Forty-somethings Anuraag and Anuradha Vaid have been feeding Italians a slice of India since 2002 — when their ‘restaurante’ Sitar, right next to the Colosseum, opened in the land of the pizza.
Anuraag, originally from Delhi — he moved to Rome in 1981 — and Anuradha, from Amritsar, say that butter chicken is now their signature dish. The couple has played hosts to “Indian ministers, Indian actresses, Italian celebrities, World Cup soccer players and Italian politicians”. Excerpts from an interview:
Why did you decide to open an Indian restaurant and how has it faired?
Whenever we had guests at home for meals, they would tell Anuradha to open an Indian restaurant: they liked her’s and my mom’s cooking so much! Indian food is getting popular here — but not as much as in London or the US. Italians relish Tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, chicken 65 and daal makhni. And they are crazy about Sitar butter chicken. One Italian girl, who has become a regular, says that daal makhni is the best dish in the world and insists that we give her the ‘secret’ recipe.
What is it like being an Indian in Italy?
Overall, Indians are liked and respected. In our case, our restaurant is the window to the Indian world. When they visit Sitar, the Italians say it feels like they are in India, what with the antique brick roof in a curve, the Mughlai food and the Reiki music.
The older Italians find it slightly difficult to adapt to the Indian food but the young generation loves it. Most clients really enjoy having their meal in our copper utensils and crockery and, at times, they want to take it back with them!
How do you exercise quality control?
Our chef has more than 25 years of experience in Delhi with five star hotels. The cooks are all trained by my mother and Anuradha.
What are your future plans?
It all depends where our children settle — they were born in Rome. I think we will be dividing our time between Italy and India. As far as business is concerned, we are hoping to have more restaurants in other parts of Italy so that Indian food can be made known in other places.