This diva knows her food!
By Anwesha Mittra/fnbworld bureau
Specacular lineage of historical relics, a collection of stupendous brush strokes of the legendary Michelangelo and an intricate food culture totals Italy as the eye candy of its myriad visitors. FOOD marks celebration, festivity and cheer to the inhabitants. The people of Italy love to cook and serve their guests a cozy meal flanked with a heavenly collection of wine. The Italian kitchen offers a wide array of mouth-watering recipes to the world. This defines the growing popularity of Italian food in Europe, America & other parts of the world. India too has gradually adopted some chapters of Italy's culinary history.
The national capital finds itself opening up to the Roman food culture slowly and firmly. A prominent segment of Delhi's population has traveled worldwide for business, pleasure etc. This has helped them cultivate a taste for international cuisine, to try and experiment newer cuisine and break free from its popular a la butter chicken culture. Italian food has received accolades from a niche clientele that again segregates into the Indianized version and the regional version as per their tastes.
"The total market demand of Delhi is very smaller than the way the restaurants are coming up. So, not only in Italian food, the total market is saturated with restaurants. The demand might go up in a few years but it's a very slow process at the moment," reasons Ritu Dalmia of Diva on the commercial viability of Italian food in Delhi.
The basic ingredients for Italian cuisine like the pasta, the pizza dough or the cheese are easily available in India. The only problem lies in the authentication of the method used for making them. Delhi still remains to explore the way this foreign cuisine has to be eaten. The small restaurants serving Italian food are bereft of technical expertise and product know how and therefore tamper the authenticity of the cuisine by making it sit well with the Indian inclination towards spicy food. Eventually, the taste buds cannot accept the original Italian cuisine.
The Chinese and American cuisine blend well with the Indian palate as they can be modified as per requirement. However, Italian food is very bland, this explains a sound wine culture prevalent in Italy as wine is used to complement the food if bland. The caliber of people working in kitchen was a question mark a few years ago. But lately more number of chefs are flown from overseas inorder to retain the authenticity factor of food. "The chefs in India can be taught the style of cooking the international cuisine but they cannot be given the palate and desire to experiment with a new cuisine." elaborates Ritu on the problems faced in the preparation of International cuisine in the Indian restaurants.
Pizza had its origin in Italy, but the pizza culture mushroomed worldwide by modifying it as per their respective palates. The authentic Italian pizzas have wafer thin crusts but this concept has been amended all over. The pizzas served in the Pizza Huts are American and not Italian pizzas. The consumers have already opted for the kind of pizza they want, whether a thin crust, with mozzarella or craft cheese etc. The Italian government has intervened in this growing pizza culture by planning to put restrictions on the pizzas labeled as Italian.
Certain norms in this regard have already been implemented in Europe and US and India awaits to follow suit very soon. The increased frequency of the expatriate community to the capital could be one of the reasons for the increasing need to maintain the International standards. "It is indeed a feather in our cap to run a restaurant for the Italians being an Indian at the Italian Embassy," informs the young entrepreneur of Diva.
"In Diva, infact 45-50% of the business comes from the expatriates, but 50% of it still comes from the local Delhites and we advocate ourselves not only as a restaurant meant for the expats but also the localites." she adds. Italian cuisine succumbs a great deal to vegetarianism, it is regarded as one of the most vegetarian friendly cuisine in the world. "When the Indians traveled worldwide the only option they had was Italian food because it offered fair scope for a vegetarian diet, be it the tomato pasta which was easily available in small Italian restaurants unlike any other cuisine, whether German or any other," she justifies.
Phillipo Baribol is the special olive oil from Italy that whispers the secret of the mouth-watering food served at Diva. Both extra virgin and regular olive oil are used here, extra virgin is used for salads where the oil is eaten crude and regular oil for cooking. This explains the importance of raw material to a good end product. So, the next time you wanna grab a bite from the Italian menu, you know where to go!
Try out the stuffed pastas in butter and sage, steamed fish with lobster salad, smoked Sicilian swordfish with smoked tuna and many more delicacies teasing the taste buds and you are assured the right value for money. In the mean time, Delhi continues struggling for a strong foothold in International cuisine. "It's a slow growing market growing at its own pace and we are not complaining," reassures the diva behind Diva.