Chevalier Federico Peliti was the greatest name in Calcutta, which had a great tradition of bakery and confectionery products. Peliti was a Manufacturing Confectioner and he was by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen Empress, a purveyor of cakes, chocolates etc. He started his restaurant and confectionery business in 1870 at 11 Government Place in the Dalhousie Square area of Calcutta.
It was here at a lunch meeting on 26-Sep-1919 that the Rotary Club of Calcutta was organised thus ushering in the movement in India and indeed the mainland of Asia.
In 1919, an expatriate businessman R.J. Coombes returned to Calcutta from a business trip to the USA with authority from Rotary International to organise a club in Calcutta. He had come to know of the establishment of Rotary. He succeeded in interesting a few of his European friends mostly Freemasons, and at a luncheon meeting of some 45 men a formal resolution was passed to organise a Rotary Club.
On September 26th 1919, the first meeting of Rotary Club of Calcutta was held at Peliti's Restaurant with a membership of twenty. The club was granted its Charter on January 1, 1920.
It was the first Rotary club in this part of the world, there being only two others in Asia, viz. Manila and Shanghai, both organised in 1919, a few months prior to Calcutta. However Manila closed down for four years during the 2nd World War and Shanghai closed down after the communist take-over. The Rotary Club of Calcutta is the oldest club on the mainland of Asia, with 86 years of uninterrupted active existence.
The first President of the club was an Irishman W.W. Kennedy 1919-21. In 1921 that grand old man of Bengal politics Sir Surendranath Banerjee joined the club as the first Indian member. The first Indian President of the club A.F.M. Abdul Ali came ten years later in 1929-30. The first Asian President of Rotary International Nitish Chandra Laharry in 1962-63 was a member of our club.
Regular weekly meetings of the club continued to be held at Pelitis.
The Pelitis' was famous for their three course lunch which could be had very quickly at Rs 1.50. The price remained static from 1917 till about 1924. If we consider that the Firpos' used to cater a similar lunch for Rs 2.50 in 1947 then you will realise that Peliti's was not really cheap.
Angelo Firpo was a pupil of Federico Peliti. Firpo opened his restaurant on Chowringhee near the famous hotel (The Oberoi Grand) after the 1st World War. The culture in Firpo's restaurant was more in common with Peliti's than others and was upper class, not in just terms of money, but in attitude. Firpo's restaurant closed its doors in the 1960s
The Peliti's did a lot of outside catering and the variety of their cakes was well known. A great masterpiece of Peliti was a 12' high replica of the Eiffel Tower in sugar, crafted by the great man himself in December 1889.
Peliti's restaurant closed down after Independence.