Bethany Clough

Indian pizza? How about carnitas pizza? Ethnic pizza is latest restaurant trend

Tandoori chicken pizza. Carne asada pizza. Carnitas pizza.

The latest trend in pizza is pizza inspired by cuisines from around the world.

With a population as diverse as Fresno’s, it’s no surprise that some of these flavors would find their way onto our pizzas. Indian-style pizza restaurants have zoomed onto the scene and are raising a debate about whether cilantro belongs on a pizza. Fresno is home to both a mom-and-pop Indian pizza place and a franchise that has about 30 locations nationwide with more coming to the Valley soon.

Of course Mexican flavors would land on pizza here given our love of Mexican food. A carne asada pizza at a southeast Fresno pizzeria gets rave reviews online and Me-n-Ed’s is selling a carnitas pizza with plenty of hot sauce on it.

All these places serve traditional pizza along with the specialty ones. So, yeah, you can get a pepperoni pizza at an Indian pizza place.

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A tandoori chicken masala pizza are displayed on trays at The Curry Pizza Company at the restaurant in Fresno on Thursday, June 7, 2018.

The Curry Pizza Company

The Curry Pizza Company is a locally owned pizza place that opened a little over a year ago at 3173 W. Shaw Ave. near Marks Avenue. For the family who runs it, opening an Indian pizza restaurant was a no-brainer, said Jagvir Singh.

“Everyone likes pizza and Indian food, so pizza and Indian food together? Boom!”

The family, including his brother-in-law, Malhi Singh, a DJ-turned-restaurateur, spent three years perfecting their seven different sauces before opening.

The menu features pizzas like tandoori chicken masala and curry veggie, though it’s the butter chicken and tandoori chicken pizzas that are the most popular.

Instead of red sauce, the pizzas are topped with curry sauce, butter chicken sauce, pesto sauce and other sauces.

Most come with a slew of veggies, like the tandoori chicken pizza, which is topped with that trademark red spiced chicken, white sauce, cheese, bell peppers, diced tomatoes, red onions and fresh cilantro.

“Who doesn’t like cilantro?” asked Malhi Singh (though yes, you can ask them to leave it off your pizza).

The pizzas usually come with chicken, paneer (a cheese that people sometimes mistake for tofu) or vegan toppings.

All seven sauces are available in vegan versions, along with vegan cheese, making for an unusually large selection of vegan options for the vegan menu on the counter.

The family hopes to open a Curry Pizza Company in Clovis, though nothing has been finalized yet

Chicago's Pizza With-A-Twist at Kings Canyon and Clovis Avenues makes pizzas with Indian toppings and traditional pizzas. Eric Paul Zamora The Fresno Bee

Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist

This is the heavy hitter in the ethnic pizza world, with more than 30 locations nationwide, including a slew in Northern California. Fresno has two franchises, with a third coming to Clovis.

The restaurant serves 16 traditional pizzas and 18 Indian-style pizzas.

The popular options here are the chicken tikka masala pizza and the butter chicken pizza. The tikka masala has chicken marinated in Indian spices. Butter chicken is, of course, buttery. Both pizzas are topped with ginger, garlic, green chiles and fresh cilantro.

“Seventy percent of my customers are non-Indian,” said Sunny Badhan, owner of the Chicago’s Pizza at 5560 E. Kings Canyon Road. At the corner of Clovis Avenue, it’s next door to the Passage to India Bakery the family also owns.

In addition to the Chicago’s Pizza at Kings Canyon and Clovis, there is another location at 3050 W. Shaw Ave. It is almost across the street from Curry Pizza Co., in a neighborhood with several Indian restaurants and stores. Clovis is scheduled to get a location, probably this summer, at 497 N. Clovis Ave. near Arsenio’s Mexican Food. Expect even more throughout the Valley in the months to come.

The carne asada pizza is a popular seller at Javence Pizza. Javence Pizza

Javence Pizzeria

Pronounced Jah-VEN-say (the owner and his wife have seven kids, it’s the initials of their first names put together) the pizza place at Tulare and Cedar avenues also serves tacos on Tuesdays.

But it’s the carne asada pizza that gets all the attention, its Yelp page and its Facebook page plastered with pictures and rave reviews of the Mexican-inspired pizza piled high with toppings.

Instead of red sauce, the carne asada pizza has green salsa spread on the crust, which is then smothered in beef and cheese. When it comes out of the oven, it’s topped with fresh cilantro, diced white onion, guacamole, lime wedges and then drizzled with Mexican crema.

“They sell a lot of it,” said owner Ed Cruz. “Every day, they sell a lot.”

It’s a little more expensive than Javence’s other pizzas because of all the meat, with a 14-inch large selling for $18.99. You can also get a monster 28-inch version of the pizza that’s cut into 50 square pieces for $60. Though many families have tried, Cruz said he has yet to seen one finish it.

Javence is at 4305 E Tulare Ave. in Fresno.

Carnitas pizza
This carnitas pizza at Me-N-Ed's is available year round, even when it's not listed on the menu. Me-N-Ed's

Me-n-Ed’s carnitas pizza

Fresno-based chain Me-n-Ed’s has been advertising its carnitas pizza lately. The pizza isn’t always on the menu board, but you can always ask for it because the restaurants have the ingredients, said executive chef Marcel Bustos.

He created the pizza when trying to come up with something for Cinco de Mayo. Using the tender pork that Me-n-Ed’s Victory Grill had on hand from some carnitas street tacos, Bustos kicked it up a notch to make something the Hispanic market would like.

The pizza goes into the oven with garlic-alfredo sauce and Cholula hot sauce as base, topped with carnitas, a five-cheese blend, jalapeños, tomatoes, green onions and bell pepper.

“When it comes out, we do a little drizzle over the top of Cholula” hot sauce, Bustos said. “It kicks it up a little. … It’s not crazy spicy, but it’s got a little kick to it.”

European Pizza

This little pizza place opened a few months back at 3185 Willow Ave. near Ashlan Avenue in Clovis.

European Pizza carries Indian pizzas, including a large selection of chicken and paneer pizzas. Achari pizzas are also on the menu. Achari is a blend of Indian spices used in pickling.

There are also pizzas named after cities in Europe, though most have toppings found on many American pizzas.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough