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There's more to Italian food than pizza and pasta!
September 27, 2004 11:06 IST
It's over two decades that the first Italian food chain set foot in the country but most Indians have failed to graduate beyond pizza and pasta. The vastness of the Italian food thus remains untapped.
"Italian food is not just pizza and pasta. In fact, most of the pizzas being sold here are American, Mexican and Indianised versions. The Italian cuisine is very vast and includes salads, pizzas, pastas, grills and desserts," says Dheeraj Arora, owner of a restaurant specialising in home-made Italian cuisine.
Pizzas became popular because they could easily be Indianised. As far as other dishes are concerned, the ingredients are all very expensive and have to be imported. That was the reason most restaurants restricted themselves to pizzas, says Ramneet Trehan, also a restaurant owner.
Most of the dishes in authentic restaurants are priced above Rs 300. The servings too are very small. India being a very price-sensitive market, most of the Italian cuisine thus could not become popular.
"The success of pizza is due to its ability to blend with all cuisines. It is more of a fusion food. Name any country, which has not adopted pizza to its cuisine," says Sandeep Madan, who owns a restaurant chain in Delhi.
It is also a very flexible product as far as toppings are concerned - paneer pizza, south Indian pizza, American, Mexican… name it and you have it, says Madan.
However, the scene is fast changing and the younger generation wants to experiment with other dishes too, says Arora. "Many Indians are travelling abroad, the Mediterranean is in and selling. That is also the reason why more Spanish, Lebanese and Italian joints are coming up."
"Pizzas command just a 20-25 per cent share in our sales and the same for pastas. Grills account for 10-12 per cent while Indian soups and salads account for the rest," Arora says.
On the other hand, Trehan has decided not to include pizzas in his Italian cuisine at all. "We have a live pasta counter where one can create personalised pastas. Besides showing the vast range available, it also helps increase awareness about Italian ingredients and accomplishments," he says.
"The target customer is the middle age executive, who has the money to shell out. He goes out for corporate lunches and is willing to experiment," says Trehan.
"Contrary to the popular belief that Italian food is junk, it is in fact the only international cuisine with a vast range of vegetarian dishes and healthy ingredients like wheat bread, tomato, basil, olive, herbs and other Italian capers," says Arora.
Madan agrees. "While excess of anything is bad, there is nothing junk about Italian food. If you see the toppings in veg pizzas, they are most healthy."
The vastness of the cuisine can also be judged from the fact that a meal starts with the antipasti (appetisers) and moves on to prime piatti (first course), entrees (second course), contorni (vegetables), insalata (salad), frutta (fruit) and dolci (desserts).Also, there are two types of Italian foods – commercial and home style. The trend these days is more on home style, where flavours play a very important role in determining its authenticity. The thrust is on creating a balance between Indian and Italian flavours while maintaining its authenticity, says Arora.
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