A dash of flavour, a pinch of creativity and ounces of passion for food! This is the recipe that created DIVA – a chain of restaurants, offering flavours from around the world. And now, Goa gets a taste of it!
There’s nothing in her lineage to explain why Ritu Dalmia is the brilliant chef and restaurateur that she is. And yet, there she stands, in her mid-40s, as one of India’s most celebrated chefs and co-owner of six restaurants and a catering division in Delhi and a restaurant in Italy.
The story might well have gone some other way. Born in then-Calcutta to a Marwari business family, Dalmia joined the family stone business when she was just 16. Her work kept taking her to Italy, where she developed a liking for the local cuisine and learnt how to cook it proficiently. In 1993, at age 21, she set up Mezza Luna, a Mediterranean restaurant with an Italian accent, in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village. The food was excellent, Mezza Luna’s fortunes weren’t. An undeterred Dalmia moved to London, where she opened Vama, an Indian fine dining restaurant. The restaurant was a big success and won rave reviews.
But Delhi beckoned, and in 2000, she came home to open her first DIVA. The fine dining restaurant was an immediate hit with food that Delhi had never encountered and a Wine Cellar that had no parallel. Dalmia never looked back, going on to open one winning restaurant after another and managing a staff of 200. With Cittamani, her new eatery in Milan, Dalmia has come full circle. She started her restaurateur life trying to introduce India to genuine Italian food; now she’s getting Italians to taste and enjoy the flavours of the Indian sub-continent. Cittamani’s menu is a fusion of Indian and Italian elements; with Dalmia cooking locally-sourced Italian ingredients with Indian techniques.
Dalmia’s entrepreneurial spirit and contribution to the hospitality industry has been recognized by many institutions, including Forbes which put her on its W Power Trailblazers List in March 2017 and the Indian Federation for Culinary Association, which in 2016 recognized her as one of India’s 25 biggest Chefs. Last September, she was awarded the Ordine della Stella d’Italia, the highest civilian honour of Italy. Dalmia has hosted Italian Khana and Travelling DIVA on NDTV Good Times and authored three cookbooks, Italian Khaana, Travelling DIVA and DIVA Green: A Vegetarian Cookbook.
DIVA LAUNCHES IN GOA
The five course Italian fine dining lunch curated for the media launch event at Andores Resort & Spa was simply bellissima!! Undeterred by the humid Goan summer sun, 25 media invitees and moi drove to DIVA and surrendered ourselves into the hands and the culinary magic Chef Ritu Dalmia. What followed was a sheer feast of visual and sensory sensations of the taste buds, as each meal teased and enticed our appetites. All in the lightness and freshness of the freshest ingredients and produce.
Like the Antipasti beginning with a tartare of beetroot with green apple and lime mustard dressing and prawn salad with fennel shavings and citrus fruit. Crisp, fresh, delicious and could I have another of both please!!
Like a hardcore Goan, I stuck to non-veg (but of course) and gorged deliciously on the raviolli filled with minced lamb in white onion puree and rosemary served as Primi Piatti (the course of a meal, often consisting of a pasta dish, following the antipasto and before the secondo piatto). It just floated down my eager throat…
The Secondi offered a curious beaten chicken breast in lime and peppercorn sauce with roasted baby potatoes. It didn’t hit the bell for me.
But hosannas could be heard from my neighboring tables as well when the Pizze made it aromatic service rounds to the tables. Now we Goans love our food. Chef Ritu orchestrated four prime prizes that needed an ovation, but everybody was too busy eating it. The Margherita – tomato, fresh mozzarella and springs of basil; Verde – pesto, mozzarella, pine nuts, onion and rocket leaves (which seriously works for vegetarians because some were super bliss-ed out); Sabine – spicy salami, red onions and red peppers and surely as feisty as her name and there were encores; and finally Cotto – cooked Italian ham, artichoke, kalamata olives, mozzarella and parmesan. I had mouthful slices of all, and some more, unashamed or unmindful of diet. Roma will be conquered tomorrow. Today we eat!!
Speaking on the Goa launch of DIVA on May 21st, an excited and enthusiastic Chef Ritu Dalmia said, “I’m delighted to launch DIVA in Goa and very excited with the very good response it has received. Goa has always been my favourite destination, and now I have a legit reason to come to Goa and experience its business with DIVA. The support of the team is very encouraging and I would say so far so good. Our best is yet to come.” Having being witness today, I completely agree.
The Goa signature flagship of DIVA boasts a 64 cover fine dining address centrally located inside the property of Andores Resort & Spa. Open throughout the season, it will offer lunch, apertivo and dinner experiences for guests with an authentic Italian menu curated for Goa, keeping in mind the State’s vibrant local flavours and ingredients.
A plush indoor seating and a vibrant outdoor terrace overlooks the resort’s pool perfectly complimenting an outdoor pizzeria in full view of the guests, so diners can enjoy a true Neapolitan slice whilst sitting beside the pool. A fully operational bar with a special menu of cocktails and a wide selection of wine and beer aims to enhance the most discerning tastes. DIVA promises an experience that reinforces the award winning brand philosophy of ‘respecting and celebrating authentic food by combining clean, simple and fresh ingredients to create rich and unique dishes that promise to give your taste-buds an unforgettable experience.’
Did I mention that I still had room for desserts? A chocolate torta, fresh, moist and diva-ish with just the right attention to portion, and Italy’s grand export to the world – tiramisu completed the classic tour of mighty Italy in a sunshine heavy continent of no equals.
Spread the word folks. This DIVA is here to stay in Goa, and I didn’t mean me 😉
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/divarestaurants/
Instagram & Twitter @divarestaurants
Chef Ritu Dalmia’s Fb link – https://www.facebook.com/chefritudalmia/
Chef Ritu’s Instagram – @ritudal
DIVA at Andores Resort and Spa, Tivai Vaddo, Calangute, Bardez, Goa – 403516.
Reservations: 0832 -6654400