She loves her Italian, she's loved it since she was a child and that is exactly what super-chef Ritu Dalmia makes her Diva restaurant in GK 2 all about. 'I serve what I like to eat,' she says simply and one of the first questions she throws at me when I sit down in - 'Do you cook?'
'I don't,' I say with a little hesitation, wondering if I will be pulled up for not trying one of the recipes from her latest book Diva Green. Surprisingly, she is elated! 'I have great respect for people who don't cook,' says Dalmia. 'I am a restaurateur, people who don't cook help me run my business,' she explains.
'I am going to take a break from television for now,' she puts in as she moves on to talk about what made her love Italian food. Her show Travelling Diva is all set to air it's last season. A school trip to Italy is what changed the world for her. The homemade pasta in fresh tomato sauces and the bruschettas is what made her fall in love hook, line and sinker. And a few years later, that passion took form of a restaurant in Hauz Khas. Further down the line, she sits happily in Diva and surveys her other restaurants in the city (Latitude 28 and cafe at the Italian Embassy, clearly there's no looking back.
She chats happily about Bengali cuisine - 'They don't eat like we do,' she says, 'Bengalis know how to eat, they take their time with food,' she adds giving a slow-eater like me an excellent excuse.
Dalmia has big plans for 2013. From a book that will bring together different cuisines from households that have inter-cultural marriages to another that is about Asian food. Another restaurant is also on the list. 'The research for the book has already begun and I am going to give it two years...all my books roughly took two years to get into shape, this one might take longer,' she says adding that she has already singled out families who are going to be a part of her pet project.
Diva Green explores vegetarian food, Dalmia says that vegetarian food is very close to her heart. Born in a Marwari family, she took to cooking early, 'My mother cannot cook,' she says. 'I learned more outside school, hands on, than I did from classrooms,' she says and that in the trade of being an ace-restaurateur, is perhaps the best thing.
From opening up the minds of Delhiites to the pleasures of Italian food to witnessing the culture of eating out changing over time, Dalmia has come a long way and she is in no mood to stop. And we shall gladly tuck in!