Pizza was not part of my growing up years.
The sleepy hamlet of Karimganj had not yet woken up to the allure of pizzas and it would be almost a decade post I had left the town that pizzas finally invaded.
Guwahati too, if memory serves me right, had not yet succumbed to the pizza hysteria, for all the gorgeous years I spent in this town, I don’t remember having savoured a pizza.
My first pizza experience was in Kolkata (still Calcutta then) during one of our vacations – I remember Dada loving it.
I was ambivalent though, not really sure if I liked or not the herb-perfumed cheese-overloaded tomato sauce-slathered delight, straight out of the oven.
What followed in the next decade was an unprecedented frenzy around pizzas.
Pizza Hut and Dominos fast emerged as the de-facto haunts for the young, pizzas washed down with bottomless Cokes eclipsed the roti-dal-subzi as weekend dinner staples, pizza delivery boys zipping across in their scooters, often with scant respect to traffic rules, rattled pedestrians and police alike (‘39 minutes or the pizza is free’ promises far from helped) and supermarkets competed with each other while stocking up fresh oregano and mozzarella on their shelves.
The pizza had arrived for sure.
As for me, I continued to remain ambivalent.
Then started the wave of Indianisation (and even Chindianisation) of pizzas.
Paneer Makhni Pizzas.
Tandoori Chicken Pizzas.
Pizzas that arrived, adorned with Chilli Chicken chunks. Or overloaded with Gobi Manchurian.
Yes, I admired the enterprise, but did they inspire me ?
Well, not quite.
It was during a trip to Mumbai that S proposed a pizza dinner one of the evenings.
Are you kidding ? Was my spontaneous response.
He insisted. Doggedly.
He ordered a Margherita Pizza. The colours of the Italian flag, they say, he mentioned with a smile.
The pizza arrived. Straight out of the caverns of a wood-fired oven.
Thin crust. Generous dollops of Mozzarella. San Marzano tomatoes. A few leaves of basil. A sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.
One bite. And I was a convert.
At times, more is less, isn’t it ? I mused as we walked back to the hotel.
I had finally fallen for the pizza. Hook, line and sinker.
Well, that was the beginning of the journey.
Italy, a couple of years down the line, made me fall in love with the pizza all over again.
And why not ?
Relishing a slice of Pizza Quattro Formaggi on the Spanish Steps on a sunny Roman morning.
Or a greengrocers pizza with an indulgence of roasted eggplant and zucchini in a family-run pizzeria in the cobbled alleys of Trastevere.
Or one with a generous extravagance of zucchini flower and anchovies by the bank of the Arne ?
And this is my chicken and broccoli pizza recipe, right from the making of the dough to the creation of my cherished toppings.
Iterated over, many many times over the years.
Adjusted and fine-tuned.
Till they turned out, just the way we love our chicken and broccoli pizza.
So if you have been craving for that chicken and broccoli pizza and the lockdown hasn’t really been helping fulfilling those desires, don’t fret, try this out.
It’s not that difficult. (I find it therapeutic, but that’s for another day :))
I guarantee a smile on the faces of your loved ones !!!