Alfredo's graduates

Updated: Sep 15, 2019, 08:03 IST | Phorum Dalal |

For two decades, the Juhu outlet has been the go-to hangout for students (and adults) with its pizzas and iced teas. Now, at 25, owner Sarabjit Keer gives it a revamp that's still welcoming of its most loyal patrons

Chicken tikka pizza
Chicken tikka pizza

At 15, with Rs 100 in our pockets, we walked into Alfredo's through the arched doorway that led to the al fresco cafe seating of kidney-bean shaped tables. We'd ask to sit inside, specifically on the mezzanine level, which would fit all 10 of us and give us room be noisier. From there, we had a birds' eye view of the indoors, its pale-yellow walls, a large mirror, mosaic tiles and wooden seating.

Four Seasons Pizza, which came with four types of toppings on one, a Hawaiian Pizza that came with pineapples, Fungi Ala Basil pasta and a round of lemon and peach iced teas. Dessert was a standard order of vanilla ice cream on a warm brownie by the Brownie Point counter outside. This was our go-to order, and the bill would be divided equally—even though the boys ate way more than girls.

Bombay pizza
Bombay pizza

This was about 20 years ago, when we became patrons of the Italian restaurant housed in King's International in Juhu. Over the years, the order changed from iced teas to draft beer and screwdrivers. It became the haunt for creamy mushroom pasta and deep pan and semi-thin crust pizzas topped with a generous shirt of cheese.

Parathas not pizza

Tomorrow, the restaurant completes 25 years. Owner Sarabjit Singh Keer thought it was a perfect time to hit refresh. "A renovation can sometimes be the death of a place, if it changes its character too much. My brief to architect Mini Bhatt was simple: retain the look and feel, I want my regular youngsters to still walk in as if it is their home."

Chicken and mushroom roast
Chicken and mushroom roast

Keer, recalls that when he first shared the idea of starting a pizza place, with his father and uncle—who had been running King's International since 1974—they responded with, "You should open a restaurant that serves a variety of parathas, not pizza.

They are unhealthy with a maida base. Instead, keep a healthy offering of wheat goodness." Keer, who had studied Hotel Management at Sophia's Polytechnic College, and and had worked in the export industry for a couple of years, says, "On my travels to Europe, East and Central Africa, I came across the concept of pizza and draft beer."

Sweet potato gnocchi. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Sweet potato gnocchi. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

The 51-year-old who was a regular customer at Trattoria in Taj Mahal, Colaba, says as a 24-year-old he started as a shoe-string budget, to work on Alfredo's, giving it a separate entrance from the hotel. In 1994, Mumbai got its first standalone pizza parlour in Alfredo's.

"I remember the day we opened. It was a Sunday and we had finished the pooja in the morning. I was getting cold feet, and contemplating my decision. My manager suggested we open the restaurant the same evening instead of the next day. Seeing was believing. We were packed that night and I remember we made a sale of R47,500 on the first night.

Owner Sarabjit Singh Keer at the Juhu restaurant
Owner Sarabjit Singh Keer at the Juhu restaurant

"The next morning my father asked me about the opening night and I told him we will go to the hotel and talk. At his office, I placed a bag full of cash on the table and he was zapped. 'You hadn't opened till I left!," he exclaimed. I told him this was the sale we made from 7 pm to 1 am. Then, as they say, there was no looking back." The menu was small, with no more than 20 items of five veg pizzas, five non-veg pizzas and one lasagne. To go with that, you had beer, iced teas and aerated drinks.

Keer brought on board Kanta Doshi, a gourmet chef from Altamount Road who had global experience. "She taught my boys, who were used to making parathas, to knead pizza dough in our gas oven set up." Two popular pizza chains that opened nearby, soon shut as they couldn't keep up with Alfredo's. "Our cheese mix was formulated. We used gouda and cheddar along with mozzarella," he adds, pointing how now they have 15 varieties of cheese to work with.

On the menu tomorrow

The revamp gives Alfredo's a cleaner look with fresh plants in the al fresco, and subtle touches that uplift the, retaining the old charm. There's an addition of Mediterranean blues and white, and bursts of floral patterns on walls and the entry archway. The new menu doesn't have the fungi ala basil. Keer breaks into a smile at our distress, "By public demand, we are bringing some of the classics back. Regulars don't even open the menu because they know what they want."

The menu now has an elaborate breakfast section with eggs in the form of shakshuka and benedicts. There's a roasted beet and barley salad (Rs 395) which comes with a tangy vinaigrette. Apart from the pepperoni and classic cheesy margharita, there's an entry of a Bombay Rouge Pizza (Rs 455) and a Chicken Tikka Pizza (Rs 515), which we are told is a hotseller with beer towers. On the mains, there's Grilled Chicken (Rs 675), Sweet Potato Gnocchi (Rs 550) is plump in a cheesy sauce. The Fungi Ala Basil (Rs 550) has matured with an al dente fettucine and a velvety mushroom cheese sauce.

Brownie Point, which Manish Khanna opened in 1997 after his Bandra outlet, was known for its gooey brownies and cakes. For 2.0, he created Noir, a flamboyant dessert counter, offering such as a Flourless espresso, Belgian chocolate orange to Baked cheesecake with a strawberry compote and a decadent pecan pie with vanilla bean ice-cream. It is raining cats and dogs but customers continue to pour in. With a new academic session having started, it's time for a new generation to discover a new Alfredo's.

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