Italian food, especially pasta, has become so popular in India lately that it is available almost like dhaba food, says popular chef and restaurateur Ritu Dalmia.
"There was a place that I went to recently. There was hardly anything available to eat at that roadside eatery, but they had pasta with tomato and cheese to offer. I was amazed at how Italian food has become dhaba (roadside eatery) food these days," Dalmia said.
Dalmia, who currently hosts a cookery show Italian Khana, feels that around 1995, Italian food meant macaroni and baked beans to most Indians. However, awareness regarding the cuisine has increased over the years.
"People today know what (food) they want. In fact, some of them know far more about international cuisine. We cannot fool people these days. It's just that nowadays (international) cuisines are customised to suit the tastes in smaller cities vis-a-vis authentic food that caters to high-end clients. For instance, there is authentic Chinese and Indian Chinese - it's the same way with Italian food too," she said.
Dalmia, who is the owner of Diva, one of the capital's best known Italian restaurants, is also the writer of cookery book Italian Khana on which her show is based.
Lately cookery shows have lost their sheen. But if Dalmia is to be believed, the demand and popularity of cookery shows can never vanish.
"Cookery shows are something with which both men and women have an instant connection. In between, the popularity may have been down, but that was because people's expectations from these shows had increased, especially after seeing international cookery shows. Cheap food shows with behind-the- counter style presentation is no longer their taste, they like to have a feel of the place from where the cuisine is," she said.
Dalmia tries to give an international feel to her shows. As her expertise lies in Italian dishes, she travels to the deeper regions of Italy like Umbria, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna and cooks and dines at top-rated restaurants as well as picnics in an olive grove to give the viewers a real taste of the country.