Where Italy Meets India
Jasvir Nandda is the jovial owner of Dunbar Pizza, a business he has proudly run for 17 years. The menu is as unique as the inviting aroma of pizza and Indian cuisine, which mingle and fill the air. Nandda’s genuine warmth makes you feel like you have stepped into his home kitchen.
Don’t be surprised if he calls you “my friend” as that is what you will quickly become when you converse.
Up front the establishment is small, with a window counter and seating for a handful of people. Behind the scenes the deep restaurant houses pizza ovens, walk in coolers, a big gas stove and more fry pans and pizza boxes than you can shake a stick at.
Nandda is originally from the city of Jalandhar, located in the state of Punjab, India where several generations of his family, dating back to his grandfather, worked in the restaurant industry. Their specialty was Indian food and sweets. His father and uncle worked as cooks, although he points out his mother’s important role was to be the “home boss.”
In 1993 Nandda moved to Canada to join relatives here. He loves his life in his adopted country and does not miss the pollution or the hot climate he left behind. He also appreciates how safe Canada is in comparison.
After working in various professions he decided to take a risk and open his own business based on his experience as a cook. He thanks a friend of his brother-in-law for encouraging him to purchase a pizza business.
Why set up shop in Dunbar? He explains it took time to find the right location. Two attempts to lease businesses in North Vancouver and New Westminster fell through, and then one day he was visiting Dunbar and spotted a for rent sign in the window. He had finally found a home for his business, which was formerly a pizza restaurant.
Capital outlay for equipment was a consideration when he started out and therefore he started only making pizza. Two years later he introduced Indian food to the menu. He started slowly. Samosas were the first item to debut. A clever marketer, when customers would purchase a pizza Nandda would tempt them with a couple of complimentary samosas.
Today his Indian food is as popular as his pizza. Customers go wild for his butter chicken in addition to the lamb korma and spinach lamb. Those items are only the tip of the iceberg; the Indian menu features appetizers (pakoras, samosas), lamb, chicken and a good selection of vegetarian dishes. Tandoori breads (naan, parantha and roti) and a number of biryani rice dishes round out the Indian menu.
Flip the menu and a long list of pizzas can be found ranging from the Dunbar Special to international salutes to India, Italy and Greece. Nandda says the most popular choices are the Canadian, butter chicken and Hawaiian pizza.
High school students are big fans of Dunbar Pizza. They sweep in during lunch hour and after school for pizza by the slice.
Special prices on pizza by the slice (based on volume) make a meal even more enticing with a can of pop included to sweeten the deal.
Remarkably, in addition to pizza and Indian food Nandda also offers Greek and Italian cuisine. Craving souvlaki, spaghetti, lasagna or barbeque baby ribs? No worries, he has you covered.
“We are so lucky to have so many culinary options in this multicultural city.” Jasvir Nandda
What does he enjoy most about the business? He says eating what he cooks ranks high on the list. He enjoys the variety of pizza and Indian food and says he doesn’t have a favourite dish.
His customers make the long hours well worth it. Many of them are locals and have been supporting his business for years. When people call him for deliveries (a big part of his business) often he is so well acquainted with them that he knows their order. He says some customers will even let him select on their behalf.
Living in Surrey means long days for this hard working business owner. The restaurant is open seven days a week until late at night. Nandda likes to spend his limited free time with his wife and two teenagers. Vacations don’t happen often, in fact it was three years ago that he was last in India.
With a smile on his face, Nandda concludes,” I am born to work.” Based on the pizzas that my children tried and gave two thumbs up, I would also add he was born to cook. I will be back to try the Indian fare.
Dunbar Pizza & Grill
3348 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2C1