Pizza is wholesome healthy food when done right. It does not mean that you can eat Pizza for every meal.
The first time I had a Pizza was in Cakes’n’Bakes in the late 80’s. My cousins would come visiting from abroad and they would tell me tales of giant frozen pizzas which they would buy and put it in their freezer for weeks together and how each time they felt like a pizza all they had to do was take a slice of pizza from the freezer and put it in the microwave. I would wonder why the folks at home did not eat pizza and why did we always stick to Dosai, Idli, Pongal, Sambar and Chutney. The closest thing I had tasted to a pizza up until that point was the Onion Uthappam and even that was a novelty item which I could order when I went out with my parents to a restaurant.
I don’t remember the pizza from Cakes’n’Bakes but I definitely remember the pizzas we used to eat at McRennett Bakery on Anna Salai. It was these 6 inch affairs which seemed tiny compared to the description of Pizzas I had heard from my cousins. These McRennett pizzas used to sit in their display, the cheese all dried up and crusty and the pizza base near stale. They used tomato ketchup for pizza sauce and some veggies which seemed like they came from the salad leftovers from some restaurant.
Pizza Corner started their first outlet in Chennai sometime in 1996. I had just finished my 12th board exams and had joined Khan’s entrance coaching classes in Nungambakkam. The first reasons why I chose Khan’s classes is immaterial to the post but the second reason was because it was at a walkable distance from Pizza Corner. But I hardly had any money to spend on a Pizza whose prices were in triple digits. But the occasional chance when I could save some money I would somehow get my friends along too (so we could share, not the pizza). I still remember asking a friend if he wanted to join the gang for pizzas and he said “dei, ennaku indha bun, roti ellam set agadhu.” (I don’t like this bun and roti stuff) I was appalled when he uttered those words bun and roti. I used to call him “Panroti” after that. My Pizza Corner visits got a huge lift when they offered unlimited Coke at the price of one. But sadly I could either drink lots of coke or eat lots of pizzas but never both together. Tricksters those fellows were preying on young people like me. 🙂
Then the biggies finally set shop in good old Madras. Dominos, Pizza Hut and now in the recent years Papa John’s and California Pizza Kitchen. There were also some local ones which I preferred for the price and also for their taste. I think it was Chef Express who ran an ad in local papers saying that their Pizzas would be home-delivered on a bicycle there was something about them being eco-friendly and stuff. There was our very own Pizza Republic which tasted good to my Indian Tongue. Every other Pizza joint was hell bent on reducing the consumption of rice based food in Chennai. Buy one Get one Free offers or the no cook Wednesday and No Cook Friday offers that Pizza hut keeps bombarding my phone with:) But I will tell you what never NEVER screw around with rice in this part of the country. A few months back Pizza Hut introduced Birizza which is nothing but Biriyani stuffed inside a crust, wonder what those guys were upto when they came up with that one. Each pizza joint wants to give a twist to the humble pizza. Now each time I go to an italian place I have finally figured out that Pizzas in India are as good as the Dosas in Italy. To be continued… Read more on RetroKjokken.com.