With the US set to implement a range of new tariffs that will shoot up the price of European cheese, city chefs discuss how it will impact Mumbai's pizza-pasta scene. Plus, our picks of the best VFM pizzas in town
A decade ago, resourceful housewives, still reeling from the hype and hoopla around the newly launched Pizza Huts in the country, would dish out homemade pizzas made with doughy ready-to-make bases, tons of ketchup and local milk cheese that was a far cry from mozzarella. Today, it's safe to say that we have come a long way as more people opt for four-cheese pizzas instead of Indianised versions loaded with an unreasonable amount of meat.
In another part of the world, things are beginning to look grim for cheese retailers and subsequently restaurants, too, as US President Donald Trump's administration seeks to introduce a battery of new tariffs on cheeses imported from the European Union that will shoot prizes up considerably in the US. Ron Tanner of the Specialty Food Association in the US told a publication in the country that it looks likely that these tariffs will materialise and that it raises concerns for retailers.
Meanwhile, the owner of an Italian restaurant and a chef at a pizzeria, both based out of Mumbai, tell us that while this development may not impact prices in the city, thanks to the stringent laws by the FSSAI, importing, in general, is already a struggle. With respect to cheese, the ordeal is slightly more complicated as it has a short shelf life.
Arja Sridhar, owner of the recently re-launched Gustoso, which is popular for its pizzas, tells us, "We mostly source our cheeses, like the grana padano and the gorgonzola, from Italy. The issue is that factors like the climate and the grass the animal feeds on, which then impact the quality of the milk, all differ, and so, it isn't possible for us to source certain types of cheeses locally. While this new development has not impacted us, at times, we face issues with importing. For example, the last few months have been a struggle in terms of procuring gorgonzola."
Adding to it, chef Jerry Thomas, culinary head of restaurants, The Project Series, which owns Pizza Express, tells us, "The industry here typically imports its cheeses from Denmark, Switzerland or Italy. Since the tariffs are set to be introduced in the US, it is unlikely that this will impact us. But the duties on cheeses in India are already pretty high, and importing from EU is getting difficult. We often struggle, because parmesan, for example, is only authentic when you source it from Emilia-Romagna Lombardy in Italy. Variations of it cannot be called parmesan. Plus, according to the labelling, in India, it is a non-vegetarian cheese. So, at Pizza Express we work with emilgrana."
Thomas adds that with most restaurants and chefs aiming to go local, sourcing from cheesemakers on the home turf, like Mumbai-based Eleftheria Cheese, which makes hand-crafted European cheeses, is increasingly gaining currency. "However, this is only possible with fresh varieties, like burrata," he adds.
But, despite the limitations faced by restaurants in Mumbai with respect to high tax rates on imported cheese, several places serve delicious pizzas at relatively pocket-friendly prices. Take your pick from The Guide's top finds.
In pizza we crust
At this bistro in Navi Mumbai, the menu includes a range of modern dishes. On offer are a mix of classic and hybrid pizzas to try from, like the napoli (Rs 195 for small), which features olives, corn, jalapenos, basil and tomato; the quattro formaggi (Rs 195 for small) made with mozarella, cheddar, parmesan and cottage cheese; and the chicken tikka pizza (Rs 235 for small) that has a tomato and tikka-flavoured sauce, along with chicken tikka pieces and veggies.
At Da Capo Cafe & Bistro, Sector 8, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.
Time 7 am to 11 pm
A riot of flavours
We can safely swear by the fare served at this BKC-based delivery joint that whips up a killer bruschetta and artichoke au gratin. That aside, they also have sinful pizzas on offer with interesting toppings. Their creamy artichoke and mushroom pizza (Rs 200 for small), for one, is indulgent and luscious. If you're feeling adventurous, try their Zorba – the Greek pizza (Rs 210 for small) or the Santa Fe express pizza (Rs 290 for small) from the non-veg section.
At Sorriso Gourmet Kitchen, Trade Centre, BKC.
Time 9.30 am to 11.30 am (delivery only)
This pizza delivery joint is popular among collegians and working professionals for their no-nonsense food and large portions. Try the Popeye special (Rs 215 to Rs 505) made with spinach, baby corn and paneer tikka or their Italian special (Rs 265 to Rs 595), which features spicy chicken sausage, capsicum, cheddar and mozzarella.
At Joey's Pizza (Versova and Malad West).
Time 11 am to 12 am
Call 28743333 (Malad West)
Stretching it too far
With several outlets across the city, this pizzeria is a good option for those looking for decent pizza without burning a hole in the pocket. They have on offer interesting variants like the five cheese pizza (Rs 695) that features mozzarella; smoke mozzarella, cheddar, processed and cheese spread, and the goat's cheese pizza (Rs 695).
At 1441 Pizzeria (all outlets).
Time 11 am to 11 pm
Call 8655021441 (Fort)
From the capital
This Delhi import pizza-delivery joint has spread its wings all over Mumbai. Their small and delicious pizzas that are pocket-friendly (and even cheaper on food apps) are perfect for an office or solo lunch. We particularly dig their tomato and basil cheese (Rs 180 for small) and their chicken pepperoni (Rs 195 for small) pizzas.
At Sbarro's (all outlets).
Time 11 am to 11 pm
Call 9820008685 (Bhandup West)
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