Finding Italian food in Colombo is a bit of a challenge, as there aren’t too many venues. A Google search suggested Il Cielo- which means the sky. Located on Level 5 along Lake Road, Colombo -2, this cozy Italian restaurant does extend to the celestial realms, with a stunning view of the Beira Lake. The interior has been thoughtfully selected with large photos that capture the essence of Venice. The restaurant has two floors with the capacity for 75 diners. After ordering a classic Shirley Temple mocktail, we browsed through the menu. In the meantime, Chef Saman Padmasiri recommended that we try one of his creations, a vegetable pizza. I found out that Saman has mastered Italian cuisine and spent 17 years in this trade. The freshly baked pizza laden with grilled eggplant, zucchini, black olives, mozzarella cheese, oregano and garnished with basil leaves was outstanding. The thin crust made with zero-zero grade flour did enhance the quality. When you eat authentic Italian cuisine, you realize how much it centers on fresh ingredients and also the use of virgin olive oil. With the current trends focusing on healthy eating, olive oil though expensive has the unique ability to enhance food without overpowering with oiliness.

The Il Cielo has a list of Italian wines including Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanco and Frascati. Again, wine is central to Italian food and culture, and is a beverage that binds groups of people. Wine is consumed with zest at lunch and dinner. The concept of this restaurant’s menu is Mare -e -Terra: meaning sea and earth. Cabpacco di Manzo was my desired appetizer: premium marinated beef served with parmesan and rocket salad. The dish was neatly presented and the beef tender to the bite. This was followed by Involtini de Tonna, tuna rolls stuffed with cream cheese. This dish was creative and a new way to bring tuna to the dining table. Spaghetti is central to Italian food and was a definite yes, so we ordered the Al Gamberrtti, served with grilled prawns infused with white wine. The creamy consistency supplemented the seafood essence.

The use of wines in cooking is another attribute of Italian cuisine. When you use wine in food it is an art, as the wines have their own intense aromas and flavours. The origins of pasta and spaghetti have a deep culinary tradition from the ancient monasteries, where friars came up with their own recipes. It was these pious men who influenced Italian cooking in a silent and humble manner. Chef Saman recommends we try one of his signature dishes Maiolino Porchetta- pork with seasoned salad. The dish consists of a large portion, the meat is done well. A second dish Pollo alla Cacciatore (chicken infused with rosemary and mushrooms with white wine) was a lovely contrast to the main pork dish. After this extended indulgence the friendly waiter brings the menu for dessert. Tiramisu is indeed the queen of Italian desserts and it was served in classic style, exploding with a fine balance of flavour. Il Cielo is a must try venue for every gourmet in Colombo.