Restaurant Review: Halwani Cuisine
From the outside, a passerby might guess that Halwani Cusisine might be a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Indian joint. There’s the curly font, and a name with construction that suggests an ethnic origin. Only in smaller lettering, does the exterior sign hint at what’s on the menu.
Inside the door, over the order counter, looms a giant board of pizza options replete with vivid photos. It’s a world of pizzas. This revelation is not actually disappointing: 1) Because pizza is a fabulous thing and 2) Because Halwani’s pizza comes in unusual flavors.
By unusual, I mean that the best seller isn’t pepperoni pizza (which happens to be the best seller in the United States). At Halwani, the best seller is Tandoori Chicken Pizza (pictured up top). It also makes Taco Pizza and South African Pizza and Royal Moroccan Pizza. The joint has racked up lots of awards for its pizza making prowess, so Halwani is not just unusual; it’s beloved.
So, best seller, shall we?
The Tandoori Chicken Pizza ($12.99 for a small) has a thick, sturdy crust with a well defined, chewy edge fencing in a deep pile of toppings that are meticulously distributed. The chunks of chicken have the reddish hue and seasoning traditionally associated with tandoori, they sit in a spicy (as in hot) red sauce that has a distinct, concentrated tomatoey flavor, with ample melted cheese plus rounds of jalapeño peppers and onions.
It’s melted cheese, seasoned chicken, red sauce and bread: what’s not to like? It may not be life-changing, but if you have a pizza itch, Halwani can scratch it in several flavors.
Every opportunity to consume a Taco Pizza ($12.99) must be taken, as the underrated concept is surely the best of two cultures mushed together into one creation. Taco Pizza is the original retro fusion food. At Halwani, you get the sturdy, toothsome crust, with taco sauce, good-quality ground beef, tomato, jalapeño, plenty of cheddar and provolone, and crispy-crunchy fresh lettuce.
As noted earlier, there is a literal “world” of options on the menu. And not “literal” in the now-accepted figurative sense, literal in the literal sense. There’s even a Shanghai Pizza with shrimp.
For traditionalists, normal pizzas are prominently listed on the menu board too, along with a chicken-bacon-ranch combo and a “margarita”. You can score a small Pepperoni for $9.24, and the kitchen delivers a classic pie with evenly distributed rounds embedded in cheese. You can get the same basic thing at lots of places, though. Smart eaters opt for the more interesting options.
Beyond pizza, the menu includes wings, sandwiches and an extensive stromboli section. The stromboli is served in manageable slices. While the flavors aren’t as exotic, the Italian Stromboli ($9.99) is still pleasant enough. Inside its roasty bread shell are tight layers of pepperoni, ham, salami, provolone and mozzarella cheese. The slices are balanced and incredibly tidy. You can dip them in the house marinara to zip things up a little.
There’s a folksy personal story on the back of the paper menus. It makes you want to cheer for the little spot. Halwani’s proprietor, Shan Halwani has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. Sometime during the PhD program process, he shifted gears and followed his dreams to be a pizza maker. Those dreams led to Halwani Cuisine, and also to voter victory in the Best Pizza competition at the 5xNW Pizza Crawl in 2012, 2014 and 2015. You can also come and taste Halwani for yourself at Columbus Underground’s Best Bites: Pizza event on March 24th.
Otherwise, you can check the place out at 1453 Grandview Avenue. Like any good pizza joint, it offers delivery too.
For more information, visit www.halwanicuisine.com.
Photos by Walker Evans.