Chef Ritu Dalmia encouraged Delhiites to think beyond macaroni a decade ago with Diva, her swanky fine dining Italian outlet, whipping up authentic Italian treats in her Indian kitchen. As the restaurant completes 11 years, it’s undergone a revamp and emerged in a contemporary avatar.
The restaurant now has a café on lower level that houses a deli, a patisserie and a show kitchen. "When I started off as a café in 2000, it did not do well. The craze for fine dining was more those days as everyone wanted to explore Italian over an elaborate menu. Now that Delhi has reached a ‘been-there-done-that’ stage, it makes perfect sense to have the café back," says Dalmia.
The café is about simple, uncomplicated food that lifts up your mood. The chef does her pizzas Neapolitan style, the kinds that you saw Julia Robert sinking her teeth into in Eat Pray Love. The Margarita pizza that’s a tad chewy (this is not the place if you like your pizzas pappad thin, mind it) comes with a generous helping of fresh mozzarella that melts into the tomatoes, and a dash of olive oil.
The goat cheese and mozzarella fritters served with a delicious apple-mustard sauce dissolve in your mouth and the ravioli is filled with feather-light cheese mousse.
If you are game for more adventurous stuff, the fine dining menu has more playful preparations such as the John Dory dusted with crushed pistachio, that has prawn skewer, zucchini chips, and grilled portobello for company.
The risotto with wild garlic, chives, asparagus and lemon zest served with prawn is supple, creamy and pearly white and doesn’t leave a trace on the spoon.
The fine dining area has a wine cellar that you can walk into. The restaurant has also introduced wine flights —choose five wines of your liking and sample them in 50 ml measure.
Dalmia has put together an applause worthy wine list that’s even more Italian-centric now, focusing on all major regions of Italy. The wines suit all pockets —you have wines in the range of Rs 1,500 a bottle to Rs 50,000, and the choice is eclectic. There are robust reds from Puglia, boutique style white wines from Friuli and some high-end reds from Piedmont.
And despite the revamp, Diva is as warm and cherry as ever, and allows you to curl up and indulge in a long drawn out meal. As Dalmia puts it, "Diva has the same soul. I don’t like restaurants that intimidate. I made sure Diva retains its friendliness. You don’t have to dress up to come to my restaurant."