Ahmedabad’s food culture is not confined to traditional delicacies. The city’s enterprising entrepreneurs have explored far and wide to spread a gourmet buffet before the city’s residents.
From Italy to India
A young man in Chandpur, Uttar Pradesh, dreamed of having a business of his own and embarked upon a journey that would establish one of the well-known and authentic bakeries in Ahmedabad, the ‘Italian Bakery’.
The biscuits and plum cakes of the Italian Bakery are famous all around the city. Situated in a corner of Bhadra, the establishment serves a variety of biscuits, cakes and breads. It was also the first bakery in Ahmedabad to feature macarons.
“My grandfather started this business after learning from an Italian chef during his stay in Mumbai,” explains Amir Shaikh, whose grandfather travelled to Mumbai looking for a job and ended up learning a lot from an Italian chef in a local restaurant. After that, he came to Ahmedabad in 1936 and started selling hot cross buns in the busiest part of the city. Soon after, he branched out into breads, biscuits, puddings and cakes.
The items in the bakery do complete justice to its name as the biscuits taste exactly like the biscuits in Italy. The authenticity lies in the recipes. “The business has not just survived, we have dominated the market due to the authenticity and use of natural ingredients,” says Shaikh. The store also continuously experiments with
new recipes and changes their menu. Some items are discontinued due to lack of demand, but its macarons, breads and plum cakes are still as much in demand as they were at the time they were introduced.
The bakery even has an international flavour – it launched a store in Atlanta, USA, a few years ago.
Dudh no Halwo that transcends boundaries
At first glance, it looks like an ordinary milk shop in Naranpura. Then, one notices the vintage hoarding and the traditional kitchen, and realizes this is one of the oldest milk houses in Ahmedabad, established in 1962 by Shri Kishansingh Rao. ‘Chandrika Dudh Ghar’ has a constant enticing aroma of dudh halwa being cooked that will transport you instantly to food heaven.
The continuous movement of customers makes it seem difficult to get served a hot piping box of the halwa. But Bhavyadeep and Parimeeta, the third generation of businessmen to run the establishment, will not let any customer walk out disappointed. Besides the famous halwa, the shop also sells milk, milk products and milk sweets like peda in different flavours.
The shop’s history dates from when 9-year-old Kishansingh decided to find work to pay off his debt to a local zamindar during British Rule. He found a job at a dairy in Mumbai, and then, after travelling to Ahmedabad on foot from Mumbai, Kishan worked for a dairy again until in 1962, he decided to establish Chandrika. The dairy that started with 15 borrowed milk cans has transformed into not only a shop but also a factory. It is one of the few remaining shops that still serves hot dudh halwa in Ahmedabad.
“Not just the recipe, even the chefs have not changed, Bhattji who was making halwa when the shop began in the early 1960s still makes the halwa,” says Bhavyadeep Rao.
The business has not gone through many changes even as many dessert studios keep opening in the city. They even have a flourishing export business.