Life in a metro Food

Feast on pizzas at Sijis Pizza Street

Sijis Pizza Street

Sijis Pizza Street   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

The outlet beckons pizza lovers and those who relish Arabian cuisine

There’s no being in two minds about a thin crust pizza, a la Italiano, warm out of a clay oven. You either like it or you don’t. With Thiruvananthapuram’s first wood-fired thin crust pizza restaurant opening recently, it is time to get your priorities right, considering there are plenty of pizza outlets— the American version, in the city.

Set in the nook of a lane neighbouring the Ramanathan Krishnan Tennis Complex, far from the main Medical College-Kumarapuram road, Sijis Pizza Street opened with an online contest where winners feasted on 18 inch jumbo pizzas. “We didn’t want to go the usual route by roping in a celebrity,” says Sajjad Rahman Saleem, the 26-year-old owner of the restaurant who also goes by the nickname Siji.

Dr Sajjad Saleem and wife, Ayisha Nizam

Dr Sajjad Saleem and wife, Ayisha Nizam   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Sijis, the restaurant, has a delectable choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizzas in four sizes — kids (6 inches, to be introduced soon), small (9 inches), medium (12 inches) and jumbo. For those who like to experiment, there’s the half and half or better still, four quarters option to get a taste of as many flavours. Surprisingly, Dr Sajjad and his wife, Ayisha Nizam, name a vegetarian option as their favourite — Florentine, with spinach sauce, feta cheese, olives and garlic. “It is a hit with patrons too but then, so is Hot Chicken and Cheesy Chicken. As barbecued food is common in the city now, we included a BBQ Chicken version as well,” he says.

New taste

Coming from a family of self-confessed foodies, Sajjad always knew that he wanted to venture into the restaurant business. A junior resident ENT at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER) in Pondicherry, Sajjad took a leap a faith with his choice for a restaurant. “One of our favourite eateries in Pondicherry serves Italian style pizzas and Thiruvananthapuram has definitely undergone a food revolution of sorts over the last three to four years. So we thought why not start one here. I feel Kozhikode’s food scene has always been traditional while our city right now is the food hub. People were not as willing to try new tastes before but that has changed,” Sajjad says with pride.

A pizza at Sijis Pizza Street

A pizza at Sijis Pizza Street   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

To understand the city’s palate, Sajjad took a three-month break from JIPMER and together with his mother, Rajila Saleem, a gifted cook, launched home-based Sijis Delicacies, delivering Middle East dishes on order. “We saw that though there were many restaurants here that specialised in Arabian cuisine, it was all chicken-based while popular dishes like hummus and mutabel were missing. When we launched, even people who hadn’t tasted Arabian food before were willing to try and they liked it.”

Popular recipes

When overseeing works of the clay model oven, Sajjad saw the opportunity for including his mother’s recipes under Arabian cuisine. “Flat breads, or khubz in Arabic, are traditionally made in a clay oven. I felt there was a connection, from flat breads in the Arabian region to breads like focaccia in Italy. So whether it was flat breads or pizzas, we had the oven for both,” he says. The menu features items popular in the Middle East like the smokey-flavoured brinjal dip mutabel and meat-stuffed pita bread or arayes apart from the now locally spotted falafel and grilled chicken.

Little Italy pizza at Sijis Pizza Street

Little Italy pizza at Sijis Pizza Street   | Photo Credit: Liza George

For those who aren’t keen on pizzas or Arabian cuisine, there’s a selection of pasta, burgers and sandwiches. Beverages include mojitos, shakes, fresh juice, lassi and iced tea while dessert consists of choco pizza, choco lava and red velvet lava cake.

Sajjad notes that the appearance of saucer-sized pizzas at bakeries over the years seems to have relegated the dish to a tea time option. “Some of my relatives who ate a pizza for the first time also liked it. Pizzas are as much a lunch or dinner option as, say, a biryani. I have understood that if what you have to offer is flavoursome, people are willing to accept it.”

There’s an endearing anecdote behind the name of the restaurant. Dr. Sajjad’s father had taken a shine to the name even before there was a baby in the picture. “It is the name of a place in the UAE where we are based. Sajjad’s father decided he’d name his first child Siji irrespective of whether it would be a boy or a girl,” says Rajila, with a laugh.

Sijis Pizza Street is open on all days. Contact: 2442250, 8943309309

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 8:12:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/sijis-pizza-street-beckons-pizza-lovers/article23433872.ece

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