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I love eating Italian food. Not only do I find it comforting, but that it gives a lot more importance to falvours of the ingredients over “spiciness” works well for me, my taste buds, and my stomach. So, whether it is a pizza, hand-rolled pasta, maybe some warm zuppa, a panini, or Buffalo chicken wings, peri-peri chicken, fish and chips…

Wait a minute here!

I too was astonished. Here I was, reading the menu of Caffé Tonino in One Horizon Centre, Gurgaon and for a second had to take a double take when I came across their “International Favorites”. I just hope that restaurants start getting confident in the cuisine they serve and stick to it rather than trying to satisfy and impress everyone – which I mean they can’t by just adding five dishes and labeling them as “international favourites” anyway.

Cafe Tonino - Pasta 2

I’m at an Italian eatery, the ambiance is cozy enough for a cold winter evening and the warmth of the food being cooked is inviting me to have a seat inside. Caffé Tonino paints a lovely picture and walks the thin line between a café and a “fine dining” restaurant.

The service sticks to the norms and is satisfactory – maybe we (a party of 7) weren’t demanding enough to test it out. The food arrives pleasantly warm and smelling delicious. The presentation is attractive, making it easier to feast with our eyes before actually divulging into the tastes and flavours.

However, the food is simple, for a lack of a better word. It’s nice, for a lack of another better word. It’s the kind of food that were I planning to date it, I would most likely friend-zone it rather than think about going out again.

There’s not much to complain. The fault isn’t in the preparation or the ingredients; the pizza was thin enough and the toppings fairly enough in quantity, the pasta was smooth and the tomato sauce thankfully lacked the excessive acidity that more often than not tingles the back of my mouth in an unpleasant manner. In fact, there was a freshness to the preparations that was very much welcomed.

Cafe Tonino - Pasta

And still, it failed to WOW! The flavours were there, but like guests at an Indian wedding, they just came and stood there without taking any significant part in the entire process. The same was the case with the desserts, which looked magnificent, but could be found in a line labelled “average” if there exists such line of desserts somewhere.

I do feel bad for Caffé Tonino because it doesn’t do anything wrong, only fails to go above and beyond, because when it comes to the volatile and highly competitive food and restaurant industry in this country, one needs something special, something out of the ordinary to make it stand out… which is not the case here.

I wouldn’t mind going back to Caffé Tonino again in the distant future to give it one more try. The pizzas alone could be worth a repeat, maybe. The cafe did come to our rescue on a day when some restaurants turned us away because we had kids with us and others wanted us to sit outside in the freezing cold, so the fact that it is a family friendly place does get it extra brownie points.

But, and I’ve said this innumerable times, restaurants need to stop trying to please everyone and focus on the basics such as service and food where both of these need to be exceptional, and Caffé Tonino isn’t too far off from achieving that.

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