A guide to truffles with Chef Roberto Zorzoli of Romano’s at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

The specially-curated truffles menu of JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar’s Italian specialty restaurant uses these exotic ingredients sourced only from Italy to ensure impeccable taste.

Truffles, a food that dates back millennia, with mentions as far back as 20th century BCE, is one of the most prized and exotic ingredients on plates across the world. It’s these exclusive flavours that the truffles menu at Romano’s, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar’s Italian specialty restaurant, is centred around.

We had a chat with Chef Roberto Zorzoli, the head chef at Romano’s to understand the thought that went into creating this exclusive menu, and, of course, about the exotic ingredients that are sourced all the way from Italy.


TG: The black winter truffle is one of the rarest kinds you use on the menu. Tell us a bit about it, where you source it from and how it represents authentic Italian flavours. 

RZ: The black winter truffle, scientific name Tuber brumale Vitt, is also known by the name of Trifola Nera. Its harvesting period is mainly from November to mid-March. The rind is very dark, almost black and is characterised by small, flat and globular warts with a diameter ranging from 2 to 9 cm. The gleba is instead clear, marbled and characterised by a tangle of sharp lines in two prevailing colours: white and greyish. 

Expert quarrymen know that the ideal habitat of the brumale truffle are large broad-leaved woods, or particularly rich soils of oaks from which the truffle gets nourishment and thanks to which, it obtains the organoleptic characteristics that make it so special in perfume and colour. It is usually found at depths between 5 and 30 cm. For this reason, it is harvested with the use of specialised truffle dogs. 

Less expensive than the prized black truffle, it is still an excellent condiment for first and second courses, which manages to aromatise with its characteristic taste (it is also defined as strong black due to the persistence of taste and base olfactory note, which in some specimens recalls the scent of turnip). It’s particularly loved by those who prefer strong and decisive flavours. 

The most suitable areas for the winter black truffle are the Umbrian areas of Norcia, particularly appreciated for the unique characteristics of its soils, those of Spoleto area, and some areas of Piedmont and the Marche region. Currently, we use truffles from the Umbria region.” 

TG: What are the other varieties of truffles you are using and where do they come from? 

RZ: We use truffles sourced only from Italy. There are a number of varieties we use:

White truffle 

The white truffle or Tuber Magnatum Pico is the truffle par excellence. It is born and raised only in Istria and Piedmont, where it takes the name of the Alba Truffle. It requires soft, moist soil with good ventilation and lives in symbiosis with oaks, willows, limes and poplars, but can also be found in hornbeam and hazelnut plants. The appearance is globular, with irregularities on the peridium whose surface is slightly velvety. The colour varies from cream to ochre and remains constant even when fully ripe. The gleba is white and greyish-yellow marbled with white veins. It is extremely aromatic, with similarities to the smell of parmesan cheese. The white truffle is usually harvested between October and December. 

Bianchetto truffle 

The Bianchetto or Marzuolo or Tuber Borchii Vittadini truffle is widespread throughout the Italian peninsula. It has characteristics similar to the white truffle because it shows depressions on the peridium, it is smooth and off-white in colour. When it reaches maturity, it becomes dark both inside and out. It is also distinguished from the more valuable variant for its aroma: soft at the beginning, tending to take on strong garlic tones later. Its commercial value is less than the white variety. It prefers calcareous soils and broad-leaved woods such as oaks, holm oaks and downy oaks, or conifers such as larches, cedars, firs and some species of pine. The harvest takes place between January and the end of April. 

Precious black truffle 

The black truffle or Tuber Melanosporum Vittadini is also known as the Norcia, Spoleto or La Truffe de Périgord. The peridium is quite homogeneous, the blackish brown surface has rusty red hues, and the gleba is clear with light and thin veins. The shape is rounded with warts or lobes. The scent is pleasantly intense, aromatic and fruity. It prefers hills and mountains with little vegetation. It lives in symbiosis with downy oaks, holm oaks, Turkey oaks, lime trees, hazelnuts, black hornbeams and cistus plants. After the white truffle, this species is the most prized. Usually, the harvest is between December and mid-March, but the regional administrations each year establish the exact period. 

Black summer truffle

The black summer truffle or Scorzone or Tuber Aestivum Vittadini resembles the precious black truffle, but it stands out because at the moment of cutting, the gleba has a dark yellow colour. The surface has almost pointed warts, and the smell is delicate. This variety can reach a considerable size. It grows in clayey and sandy soils, from the plains up to 1000 meters above sea level. Depending on the altitude, it can be found in symbiosis with downy oak, oak, hornbeam, beech, hazelnut, or with downy oak, holm oak, English oak, pine or hazelnut. The harvest takes place between mid-May and late October. 

Smooth black nose 

The smooth black truffle or Tuber Macrosporum Vittadini is the least known and least marketed variety, but it remains one of the most popular. The surface is smooth and the humped lines are minimal. The smell is strong and pleasant. This species loves oaks, poplars, limes, willows, hazelnuts and black hornbeams. The harvest period is between July and the end of December. 

TG: What sets apart the truffle menu at Romano’s? 

RZ: The truffle is a unique, aromatic and flavourful ingredient, and its addition to a dish can elevate any simple preparation. My team and I, being true truffle lovers, want our guests to experience all that truffles have to offer through our specially curated truffle menu at Romano’s. 

Sourcing the best quality of truffle can be a tricky task indeed and one needs to have an eye for detail to recognize the quality. Having said that, we at Romano’s have always managed to source and serve the best to our guests.

Now that you’re better equipped to understand exactly the kind of truffle you’re indulging in, you’d better hurry. The truffles menu at Romano’s is only available until February 28th, from 6.30-11.30pm.   

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