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A restaurant on Goa’s culinary map and ‘Top 10 must-see’ places to visit – Thalassa is an institution that requires no introduction. From the perfect sunset to the scrumptious food and ambience created by Mariketty Grana has recreated a mini piece of Greece right in the heart of Vagator. The ever warm and caring soul from the Greek island of Corfu, she started out the hard way. Not forgetting her roots, she conquered the food world and is currently in an expansion mode. She has spread the territorial island of Corfu to the city of Mumbai as well with the help of friend and partner A.D. Singh. Thalassa, with Mariketty playing host, is like the dining-out equivalent of a hug. Olive’s managing director A.D. Singh who first met Mariketty four years ago over a plate of pepper calamari, believes that this warm vibe is what the two restaurants have in common. However, lets understand her through the different roles she plays – a mother, friend, mentor and an independent woman.
This story is about the revelatory moment, when self-realisation kicked in. Understanding her is key to grasp the concept of the love affair of ‘fresh produce and good wine'. What were the origins to that? She elaborates “In Greece everything revolved around food and wine. We would wake up and plan our whole day based on what we wanted to eat and where. It is a love affair that begins as soon as you are born and never quite ends. We, at a very young age, learn to understand and regard the ingredients. Individually the ingredients are so humble but when put together and cooked with love they can evoke memories from childhood – the aroma and the taste just transports you. Only food has that kind of power to take me back in time.”
If one see’s Mariketty on her shiny Vespa scooter zipping around the streets of Goa, she looks right at home and her mannerisms have quite adapted to Goa. When asked about the similarities between Greek and Indian cultures, she quips, “I discovered the similarities because I met people who had travelled to India. Who spoke off India with such passion, such a sparkle in their eyes and that intrigued me. I always wanted to travel and feel inspired. Now looking back it seems like it was meant to be. As for Goa, it is a home away from home. I went first as a backpacker and never quite left. The energy of Goa drew me in and cocooned me. I kept extending my trip until I ran out of excuses and finally one day I said to myself, “I love it here, the place and the people make me happy, what else matters?” and so I stayed. It also has the perfect climate. Spiro, my son and I feel like we belong here. The people are ever so friendly and warm. We have created a life here that we are ever so grateful for.”
Being a family woman and a caring mother, at times it gets difficult strike a balance between the different roles she plays. Mariketty at times, with a glint of care in her eyes opens up to talk about how important family is to her. “My family is my strength and on most occasions do get worried about me living in a different place. However, deep down, they knew I would be okay. From my whole family I was always the strong one who did the unexpected. I am adventurous in spirit and unstoppable, once I make up my mind. They knew they could not stop me even if they tried!”
How did a single parent manage to setup an establishment with the likes of Thalassa in a local dominated and competitive food and hospitality industry far away from home? With a pensive smile she elucidates “The road to setting up a business was very arduous and cumbersome at first. There were good days, bad days and worse days. I do not think it is supposed to be easy though. When I look back I am amazed at how fearless I was. I just never let the fear of failure stop me from trying to do things. The more I did things outside of my comfort zone the more I grew up and the more pride and sense of accomplishment I felt.” Love her or despise her, which is very rare, one cannot ignore her. She is an outspoken woman who has seen the trials and tribulations of this industry and smiled at them effortlessly. Spending an hour with this vivacious and affable soul puts one at calm and ease and makes them feel at home almost instantaneously. Perhaps that is the secret behind the experience called ‘Thalassa”.