There’s nothing in her lineage to explain why Ritu Dalmia is the brilliant chef and restaurateur that she is. And yet, there she stands, as one of India’s most celebrated chefs, co-owner of six restaurants in India, three in Milan, Italy & a catering vertical that serves worldwide destinations
The story might well have gone some other way. Born in then-Calcutta to a business family, Ritu joined the family stone business when she was just 16. Her work kept taking her to Italy, where she developed a liking for the local cuisine and learnt how to cook it proficiently. In 1993, at age 21, she set up Mezza Luna, an Italian restaurant in Delhi. The food was excellent, Mezza Luna’s fortunes weren’t. An undeterred Dalmia moved to London, where she opened Vama, an Indian fine dining restaurant. The restaurant was a big success and won rave reviews.
But Delhi beckoned, and in 2000, she came home to open her first DIVA. Pioneered and driven by Chef Ritu Dalmia, DIVA believes in celebrating authentic food by combining clean, simple & fresh ingredients to create rich & unique dishes.
After which, Dalmia never looked back, going on to open multiple award-winning restaurants with a team of over 300 staff. With Cittamani, her eatery in Milan, Dalmia has come full circle. She started her restaurateur life trying to introduce India to genuine Italian food; now she’s getting Italians to taste and enjoy the flavours of the Indian subcontinent.
Bearing the flag of modern Indian cuisine high, Chef Ritu has also opened another restaurant – Spica in Milan with acclaimed Michelin starred Chef Viviana Varese. The food is inspired by their travels around the world with comfort food from across Asia, America & Europe, Ritu explains: “The whole idea is to eat as you travel, without boundaries”. The third outlet VIVA – which is the brainchild of Chef Viviana Varese is one of the most critically acclaimed establishments in Italy with a Michelin star to its name. The relationship between the two chefs & their common passion of food is what led to Chef Ritu investing in Viva and becoming a partner in 2019.
2021 finally took her to Mumbai, to open her very first restaurant in collaboration with Good Earth called The Tasting Room by DIVA. It is a beautiful amalgamation of the design houses aesthetics and Ritus knowledge of food. She then opened up Motodo in BKC with the reliance family. This restaurant takes inspiration from olde worlde trattorias in Italy. The menu focuses on regional dishes that you will find across Italy.
Chef Ritu’s entrepreneurial spirit and contribution to the hospitality industry has been recognized by many institutions, including CondeNast Top 50 Restaurants of India, Peaklife Gourmet Awards 2019, DelWine Excellence Award 2019 as Women of Wonder (WOW), Forbes which put her on its W Power Trailblazers List in March 2017 and the Indian Federation for Culinary Association, which in 2016 recognized her as one of India’s 25 biggest Chefs. In September 2017, she was awarded the Ordine della Stella d'Italia, the highest civilian honour of Italy. Ritu has also hosted Italian Khana and Travelling DIVA on NDTV Good Times and authored three cookbooks, Italian Khaana, Travelling DIVA and DIVA Green: A Vegetarian Cookbook.
In June 2016, Dalmia along with 4 others signed a petition in the supreme court of India against section 377 of the penal code of India, a law that states being a part of the LGBTQ community is illegal. After a long battle in September 2018 the law was declared unconstitutional. The verdict was deemed a landmark judgement.
She is a role model to many and looked up to by others. With her own share of experiences and challenges, Chef Ritu has now garnered the status of a Industry stalworth and icon.