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Mumbai restaurant chefs experimenting with quirky pizza toppings

Sultanas to Fish and Chips, out-of-the-ordinary ingredients are topping pizzas in Mumbai’s restaurant menus. Towing the line between a delicious experiment and a gastronomic disaster, Kanika Sharma speaks to four city chefs on their inspirations, quirky favourites, and one easy recipe to try out at home.

Veneziana Romana Pizza
The toppings are carefully chosen based on their individual flavours. Also, it is kept in mind that they don’t overpower the flavours of other toppings.

Veneziana Romana Pizza

Most of the pizza toppings are selected in order to deliver a balance between different flavours like sweet and sour, sweet and tangy, or tangy and spicy.

Like in our Polpette Bolognese, it has the tanginess of jalepeno and the spiciness of Bolognese and is topped with the bitter spiciness of rocket leaves.

We say no to overloading of any meat items like meatballs, chicken, pepperoni or any of our specially cured meats as this will imbalance the flavours of the entire pizza. We believe that classic recipes are the best and that’s what we try to follow. However, we do experiment on classic recipes to deliver a few local flavours with the right balance of toppings. Largely toppings are selected on the basis of multiple criterias (see right):

1. To complement drinks.
2. Flavours should enhance after cooking.
3. Certain toppings are chosen depending on health benefits with no compromise on the overall flavour.

Misto Maire
Here, authenticity of flavours and freshness of ingredients are the top two priorities in choosing the suitable toppings for the pizza.

Misto Maire has prawns, squids, anchovy and tuna, at Trattoria, Vivanta by Taj. Pic/Satyajit Desai
Misto Maire has prawns, squids, anchovy and tuna, at Trattoria, Vivanta by Taj. Pic/Satyajit Desai

We also focus on the availability of local ingredients, unusual pairings and the palate of our regular patrons. Pizzas offer you the flexibility and luxury for ample experimentation, from sweet to sour, from the spicy to even the tangy, we experiment with the distinct flavours from regions like Sicily, Perscara, Potenza and Bari.

Chef Ananda Solomon, Trattoria
Chef Ananda Solomon, Trattoria

Inspiration surrounds us. Personally, I find the vibrancy of Italy, its creative cooking techniques and the rich culture of the region inspiring.

Fish and Chips Pizza
We look for various flavours that can match with the crust, base sauce and cheese. Also, how the topping would react to a high temperature is important. Finally, it should taste well and look presentable after baking. We usually look at a concept/cuisine/ region in which a pizza is based and accordingly decide on the toppings.

Fish and Chips Pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. Pic/Atul Kamble
Fish and Chips Pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. Pic/Atul Kamble

We are heavy on vegetarian toppings since the nation has more veg lovers.

We always use innovative, unheard-of toppings. We have lettuce, arugula, beans, sauerkraut, fish, and prawns in different forms, which have been used as our pizza toppings.

Chef Bakul Kodikal , California Pizza Kitchen
Chef Bakul Kodikal, California Pizza Kitchen

I wouldn’t say no to a topping unless I have tried it. In terms of experimentation, we look at most fresh and high quality products which can be used as toppings. We also take inspiration from flavours around the world. Check the recipe below.

Gorus Pizza
You must work with ingredients that are the highest in quality and would allow one ingredient to really bring out the flavour in the other. Again working with sweet to sour, it all comes down to balance.

Gorus at Nico Bombay has mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, bitter honey and arugula
Gorus at Nico Bombay has mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, bitter honey and arugula

I am not the biggest fan of sweet on pizzas unless it’s very subtle. For e.g. one of our best-selling pizzas is our Gorus Pizza. Organic sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, organic baby arugula and bitter honey. The honey works beautifully with the arugula and the saltiness of the fresh mozzarella and the tartness of the sun-dried tomatoes, is a beautiful combination.

I believe there is such a thing as experimenting within a classic mould if that makes any sense. Someone comes up with an idea of creating a Pani Puri Pizza or something just for the sake of being creative is a bit scary and seems to happen in the culinary scene across India. It’s more to sell a gimmick than the product. The biggest no-no for me is pineapple, I can’t handle it.

Usually what inspires us, is seasonal produce and sometimes being out or travelling, you suddenly have an epiphany. It’s the joy of all chefs/Pizzaiola...the joy of creativity.

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