The testimony of an Italian chef managing two important establishments in Mumbai and Delhi

In the center, Hotel Hassler's Imàgo restaurant'

In the center, Hotel Hassler's Imàgo restaurant's executive chef Francesco Apreda and his Italian-Indian team at Vetro, Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai

I still remember, as though it were yesterday, that day, 8 years ago. The owner and general manager of hotel Hassler, Roberto Wirth, called me in the office to give me the news: the Oberoi group needed our consultancy to open two Italian restaurants, one in Mumbai and the other in New Delhi. For me, this was a bolt from the blue at a very busy time: at only 29, I had very recently become the executive chef of Imàgo and my arrival in Rome – after 12 years spent abroad – was already sparkling. Fully aware that this wouldn’t be a job to take lightly, I decided to go abroad once again. In almost 8 years of consultancy, Vetro in Mumbai and Travertino in Delhi have become two points of reference for Italian cuisine in India: the fact that we’ve already been awarded is thanks to the great sacrifices we have made on both projects.

In a country that is growing strongly but still has lots of unsolved problems, we encountered many difficulties. But we’ve always overcome them, thanks to all those who have collaborated, especially my sous-chefs, who accepted the challenge of living and working in India to represent Hassler and Italian cuisine. And then there’s the food. How can you not fall in love with the spices, the markets full of good food, the biryani rice, the tandoori chicken? At the beginning I couldn’t understand the food: too many spices, too hot. But when you get used to it, doubts are transformed into a passionate journey among never-ending surprises.

White truffle Italian menu: huge success in India 

White truffle Italian menu: huge success in India 

How to avoid contamination? It’s impossible. My cuisine owes a lot to the influence of the Orient: first Japan, then India. On our current menu you can find dishes such as Pasta and potatoes, Indian curry and king crab; Tandoori style duck breast with cabbage and singed small mandarins or Cassata Siciliana with Darjeeling tea, orange water ice and soy. We love contaminations. But we like to put them into practice only when we truly know the products of another country because we have observed and experienced them, we have understood their origin and the way in which they are used. Most of all, we have probed them, reaching their authentic cultural roots and use.

A few days ago I came back from my latest trip to Mumbai: for one week we had offered 13 special dishes from Imàgo, using white truffle. I mean... white truffle! In the suitcase, together with the chef coats and the Hassler brochure, I had to include 2 kilos of the precious mushroom: it was the only certain way to bring it to destination undamaged. After airing the clothes with the thrilling aroma, off to cook.

Surprisingly, we finished everything in only 5 days, an unexpected success for an almost uncommon event for Indians who are passionate about good Italian cuisine. Yes, also because they now know Italian food well: they spend their holidays in Italy, travelling from one end of the country to the other and tasting everything, ready to confront themselves with our culture. In our long-standing method, we’ve always proceeded gradually: we began with an extremely traditional cuisine, slowly arriving at a more and more contemporary style without never forgetting the great innovation process that has been going on in Italy’s kitchens for the past few years.