Some argue that the color of my skin and my last name encompass the scope of my “Indian” lifestyle. A teenager in the Silicon Valley and the daughter of two parents who moved from India to America less than 20 years ago, I fully understand the divide between one’s heritage and the culture I’m now exposed to. I’m fluent in Hindi, I celebrate all major holidays, and I’m taught of influential figures from India; however, there’s nothing I do with respect to my Indian heritage that I can tangibly connect to my peers.
Food, however, is the universal equalizer. Friends constantly stop by my house, testing out my mothers latest dal concoction, or asking for more of the delicious naan whose smell fills the kitchen. Where they always recognize the divide between American food and Indian—I notice the similarities. Where some bring cheese sandwiches to school, I have those with paneer; imperfect as the combination may taste, it connects the American taste with the Indian one; fusing the two, and creating more than simply a delicious meal, but rather, merging two cultures.
Experimenting with the Indo-American cuisine is more than a hobby; it has turned into a rather unique industry. And nowhere is this more evident than in the transmogrification of that Italian-American marvel, the staple of college kids around the country, the pizza.
In the city of San Jose, San Joze Pizza dominates the Indo-American market with its Indian fusion pizza menu, offering the Mediterranean comfort dish with an Indian twist.
Don’t let the American plaza and stuffed animal machines fool you—San Jose Pizza is as desi as a pizza joint can get. Founded in 2009 as a purely Mediterranean Italian pizzeria, the restaurant began modifying its menu in response to demand. “We have an Indian restaurant next door,” says Kumar, “and customers would always beg for Indian toppings on our pizza.
The first experiments, using the gravies of traditional Indian dishes were not entirely successful. “The chicken makhani (butter chicken) gravy was just too runny and our chef had to figure out a way to thicken it for the pizza,” says Kumar. Similarly the spinach base for a palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese) pizza had to be made thinner to accommodate the need to spread the sauce evenly.
Over ten options of desi-inspired pizza are now offered, ranging from a navrattan veggie pizza to one with shahi paneer. Feeling creative? You have the option of improvising a pizza from scratch—from toppings to the curry sauce. The toppings, the dough, and the sauce are all home made and cooked to perfection, offering something for vegetarians as well as carnivores—satisfying even the pickiest eaters with its diverse menu. Their spicy tandoori chicken pizza leaves your mouth watering for more. A friend of mine, a picky eater and as all children are, a critic of vegetables, fell in love with the navrattan veggie with its tangy mix of tomato, garlic, and fresh cilantro.
Chef and owner Devinder Kumar’s background in both Mediterranean and Indian cuisines is clear. His expertise in both cultural cuisines is executed impeccably; dabbling on neither the Indian nor the Italian side too deeply, he attracts an ethnically diverse clientele.
Over 60% of San Jose Pizza’s clientele is non-Indian. Says Hazel S. on Yelp, “I would give it 5 stars because it is the best Indian pizza around. We tried the lamb kabob and tandoori chicken on a thin crust. We loved the flavors. The sauce is very flavorful and the toppings are just right. I would suggest trying one of their specialty pizzas instead of creating one on your own. I think they have balanced the toppings well so that the overall pizza tastes great.”
San Jose Pizza is just one of the growing numbers of desi pizza joints in the Bay Area. Pizzas with Indian toppings are available in the Kid’s Castle Café in Fremont and it is a common sight to see guest of birthday parties in the facilities chomping on coriander and cottage-cheese infused creations. I’m sure readers can suggest other favorite joints here.
Desi pizza is here to stay. Can desi burgers be far behind?
San Jose Pizza is located at 484 Blossom Hill Rd, San Jose, CA 95123. A complete menu is available on http://www.sanjosepizza.net.
For another desi pizza experience, try Tasty Indian Pizza at 528 Lawrence Expressway, Sunnyvale 94085. This joint names its uniquely desi pizzas after Bollywood movies and characters. Unusual offerings include Samosa Pizza and Sweet Corn and Chili Pizza.