October 12, 2023
The pizza arrived like any other, in a checkered cardboard box. Dotted with char and glistening, stretchy mozzarella, it looked no different than a BBQ pizza from the corner joint. Except, the golden-hued dough had an added heft and, upon the first bite, a spudsy surprise within. Behold the aloo chicken naanizza, a genre-defying confabulation from Jersey City’s Kulchay. Was it a pizza or an open-faced aloo paratha wrap? In the province of cheesy breads, definitions are nothing if not limiting.
In the U.S., pizza appeals to all tastes and price points. Annual pizza sales in North America were over $46 billion in 2022 and Americans consume a billion tons of pizza a year. Ever since Italian immigrants introduced the pie to America in the late 19th century, different communities have added their own variations (think: toppings like clam, pineapple, and ham or styles like Chicago deep dish and a New York slice). What’s more American than entrepreneurship and experimentation?
In a testament to their hustle, a new generation of South Asian-origin chefs and restaurateurs are wooing palates with reimagined versions of the national staple. Such niche pizzerias were previously confined to South Asian enclaves in New Jersey and California. But now that South Asians are the fastest-growing immigrant population in the U.S., there is ample demand — and far more iterations than ever before. South Asian pizza has arrived.