out with friends over a few drinks. I’m still undecided about the food but I would definitely go back here. For its quirkiness, relaxed atmosphere and delicious mushrooms, I give Jimmy Hu a 3 out of 5!

Restaurant Contact: 02030570433

Restaurant Timings: 5:30 PM – 11:30 PM