Auroville, the international commune outside of Pondicherry, was founded in 1968 by Mira Alfassa (known as “The Mother”), as an experimental community aimed at attracting people from all over the world and achieving the human unity. An unforeseen but delicious by-product of this ambition has been the emergence of a vibrant and diverse food scene that makes today’s Auroville worthy of serious attention as a culinary destination. I grew up as a child in Auroville in the 90s and early 2000s; there were hardly any options for restaurants and fine dining. The emergence of this international food scene is recent and today the community (and its visitors) have access to Israeli, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine. But the most flourishing culinary scene is undoubtedly Italian.
Auroville’s Italian food scene was launched in 2008 with the opening of Pizzeria Tanto, which quickly became nationally famous for its wood-fired pizzas. The scene has grown considerably since then. More recently, four Italian chefs cooked up a one-lane storm in Kuilapalayam, a dusty village neighboring Auroville. They serve what is arguably some of the most authentic and delicious Italian cuisine in India, balancing the imperatives of being both indulgent and healthy. Whether you crave classic pasta, pizza, Italian cheese or gelato, —Kuilapalayam has it all. As Francesco Carboni, owner of The Gelato Factory, told me recently, these restaurateurs joked that they should talk to the village panchayat to change the name of their alley to “Little Italy”.
Umami Kitchen, which opened in August this year, is the latest addition to the group of Italian restaurants. Run by Leonardo Seghi – or Leo – and his wife Bidisha Samantaray, it’s a small restaurant and deli that evokes the welcoming atmosphere of a living room, with a handful of coffee tables, comfy chairs and book-lined walls. . Leo is originally from Tuscany, developed a love for his family’s cuisine and deepened his expertise by training as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in Florence. Although the focus is on Italian cuisine, the menu also includes a wide variety of Asian dishes, including Thai curry, tom kha, chicken hoisin and more.