He hails from, not one country, but two, and both are in different hemispheres. Chef Vittorio Greco may have been born in the North of Tuscany, but what shaped his culinary style was his move to Brisbane, Australia, where he cooked for a largely non-Italian audience. His live-wire energy is his defining feature, and in his newest playground, Ottimo, atop the ITC Maurya that overlooks Delhi’s green belt, Greco bounds around the expansive restaurant with its open kitchen where he can be seen preparing some of the orders, in between going from table to table getting to know his guests and their preferences, and hurtling out on the spacious terrace to get a lungful of fresh air. His stint in Brisbane has helped him to view the food of his home country with objectivity and some of the hand-picked preparations that he has made his specialities take elements from various regions of Italy, put together in his own, highly individualistic style.
Though he was born in San Giovanni di Fiore in Calabria, a particularly picturesque and historic town in South Italy, he spent most of his childhood in Massa Carrara in Tuscany, where game meats ruled the roost – surely a striking contrast to India where vegetarianism is almost a badge of honour.
So, now that he lives in Asia, what does he like to do in his down time? Rather than making his surroundings (a suite in whichever ITC hotel he is staying at: he heads all three branches of Ottimo) a prototype of Italy, he lavishes attention on his Doberman, who is his princess and his daughter, after his other one was married a few years ago. “If you are not an animal lover, you won’t understand what I am saying,” he intones passionately. After work dinner at the bewitching hour is a fact of life for this hard-working chef who sits down alone if he is in Bangalore or Delhi, with a tray from room service and a glass of wine. When he is in Chennai, dinner is had in the company of his wife and princess. Except for one rider: if he craves for a spaghetti aglio olio, he will make it himself, whether it is midnight or not. The maniacal precision of a Tuscan won’t let anyone else undertake the all-important job for him.