The dough and cheese are freshly made while most of the vegetables and herbs are from the garden. These are what make the pizzas at Ram’s Farm special
We are welcomed at Ram’s Farm by loud, cheery music from a wedding at a hotel nearby and the smell of freshly baked pizza. It’s past dusk and the home-grown vegetarian pizzeria is full of families awaiting their orders. A little girl approaches Praba Ram and pulls at her salwar. “I guess I’ll be leaving soon,” she says with a frown. “Oh, that’s sad. Why don’t you stay here?” Prabha offers. The girl has now placed a finger on her temple, thoughtful. “I can’t sleep here,” she declares at last. “I don’t have my toys!”
It’s been four months since Raj Ram decided to make his pizzas available to everyone. Previously into finance and consulting in the U.S., Ram and his family moved lock, stock and barrel to Chennai a couple of years ago. But the one thing his daughters could never get used to were the pizzas. “They just didn’t like them at all, so I built an oven and starting making them myself. It didn’t seem too complicated,” he says, as he sprinkles freshly-made mozzarella cheese over the pizza he is working on. When the daughters loved it, the family began to call neighbours for tasting sessions. “They loved it too,” says Ram, as he adds the vegetables, “So we wondered ‘why not try and sell our pizzas?’”
Ram believes that the city’s pizzerias have a flawed business model — exorbitant pricing. “Only when I started making them did I realise that the cost isn’t much at all. Of course, I began this for more personal reasons,” he adds, while his daughter Keerthana perks up, “We love the pizzas.”
Ram not makes just the pizzas but the dough, yeast and the cheese too. “Yeast is the building block of the pizza, and the chemistry behind it is quite interesting. Making it at home makes the food healthier and taste better,” he explains. Some of the vegetables are also fresh off his garden. “The basil, spinach and pumpkins are from our small vegetable garden here. The mushrooms and bell peppers are procured directly from a farm and the tomatoes are sourced locally,” he says, as he slowly places the pizza in the oven.
The pizzeria also offers vegan options (Ram makes a cashew cheese instead of his usual mozzarella), starters, desserts and lassi. In the three days that they’re open every week, they manage to sell anywhere between 30 and 50 pizzas.
“We have seven kinds of pizzas as of now, and will add as and when there’s demand. I’d like my customers to tell me what they want,” he says. “The cakes, cinnamon rolls, brownies and almond pies must be ordered beforehand and are only for pick up.”
The big hall can comfortably seat around 20 people — making it popular for small birthday parties. But Ram is looking to build another structure nearby. “It should be ready in about two months,” he says. “We’re open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, anyway.” Why? “Because that’s when the crowd comes here. We usually ask our customers to tell us before they come so that I know how much to make. We rarely have walk-ins because this is still a small kitchen and we don’t make many extras.”
Ram now places a pizza and appetisers in front of us and goes in to whip up some banana lassi. The appetiser is a cube of mozzarella cheese topped with a sliver of tomato, a basil leaf and a dash of balsamic vinegar. The cheese is fresh, soft and chewy and the basil, fragrant. The pizza itself is light, crunchy and bursting with flavours. The lassi, thick and sweet, is a perfect dessert to finish the meal with.
“I didn’t attend any classes. My scientific curiosity about how things worked helped me come this far. Soon, I hope to open a full-fledged farm somewhere down south. But the reason I do this now is so that my daughters can take back with them some hands-on skills,” smiles Ram.
(Ram’s Farm is located in Murugammal Avenue, Neelankarai, ECR. For details, call 96262-69134)