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The rise of the pizzeria

June 23, 2013

KARACHI has a love-love relationship with pizza. Be it the easy-on-your-pocket, calorie-infested pizza place around the corner or the fine dining variety with expensive ingredients from lands far, far away, pizza remains one of the most popular choices for those looking to eat out.

Of course pizza wasn’t always this freely available. Back in the day, one of the pioneers of local pizza was Kings and Queens Pizza Parlour, famous for its chewy pizza crust and fancy toppings. The pizza served there was always consistent, which is why the place probably came close to a fine dining pizza experience back then. As a kid, it was something I hoped my parents would pick every time they decided to eat out.

The advent of international pizza franchises proved to be a game changer. Soon enough there were pizza joints sprawled all over the city with extensive menus, spacious dine-in arrangements and quantities that were previously unheard of. Of course, it wasn’t exactly cheap fare but it was certainly different than what Karachiites were accustomed to. The competition became fierce as up-and-coming pizza establishments joined the ranks, successfully localising the pizza to suit the Pakistani palate.

With some popular flavours, such as chicken tikka — that over the years developed a cult following of sorts and has been copied to death — to some of the more inexplicable ones, for example, Bihari, prawn and hara masala chicken, the pizzeria in Karachi has evolved in more ways than one.

Today almost every restaurant, irrespective of its specialty, offers some form of pizza. This can be your average hole-in-the-wall with questionable meats and cheeses as well as a fine dining establishment whose claim to fame could be fig and goat cheese as pizza toppings. In fact a simple Google search on pizza places in Karachi will show at least 40 such establishments that either are pizza specialists or have the item on their menu.

Regardless of the kind of restaurant it is, each place has its own distinct charm given the fusion of flavours and ingredients. For example, a popular bakery in Bahadurabad offers oven-baked thick crust pizza with toppings of your choice. Surprisingly, the pizza became so famous that the bakery eventually started a delivery service to cater to customers in other areas. Similarly, another pizza establishment in Gulshan-i-Iqbal uses packaged spice mixes to lend flavour to its toppings and has a loyal customer base for that reason!

Over the years Karachiites have also developed the taste for thin-crust pizza because of which many high-end establishments have garnered quite a following. These places claim their pizzas are close to the kind you would probably find in Italy and as proof show you a pricey ingredient list of imported items to recreate that authenticity. Eating at these places may be a costly affair but they certainly hit the spot if you’re looking for light variations or fancy non-desi flavours.

Regardless of what you prefer and the amount you are willing to spend on your meal, one thing is for sure: the popularity of pizza remains unmatched in the city, which is why Karachiites know their pizza perhaps like no other place in the country. —Samina Wahid Perozani