06 Feb 2018
3 min read
On December 31, 2017 Smokin’ Joe’s Pizza and Pasta opened its doors to customers in Thamel. The joint is a franchise of Smokin’ Joe’s, a Mumbai-based pizzeria. We recently paid the pizzeria a visit to check out its signature offerings.
What you’ll notice first about Smokin’ Joe’s is its impressive interiors. Like me, if you have visited many of the pizza chains in India, you are probably used to the nondescript interiors of pizza joints. But the newly opened Smokin’ Joe’s Pizza and Pasta is not your typical pizza joint. Panden Rota, the franchise owner of Thamel’s Smokin’ Joe’s Pizza and Pasta, has given a lot of thought into designing the interiors of the place, and the decor is informed by an industrial-warehouse aesthetic: metal is used abundantly, zinc sheets are used in its false ceiling, walls have brick wallpapers, and water pipes (which are painted black) with bright red pipes protrude from the walls. Even the well-stocked bar is done up in the industrial theme: some of the liquors are housed in metal-grille cabinets.
Unlike at most pizzerias, where Italian is the be all and end all, Smokin’ Joe’s features quite a bit of Indian dishes. Besides your usual pizza options, like Margherita, Classic Veg, Pepperoni, Napolitana and Salami, Smokin’ Joe’s menu has items like Paneer Chilli, Tandoori Paneer and Zesty Paneer in the vegetarian pizza section, and Chicken Tikka, Schezwan Chicken and Chilli Chicken in the non-vegetarian section.
On the recent chilly afternoon that I visited the restaurant, I had theChilli Chicken Pizza, which proved to be a great choice. The pizza’s crust was neither thick, which is what most Indian pizza brands tend to go with, nor was it papery thin, which is often the case with some pizza joints in the city. The pizza’s medium-thick crust made sense because the tomato sauce was thick and the cheese generously layered. When I took a bite of the crust, I found it was crispy on the outside and airy on the inside. As for the toppings, they were liberally spread. The cheese was gooey, the tomato sauce lightly seasoned and the chicken chunks, browned just right, were just shy of being crispy. The pizza’s distinguishing element—something no other pizzeria here features—was its fiery schezwan sauce. And yet another unique addition was the sesame-seed topping, which added a nutty finish to the flavours.
I also tried the Mixed Vegetarian Pizza, which came with toppings of onion, mushroom and capsicum. The onions were highly caramelised, the thinly sliced capsicum were crunchy and the diced mushrooms fresh, firm and juicy.
It all comes down to good food
Rota is a stickler for making his pizzas the right way. To make sure that everything—from the dough to the toppings—is on point, Rota had a team brought in from Smokin’ Joe’s Mumbai and train his kitchen staff here. “The food is what counts. I know that I am competing with pizza outlets that have been there for years and have loyal customer bases. And for my business to do well, my pizzas have to stand out,” says Rota. “For a month, my team and the team from Mumbai worked together to make sure that we got everything right. Right from day one, the goal has been to serve pizzas that look, smell and taste great.”
To make sure his team is getting the pizzas right, Rota routinely asks customers for feedback to improve his pizzas. “A few days ago, a customer told us that his pizza didn’t look very appealing, but that it tasted great. I thanked him and then brainstormed with my kitchen team about how to come up with better-looking pizzas,” says Rota.According to Rota, the team will be as fastidious regarding every small detail about the new dishes (pastas, steaks, fries and burgers) that will soon be added to their menu.
Rajan Bahadur Lama joined Smokin’ Joe’s as the head chef when the restaurant was still under construction. Lama has over 20 years of experience in making Italian and Continental delicacies. His last gig, before joining Smokin’ Joe’s, was at Ambassador Garden Home, where he worked for two years as the Italian chef and pizza chef. “A lot of the things we do at Smokin’ Joe’s are different from many pizza joints in the city. We cook the sauce differently, bake the dough slightly differently and we use a lot of Indian spices,” says Lama.