The mushrooming of pasta stations at wedding banquets and parties is perhaps testimony to the growing draw of a cuisine that has made olive oil integral to the kitchen of a growing number of health-conscious, middle class homes.
And then there is fine dining too, which goes beyond just cheesy pizzas and the ubiquitous 'tomato sauce' pasta. Five-star hotels in all metros have their Italian restaurants while malls and trendy shopping centres sport Italian bistros and pizzerias. All catering to the growing numbers of discriminating gastronomes and adventurous young out to savour international tastes. That the cuisine lends itself to a variety of vegetarian dishes has also helped in its popularity.
So, when an international name like Ciro Orsini opened an Italian venture in the Indian capital, it was tribute not just to the Indian foodie's eclectic gastronomic preferences but also to a growing market for new foods.
"India was a naturally corollary of our global growth," Orsini, who grew up in Naples and has been working in the food business since the age of 12, told IANS.
His restaurant, Ciro's Pomodoro, opened a year ago in the trendy N-Block Market in New Delhi's Greater Kailash-I, and he has since not looked back.
His partner, American actor Armand Assante (seen in films such as "American Gangster"), says globalisation, and its easy embrace of Western lifestyles, made it easy for a Westerner to operate in India.
With its authentic food and ambience, Ciro's Pomodoro has become a popular haunt with the young, packing both its floors, including a terrace sitout, particularly over weekends.
"Live music is also a factor in our success," says Ciro. "Singers and musicians from all over the world have performed everybody's favourite songs over the past 35 years."
The Delhi outlet too sees it musical evenings. The pricing is moderate, ranging from Rs.250 for the regular minestrone 'zuppe', or soup, to Rs.950 for the stinco di agnello (braised lamb shank with diced vegetables served on a bed of saffron risotto).
Tomatoes - or pomodoros, the restaurant's icon from which it derives its name - are the letimotif of the menu and the main condiment, signature tomato sauce marinated in extra virgin oil.
The menu - like in Italian restaurants - is divided into four main identified courses - antipasti (starters); primi piatti (first course); secondi piattti (second course); and dolce (desserts). But what probably makes the restaurant stand out are its subtle flavours and the pristineness of it cooking, reflected in the broccoli starter (Tortino di broccoli), its pastas or in main courses like the Fileto di branzino alla aqua pazza, more simply a filet of sea bass, cherry tomatoes , oregano, garlic white wine served with mixed vegetables.
The pizzas - Italy's most successful export - come with interesting endorsements and recommendations. For example, Verdure is Sophia Loren's favourite made of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, bell pepper, zucchini, mushroom, onion, jalapeño and Pesto is Sharon Stone's choice, with mozzarella, tomato sauce, pesto, goat cheese, asparagus.
The only Indian celebrity with an endorsement is Jackie Shroff, a possible visitor to the London outlet, who recommends the Pizza all Ortolana made of fresh bocconcini, tomato sauce, pesto, asparagus, bell pepper, jalapeno and onions with fresh red chili.
The dolce to die for are the panna cotta, cooked cream topped with lemon sauce, and, of course, the signature Italian pudding Tiramisu made of biscuit fingers soaked in espresso coffee with mascarpone cheese and cocoa powder.
It's a culinary journey that began decades ago in Rome.
"While I was studying, I trained as a pastry chef and later opened a bar in Rome," says Orsini.
"In 1974 I came to London and opened a select delicatessen in Parsons Green, New King's Road. My mother, Antonietta, cooked for customers (including actor Stewart Grainger). Then in 1978 I opened the restaurant in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge."
There are now Ciro's Pomodoro restaurants in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait as well as in Los Angeles, Kiev, Al-Khobar, Riga, and even in Lahore in neighbouring Pakistan.
Name: Ciro's Pomodoro
Place: N Block, Greater Kailash-1, New Delhi,
Meal for two: ------ (without alcohol)
--IANS (Posted on 17-08-2013)