Meet This Diva of Indo-Italian Cuisine

Ritu Dalmia maintains that everything she has done in her life has been impulsive

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When Dalmia started off, since she come from a Marwari family, many people asked her, "Will you be cooking meat and serving beer." People in her community considered being a chef was about doing some menial job. Born in Calcutta to a conservative business family, Dalmia joined their stone business when she was just 16.

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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 the age of 21, she set up MezzaLuna, a Mediterranean restaurant with an Italian accent, in Delhi's Hauz Khas village. The food was excellent, but MezzaLuna'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 even won rave reviews. Delhi beckoned, and in 2000, she came home to open Diva. The fine dining restaurant was an immediate hit.

Dalmia never looked back, going on to open one winning restaurant after another and managing a staff of 200. When they decided to open their flagship international restaurant Cittamani, the choice was crystal clear. Milan she believes is really an international city, where people are curious and willing to try new things. Cittamani's menu is the play between Indian and Italian elements; with Dalmia cooking Indian food with locally-sourced Italian ingredients. "It's light and healthy, and is a reflection of something that I have been working on for a long time," says Dalmia.

Moving forward, Dalmia says "I never had a bucket list. Everything I have done in my life has been impulsive. And even with the mistakes, I have always managed to learn something new."

(This article was first published in the March issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)