I was sitting at Smokin' Joe's, Carmichael Road Branch, eating an eight-inch All American, Pepperoni, salami, black mushrooms, no capsicum, and getting myself educated about pizzas.
Pizzas are as American as anything Italian can be. Indian children love them, second only to hamburgers. Our pizzas are more juicy than Italian, less bready than American. All Indians eat pizzas now, the vegetarians eat vegetarian pizzas, mushrooms, American corn, pineapple; the non-vegetarians eat meat pizzas, chicken, barbecue chicken, mutton mince; the more progressive (in eating habits, only) eat ham, salami, bacon.
The Billimorias run Smokin's Joe's, father Russi Billimoria, son Navroze Billimoria, with Anuj Thapar, the creator of the product. They have five outlets in Mumbai, one in Pune, are in the process of opening two more there. And they have a bank of outriders on bikes, taking Smokin' Joe around the town. Dial a pizza, and it shall be delivered, hot on the dot. It's very American, nearest thing to wearing Levis.
At the Carmichael Road outlet, 31 D Bhaveshwar Darshan (493 2727 and 495 2727), there is a little enclosure where you can sit and eat. Order your pizza, watch it grow in the oven. It takes ten minutes to cook one, the base and the top cook together, the cheese melts and spreads in the dough, the mozzarella becomes stringy, the mushrooms flat and black, and impaled in the rest of the topping. You can watch the whole process, or you can sit at home and dial a pizza. Sundays are busy evenings, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. they turn out 300 pizzas. Imagine, a pizza factory.
They tell me about the making of the pizza. The base is refined flour, 'maida' to you and me. The tomato puree is added to it,and cheese, a lot of cheese. How much? Almost half a tin of Amul cheese. But it is mainly mozzarella they use, supported by English cheddar and processed cheese. You may pick a combination from the menu, or build your own topping. Basil and tomato; onions and mushrooms; sundried tomatoes, walnuts, capers and spring onions; paneer, tandoor baked, with coriander and green chillis; or try a Vegetariana: garlic, American corn, roasted peppers, freshly chopped tomatoes, oregano (Rs.95 for eight inches, 165 for 12 inches).
Or try the non-veg., honey pepper chicken, ham and cheese, Meat Feast (sausages, and salami and ham). It is very much like an omelette, a flat omelette, Parsi poro, only it's got a bases, a nice crispy base, not too hard, at least at Smokin' Joe's. And I'll give you a Smokin' Joe's Specia., chicken sausage, chicken salami, plain chicken onion, garlic, mixed herbs (Rs.100 and Rs.175).
So, what else is there? The Carmichael Road outlet sells more veg. than non-veg. pizzas, some 60 to 70 per cent veg., at the Bandra outlet it is the opposite. Shows you which community resides where, no need to do an expensive survey.
Our pizzas compare very well with American, though their meat is better, has to be with all that cattle on the rage. But ours are more custom made. And, in Italy, where the pizza originally comes from, you won't recognise it. It is very thin, very little sauce and very little cheese. Mainly it is refined flour for base, a little cheese, olives, a touch of basil, terribly blend. Be happy you are Indian, and eating Smokin' Joe's pizza.