Despite Its Indian-Italian-American Name, LA's Pijja Palace Serves Creative Indian-Italian-American Cuisine
It works because of the tikka masala pasta and the green chutney on the pizza.
A one-of-a-kind Los Angeles experience, Avish Naran’s Pijja Palace is a curio like no other. However, Naran doesn’t see it that way. Although he serves Indian-Italian-American pizzas and pastas at Pijja Palace, he compares it with other places he admires around town.
Chef Naran Shorey, who previously worked at Roberta's LA outpost, creates crowd-pleasing dishes such as malai rigatoni with executive chef Miles Shorey.
Also available are pizzas topped with chicken tikka, kadai paneer and homemade goan sausage, as well as peri peri vindaloo sauce, which is built like an enchilada sauce with a roux.
Having grown up in Echo Park not far from Pijja Palace, Naran knows how much immigrant food involves slow cooking off-cuts to create something delicious. In order to make nihari, a meaty stew that may sound familiar to Angelenos who have never eaten it before, he and Shorey are developing it at Pijja Palace.
Naran was like many chefs who wanted to reject their heritage before embracing it harder than ever.
While learning other cuisines, Naran realized that he appreciated Indian food for its complexity, vividness, and richness of flavors. When he staged at high-end restaurants such as Indian Accent in New York and Rooh in San Francisco, Campton Place and August 1 Five in San Francisco, he realized he wanted to do modern Indian food with a more relaxed feel.
A collaborative kitchen at Pijja Palace reminds Naran of his culinary school days. As a nod to how Indians pronounce pizza, his restaurant serves dosa onion rings with mango chutney, okra fries with curry-leaf ranch, and spicy wings with curry-leaf ranch, a dish inspired by Shorey's love of sweet-and-sour flavors at Thai restaurants. The Indian pizza at Julio's in Artesia is another example of LA's diversity, which is inspired by the green chutney pie at LaVentina's Pizza in Lakewood.
Even though Pijja Palace does not have a tandoor, Naran and Shorey are still making “tandoori spaghetti” with ingredients such as smoked chiles that mimic Indian ovens in flavor and aroma. Naran and Shorey will talk about ingredients they might want to try, such as Indian eggplant, when Shorey is shopping.
There's an Indian twist on classics at Pijja Palace. There's a Chai Whiskey Sour with darjeeling. An Old Fashioned has whiskey, jaggery, and cardamom bitters.
There are about 15 Indian-inspired restaurants Naran has in mind. He's energized by the fact that his casual restaurant and sports bar has made a name for itself. He'll be happy to stay in his lane as long as the success of his restaurant remains strong.