Anyone who likes Indian food orders naan, the oven-baked bread to go with it. Like tortillas, they make a pleasant destination for the vegetables, meat and rice.
So it’s only logical for a place like Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist, which serves a fusion cuisine of pizza and Indian delights, to offer Indian food versions of the Italian standard. The only thing I don’t get about the restaurant's name is the inclusion of the city of Chicago. This isn’t Cubbie’s, our city’s version of the Windy City’s style of deep-dish pizza. But it is good, and worth visiting especially if you already like Indian food. It turns out this small chain has 25 restaurants in the state, and one located up near Sacramento has been selling a naan pizza right now, so that may be coming to Bakersfield.
My friend Sean was the one who tipped me off about the place, which opened late last year. He’s been there and loves the curry chicken pizza and the hot wings. He hadn’t had curry chicken until his wife’s mother made it for him, and after eating it on this pizza now he’s hooked on the place. The wings were thrown in by the owner who took his order, trying to curry favor with him. We were treated in a similarly winning fashion.
On our visit we went with another friend's recommendation, the butter chicken pizza ($15.99 for a medium) and six boneless Indian chicken wings ($5.99). The selection of beer is excellent for such a small restaurant, about a dozen ranging from the bland big sellers to craft beers like a Lengthwise selection (Cimco ale, which I ordered) and the Lagunitas IPA. No wines by the glass yet — my companion had to get a whole bottle. Given the popularity of wine, they might rethink that practice.
The menu has 16 traditional pizzas, six different vegetarian pizzas, five paneer pizzas (made with the farmer’s cheese that’s comparable to tofu and is supposedly a great aid in losing weight), five chicken pizzas and two “desi style” meat pizzas (desi meaning native, also thought of as natural) as well as a few sandwiches, breadsticks and six different pastas. This is a place that loves vegetables, a trait consistent with Indian food, and you will see them used intelligently, in particular on our pizza. Sure, who doesn’t love butter chicken, but on the medium thick crust of our pizza it was joined by chopped, fresh red onions, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and green onions. The balance of the ingredients was perfect, and there was enough mozzarella cheese to make it seem like a homemade pizza.
The wings got the same treatment with a yogurt sauce drizzled over boneless wings with tikka masala sauce and a garnish of more red onions, cilantro and chives, with bigger pieces of the red onion that went nicely with the poultry. There are 10 different flavors of wings with bones or not, and on future visits I’ll sample tequila-lime, sweet chili and Sriracha.
The atmosphere is functional not pretty, but that’s pretty common in pizza parlors. The place is small but has plenty of tables and booths that can be shifted around to accommodate larger family parties. It’s a small neighborhood place not trying to pull you in with atmosphere, letting the food do all the heavy lifting.
Service was best described as winning, as the staff acted eager to build a regular clientele, as they have with my friend Sean. For example I was asking about the various flavors of wings available and was intrigued by the Indian style boneless, but those were only available in 10 and 20 combos and I wanted only six, as I needed room for the pizza. He changed the menu in order to let me sample those. This is a place that wants to keep the customers happy, and you feel that all along the way. There are very personable people working here.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.