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New restaurant makes ordering a meal easy as pie

Earlier this month, viewers across the country braced for Discovery Channel’s annual TV fish fest “Shark Week.” For many people locally, anticipation has been building for another predatory event: Claremont Restaurant Week.

It’s the third year for the culinary extravaganza, which starts today, Friday, July 10. From now through July 19, a slew of local eateries will be offering prix fixe specials that are easy on the wallet and showcase their food.

There are lots of returning participants and a few new names, including Pie Street Pizza. 

Claremont has many great pizza places, but none quite like Pie Street. With its quick, affordable and customized fare, it should be a welcome addition in town.

Here’s how it works. Take pizza dough and top it with the sauce and cheeses of your choice. Then pick from some 22 toppings, from pepperoni to fresh basil and from artichoke hearts to chicken breast. Cook for three and a half minutes and slice. Enjoy. 

The 11-inch Unlimited Toppings Pizza is $7.99. And yes, Pie Street owners Syed Rizvi and Ray Malik note, a few people have asked for every single topping. Other pizzas, from Hawaiian to veggie lovers to Pizza de Bianco, cost $6. 99.

It’s been a little tough for the pizzeria, which opened at the end of March, to attract street traffic. It’s located in the Village West on Indian Hill, just a hop, skip and a jump from the train tracks. And per city restrictions, the restaurateurs can only allocate 25 percent of their street-facing windows to signage. Still, the pizza shop’s clientele is growing steadily, thanks to word-of-mouth and positive social media reviews.

Pie Street Pizza, along with the recently-opened neighboring restaurant Tikka Wraps & Curry Bowls, represents the first collaboration by Mr. Rizvi and Mr. Malik, and it’s a good match.

Mr. Malik earned his degree in biochemistry, but has dedicated his entire career to the food industry, more specifically the corporate franchise industry. Most recently, he owned Fatburger restaurants in Temecula and Riverside. Mr. Rizvi, an electrical engineer who spent years in the auto industry, was looking for a chance to invest in the restaurant business. The rest is history.

Choosing Claremont for a location was a no-brainer for the entrepreneurs.

“Claremont is a hub for food, like Pasadena,” Mr. Malik said. “It’s also a college town. We knew something quick and affordable would appeal to the younger crowd.”

High-quality ingredients add to the pizza joint’s appeal. Mr. Malik worked hard to ensure that Pie Street’s pies have an authentic New York taste.

He got a recipe for a thin, crisp crust from his wife’s uncle, who owns a pizza place in the Empire State. After unsuccessful attempts to get it to taste like the original, Mr. Malik headed to the East Coast. When he made the dough in his relative’s kitchen, it came out perfectly.

Mr. Malik realized that the taste disparity resulted from the difference in the two regions’ water supply. His solution? Import the dough straight from New York.

The meat at Pie Street is also carefully selected. Mr. Rizvi and Mr. Malik are Muslim, both having immigrated to the United States from Pakistan years ago. As a result, it’s important to the partners that they serve Halal.

Halal meat is raised and butchered according to Islamic law. Any animal eaten must have been fed an all-natural diet free of animal products. It must be slaughtered quickly and humanely. Pork is forbidden, so the restaurant serves all-beef pepperoni and sausage. “Halal meat is high-price, premium quality, healthy meat,” Mr. Malik said. “It’s a big thing right now.”

Variety as well as quality is the spice of life at Pie Street. If there aren’t already enough incentives to visit Claremont’s newest dough-slingers, adventurous eaters can opt to top their pizza with a splash of tikka masala sauce, as well as with selections like pesto basil, tomato blend, buffalo sauce, barbecue sauce and extra virgin olive oil with fresh garlic.

Mr. Malik, who has two elementary school-aged children, lives in Laguna. Mr. Rizvi, who has three kids ranging from 14 to 18, lives in Upland. They come together in Claremont, and are enthusiastic to be part of the business community in a place becoming known as a foodie’s paradise.

“Claremont has always been a close-knit town,” Mr. Malik said. “We want to be a place where, when a customer named Joe comes in, we say, ‘Hello, Joe.’”

During Restaurant Week, guests can get a pizza and a side salad for $10. A pizza, large antipasto salad, two drinks and choice of dessert cost $20.

To learn more about Pie Street, which offers delivery as well as dine-in and pickup service, call (909) 624-4040 or visit www.piestreetpizza.com.

Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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