Nestled in the busy heart of Colombo, is a culinary oasis that is perhaps the oldest Italian Restaurant in Colombo- in operation for a quarter of a century. The iL- Ponte serves classic authentic Italian cuisine, currently headed by Chef Massimo. I walked in on a Friday afternoon to check out this trendy, yet, relaxed venue, positioned next to the poolside. The high circular ceiling captures your eye as you sit in the cozy verandah. As an alternate, you can also sit inside the restaurant.
The menu is presented in a neatly bound leather cover, by Manager Prasad Kularatne. I opt for the Ravioli in cheese sauce with mushroom and truffle oil. As I await, I sample a plate consisting sun dried tomatoes (an Italian must at any meal), marinated artichokes, small caper berries, green in colour and some olives. It’s nice to note that the succulent tomatoes are done in house, which tastes fresh as opposed to the kind taken out of a ready made jar! The bread is served with Terra di Bari extra virgin olive oil.
As I munch on the bread I wonder why olive oil is so expensive in the local market and thus becomes a luxury ingredient.
The ravioli arrives, positioned evenly on a white ceramic plate, immersed in the cheese sauce and infused with mushroom. The smooth creaminess of the sauce is outstanding, and melts in your mouth.
The iL- Ponte serves 12 pizzas, which include the Napoletana- topped with mozzarella, anchovies and olives. I tasted the Quarto Formaggi (four cheese pizza) where the mozzarella, provolone, asiago and gorgonzola brilliantly supplement each other to make perhaps the best thin crust pizza in Colombo (or even in the island). I observed two other classic dishes on the menu, a Black Angus steak and also Lamb chop (from New Zealand) served on a bed of olive tapenade. No Italian menu is complete without spaghetti- and I found a succulent prawn infused Spaghetti Aglio Olio. The lunch is made complete with a portion of Tiramisu- the mascarpone cheese at the right consistency garnished with strawberries.
For dessert, it would be cool if a few more authentic ice creams are added to the menu, for kids. Hilton also presents a wine and dine every week where food is matched with wine. To many Sri Lankans, the somewhat intricate art of pairing food with wine is a newly acquired skill- yet at iL- Ponte, this flows like a symphony. I was present on a Thursday evening to sample some wine and enjoy the Chicken Milanese and Fritto Misto (prawn and squid with tomato mayonnaise).
The squid was mildly tough in texture, yet, that is the form by which it is authentic Italian- something, the local spice laden tongue must get used to, I reckon. Chef Massimo and his team have successfully sustained the scintillating flavours of Italy in Colombo.
- Dishan Joseph