The Little Italy Group is the only restaurant brand that has floated its chain across 13 cities in India, with 21 outlets and 3 brands under its umbrella. And 7 more are in the pipeline in more cities. So what contributed to its success? In Chairman Raj Mehta’s own words ““Other than Italians it is we who take Italian food seriously... The success of Little Italy is based on serving value for money, well-prepared Italian food, executed with explicitness and taste, and a consistency of quality served with flair, care and attention.”
Roop Karnani tracks this little giant’s road map to success and reveals how a restaurant became a national brand...
Little Italy pioneered the romance that is associated with Italian cuisine in India. It started its journey from Pune as La Pizzeria at a time when very few people in India knew the taste and authenticity of this cuisine. Neither Penne, Fuseli, Spaghetti were commonly heard of nor were they available at stores in India. La Pizzeria was more like a traditional pizza house at the beginning with a limited offering of Pastas and other items. As the popularity and demand increased it slowly started adding up other items, such as Daily specials - pastas, soups & salads. Naturally, La Pizzeria became a huge hit with locals and foreigners alike. It became a preferred dining destination.
Then, circa 1995, in a rather daring move the company launched its outlet at Juhu, Mumbai. It was perhaps at this time the name Little Italy evolved, as the aim became to offer a full range of Italian cuisines to their customers. Little Italy currently has two restaurants in Mumbai, at Ghatkopar and Charni road. It Plans to open 2 more at Vashi and Thane shortly.
During the years 1995-2000, Little Italy became synonymous with World Class Italian Cuisine and a favorite place for celebrities to dine. Eventually, anyone with a desire for an authentic Italian dining experience headed to Little Italy. In the year 2000, the group opened our first franchise outlet and since then there has been no stopping the brand. Now, guests enjoy several of its Italian delicacies across major cities in India.
Its latest launch, last week includes Soul Kitch –A new concept restaurant in Pune, which brings vegetarian world cuisine on the platter including Indian, Continental, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Lebanese, Mongolian and more, all at one place. A fortnight ago it launched Little Italy in Nasik and another one in Aurangabad. It also plans to launch in Hyderabad, Vashi, Thane, Nepal and Dubai soon.
“Our goal is to open at least 75 Little Italy restaurants over next four to five years” says Raj Mehta Chairman and MD of the group and also the reason for Little Italy’s existence. It was his vision that started off Little Italy, as a family business, in Pune in 1988. By 1989-90, with the assistance of his Italian friend, who was also a chef by profession, La Pizzeria, as Little Italy was known back then, became a rage. The risk to start an Italian restaurant in Pune paid off.
Says Mehta “Italians are one of the few people in the world who are truly passionate about their food. They take a lot of pride in their cooking and love their food fresh from the pan. With a passion for authentic Italian cuisine, we have explored the amazing country of Italy to specially hire chefs and most of our essential ingredients are imported straight from there to bring in that perfect Italian flavour. At little Italy we are inspired to bring to you an experience of vibrant and “true” Italian cuisine that transcends you to this exotic world of fine dining.”
Mehta incidentally is an alumnus of the Food Crafts Institute (FCI), Pune. It was at this learning and development stage at FCI that he envisioned the idea of making Little Italy, the largest and the best fine dining Italian restaurant chain in India.
Another backbone of the group is CEO Naveen Shetty, who started his journey with Mehta when he started La Pizzeria in 1989-90. After spending 6 years in Pune he shifted base to Mumbai to start off brand “Little Italy”. He is one of the key people behind Little Italy’s success story.
And the two of them are all set to zoom further... All we can say is that “Its good tidings for food lovers.”