Pondicherry has always been rather French. Now he also offers a slice of Italy. On your next road trip, linger around a brunch of Parisian croissants, then taste pasta from Piedmont
Antonello Giglio started serving pasta during the first confinement: Then he couldn’t stop.
âI started cooking and made ravioli, lasagna and other fresh pasta with whatever was available on the farms around us. Soon there was a long line outside my door, and in order to feed them all, I was in the kitchen eight to ten hours a day, âhe says, leaning over the counter of his brand new boy. GastronÃ³mica, located opposite the popular Auroville bakery.
The Italian entrepreneur hands customers the last slices of his spongy flatbread pizza, before turning to his fully stocked refrigerator for bottled pasta sauces. When he first visited Auroville 20 years ago, he noticed how difficult it was to find good pasta, but had no intention of staying to remedy it. âI worked in various professions in Italy, then in Spain, from selling furniture to managing a spaâ¦ Then eight years ago, I came back to live here in Auroville,â he says.
While living and volunteering with the Auroville community, Antonello began to prepare the food he grew up in Piedmont, attending to private events. He then began to manufacture and focus on creating a line of high quality organic dry pasta. âThe best methods are the old ways. We make pasta the same way it is made in southern Italy, with organic wheat.
Instead, the springy tagliatelle spirals are beetroot red, the green radiator curls are brightened up with spinach, and the casarecca twists are tinged with turmeric. To make it easier for customers to prepare a dish at home, GastonÃ³mica also offers a range of freshly made bottled sauces, including a creamy sauce with white mushrooms, parmesan pesto and arrabbiata.
âRight now we have fresh pasta like ravioli every day, with local mozzarella and ricotta. We make ciabatta and multigrain pizzas and breads, âexplains Antonello, explaining that Gastronomica will remain a gourmet store, with a take-out space without seats. “People can also buy appetizers like grilled zucchini, grilled peppers and eggplants in the Fior D’Agosto marinade, which contains 13 herbs.”
Auroville Road, Kuilapalayam. Call 078100 99118
Crowds of determined vacationers are now arriving in increasingly frequent waves. “We can no longer follow,” laughs Dilip Kapur, founder of Hidesign. He should know: Dilip runs two of Pondicherry’s most popular hotels – The Promenade and the heritage hotel, Le Dupleix. And now he’s just launched a cafe that he runs with Ruth Sequeira. Suitably enough for a space that tries to rediscover the glamor of the small French town, it is called “Le PondichÃ©ry”.
âPeople want vacations, a bit of escape. They are looking for this French Pondi, much more from the French tropics, with a space to relax, “he says,” a place with good croissants!
Browsing through Casablanca, which was launched in the early 90s, he adds: âWhen we started this we restored an old French colonial house and opened the atrium to create this very ‘Pondi’ store. But now, in a few years, Pondi will become a city and what is the reason why Casablanca exists. The answer, he said, was to create space for locals and travelers to relax and rejuvenate.
Ruth orders a refreshing cold soup, followed by plates of large puffy croissants stuffed with chicken and mango chutney, as she explains how coffee really is a creative collaboration between friends. While Chennai restaurateur Sandesh Reddy and Daniel Trulson from Auroville helped the kitchen perfect their croissants, the coffee is personalized by Divya Jayashankar from Beachville and includes cold Vietnamese coffee, a nod to the many Vietnamese who have made from Pondicherry their home. Fabien Bontems, from Auroville who runs the popular Mason & Co, has also created a line of coffee sweets.
As we sample wedges of goat cheese and mushroom quiche, along with cups of wild forest tea, Ruth explains how thrilled they were to find these large leaf teas picked by local women in Manipur. The menu is succinct, yet confident, focusing on a few things well done.
âAs for the cuisine, it’s modern French: snacks, with desserts, chocolate and coffee in the heart,â explains Dilip. Discussing how he plans to open his âWildfish Bistroâ on the Promenade, he says, âWe are not a party town. But what we have in Pondi and Auroville is – what I think – will soon be one of the best dishes on the east coast. “
Casablanca, 165, Mission St, Heritage Town, Pondicherry