How Ottimo is not just another Italian eatery but a successful attempt to reinvent in a cluttered market

How Ottimo is not just another Italian eatery, but a successful attempt to reinvent in the cluttered restaurant space, where standalones are offering stiff competition to five-stars

By including Italian cuisine in its bouquet, ITC Maurya now has the complete trio of ‘hit’ cuisines on which the Indian restaurant business thrives—Indian, pan-Asian and Italian. By including Italian cuisine in its bouquet, ITC Maurya now has the complete trio of ‘hit’ cuisines on which the Indian restaurant business thrives—Indian, pan-Asian and Italian.

WHEN ITC wanted to launch its Italian restaurant Ottimo in Delhi, it chose to amalgamate it with its already popular West View, instead of opening a new restaurant, like it did with its pan-Asian offering, Tian. West View has metamorphosed several times over the years, perhaps keeping up with the times, but by including Italian cuisine in its bouquet, ITC Maurya now has the complete trio of ‘hit’ cuisines on which the Indian restaurant business thrives—Indian, pan-Asian and Italian. The Bukhara can do no wrong with its North-Western Frontier cuisine offering juicy chicken and creamy dal to Delhiites, while the Dum Pukht thrives on Awadhi flavours, loaded on in dollops by the Qureshi clan in the kitchen.

Italian food over the years has become quite a favourite with Indian diners, especially pizzas, and there is rarely any Italian place in the country that does not boast of a wood-fired oven. Even when Jamie Oliver opened his restaurants in India last year, he chose to do it with the pizzeria and Jamie’s Italian. Moreover, Ottimo has already seen success in ITC properties in Chennai and Bengaluru, and the decision to take it north was only natural, and a right one.

Also, conversion of a European restaurant into an Italian one is just a natural progression that most such restaurants in India have followed. Only, while many have just gravitated towards Italian menus, Ottimo is the full Italian experience, be it the ambience, the dГ©cor or the food. The Ottimo boasts of revamped interiors, with warm yellow and cream colours accented with grey and black. Together with the arches and the wood-panelled ceiling, it creates an ambience that reminds you of a warm trattoria, though the food and wine is anything but casual. The menu is Italian down to the homemade gelatos and the remnants of West View are literally on a table, or two in this case, one offering a selection of grills and another with antipasti.

Having chefs backing restaurants always gives a place a unique identity, and Ottimo gets its from Vittorio Greco, who moves to Delhi after successfully launching in Chennai and Bengaluru. Chef Greco not just delights with his food, but regales with his tales as well. He has brought dishes from all over Italy to Ottimo, but, as expected, the food has a twist that elevates it from its rustic and authentic origins. For instance, the burrata does not come with tomatoes, but sour cherry and toasted almonds instead. The chef revives a simple homely dish of roasted potatoes, which he remembers his mother making, to create a summer beauty decorated with micro greens and edible flowers with EVOO ice cream in the centre. The parmigiana is something chef Greco stakes his reputation on, and wins. The polenta is like a porridge, and not the dry cake variety we are used to eating in restaurants.

“If you gave me dry polenta, I would not eat it. In Italy, dry polenta means leftovers because fresh polenta is like a porridge and, in homes, it is spread all across the table, with the meat in the middle. Everyone in the family eats fast to be able to reach the meat quicker than the others,” he tells us.

There is ample choice for vegetarians, though the chef claims Italians have no concept of ‘vegetarian’, and it’s a term he got familiar with only after coming to India. “Italians can be happy eating a complete meal devoid of meat, but if you told them you gave them a ‘vegetarian’ meal, they would be horrified,” he laughs.

Not restricting himself to the menu, he is happy to give the guests exactly what they want. If pizza can come with a choice of toppings, the pasta can be customised to the guest’s taste. If someone asks for an out-of-the-menu lobster at the Sunday brunch, the chef is already prepared for it.

This ability to give guests a customised experience, while keeping pace with changing tastes and trends, is what keeps a five-star in the running in the intensely competitive restaurant industry. Delhi, especially, has been witness to several new restaurants and food hubs recently, and while that may even be a need for its sprawling identity, with many restaurants holding their own, the space does become cluttered. This is true for the country as a whole, where the boom is even more magnified in the standalone restaurant space, which are giving five-stars a run for their money.

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