3489 Mission St. (near Cortland), San Francisco (415)821-3949
(Take Muni Metro J-line or Muni lines 14, 24, 49, or 67)
3083 16th St. (at Valencia), San Francisco (415)621-4189
(Take BART to 16th Street/Mission station, Muni Metro J-line, or Muni lines 22, 26, 33, 49, or 53)
One of the yellowed newspaper clippings taped to the counter proclaimed it to be the "Best Place to Have A Cultural Identity Crisis," and I could see why. Tucked away in a rather unimpressive storefront in The City's Mission District, long a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, Zante's featured a warm pepperoni pizza rotating in the window tended by a smiling gentleman in a turban. I could tell that this was going to be interesting.
The menu featured both standard Indian cuisine (samosas, curries, tandoori chicken, vindaloo, naan, pakoras, etc) and Western-style pizza, but by far the most intriguing selection on the menu was the house special: Indian pizza.
For the uninitiated, Indian pizza is both like and unlike typical American pizza. It's round, it has cheese on it, it has a crust. Instead of a tomato sauce, however, they instead spread a generous amount of spicy spinach sauce over a naan-like crust. Instead of pepperoni, anchovies, or mushrooms, you can top your pizza with garlic, green onions, cauliflower, ginger, prawns, lamb, and/or tandoori chicken.
Opting to be only semi-adventurous, we ordered a pizza with garlic, ginger, green onions, and chicken, along with a couple of Dr. Peppers to wash it all down. The man in the turban retreated behind the counter for a minute, then returned with two frosty cans of soda, which he rather unceremoniously plunked on the table. The pizza arrived soon thereafter, mysteriously augmented with one of those three-legged plastic things that keep the pizza box from caving inward on your pie. The purpose of the plastic thing was quickly forgotten as we took our first bites of Indian pizza. Fusion cuisine is always a toss-up; either the flavors work together or they don't. In this case, we had a winner. It was amazingly good - spicy, savory, cheesy.
If you're ever in the Bay Area and you want to try something different (or, hell, if you're just awake at 2am and you've got an attack of the munchies), Zante's is worth a shot. They've got Indian, they've got pizza, they've got Indian pizza. God, I love California1.
1. Well, when the lights are on, anyway.