Meet the Man Behind Yelp’s No. 1 Pizzeria within the U.S.

Ali Haider, the quilt star of PMQ’s November 2017 problem, is half-Iraqi, half-Indian and all Italian. He’s additionally the dashing pizzaiolo behind the very best pizzeria within the nation, no less than based on Yelp.

Sapori di 786 Levels, situated in Pasadena, California, headed up Yelp’s current checklist of the Prime 100 Pizza Spots within the U.S. and Canada. Haider, who was born in Iraq and raised in Kuwait, serves all-halal pizzas at his two 786 Levels areas (the opposite one is in Solar Valley, California). A member of the U.S. Pizza Group, he describes himself as an “ambassador of worldwide flavors.”

“Every pizza is internationally impressed, representing a special nation and the components that make these cultures distinctive,” Yelp notes on its web site. “Yelpers rave in regards to the Bombay Tikka Masala, that includes basic Indian spices, and the El Chapo, topped with chorizo, cilantro and different Mexican-influenced flavors.”

To be a bit extra particular, the Bombay Tikka Masala incorporates a yogurt-based sauce known as haideri, made with 21 herbs and spices, together with Turkish doner kebab (hen cooked on a vertical rotisserie), onions, mozzarella, olive oil and Himalayan salt, all topped with contemporary cucumber slices. One other 786 Levels favourite, the Habibi, boasts an Egyptian garlic yogurt sauce, lamb or beef kofta—a sort of Center Jap meatball—plus smoked mozzarella, roasted onions and Egyptian herbs and spices.

Haider informed PMQ that adhering to the Muslim guidelines of halal is greater than a religious dedication. Halal delicacies, he believes, simply tastes higher. “Individuals take pleasure in halal meals extra as a result of they really feel like, ‘Oh, my God, halal meat tastes so contemporary, and it’s more healthy,’” he defined. “After all, because the chef, I take the credit score, however the actuality is, that meat’s not frozen for years like different meat. Ninety-five % of my clientele don’t even know what halal means, however they do discover the distinction.”

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Extra fascinating details about Haider: He’s a former Mr. India-America who speaks six languages. And previous to entering into the pizza enterprise, he was a spokesmodel for Volkwagen, selling luxurious automobiles just like the Lamborghini, Porsche and Bentley. However, in his case, being a spokesmodel was about much more than flashing his million-dollar dimples. “I used to be a [communications] liaison between the corporate and the media and labored carefully with design groups and engineering groups earlier than a brand new prototype could be launched so I may clarify them to the media,” he informed PMQ. “It was a dream job—you get to drive the best automobiles, however you don’t need to promote them. You simply write articles about them. It was the best gig ever. I nonetheless miss it.”

Along with 786 Levels, two different pizzerias highlighted in PMQ in recent times made the Yelp Prime 100 checklist. Zazas Pizzeria in Chicago, featured within the March 2022 problem, cracked Yelp’s Prime 100 this 12 months at No. 97—after just a bit greater than a 12 months in enterprise. House owners Brett and Chadd Nemec, who opened Zazas in December 2021, have rapidly earned widespread acclaim for his or her New York-style pies served up within the coronary heart of deep-dish nation.

In the meantime, Tribecca Allie Café, featured on PMQ’s October 2015 cowl, made Yelp’s checklist at No. 77. It’s owned by a pair of transplanted New Yorkers, Dutch and Rebecca van Oostendorp, who’ve purchased Large Apple aptitude to the tiny hamlet of Sardis, Mississippi, with woodfired pies just like the Polpette (meatballs, ricotta, mozzarella and oregano) and the Florentine (ricotta cream, mozz, spinach, mushrooms, purple onions and prosciutto).

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One other previous PMQ cowl topic, Crust, a Miami eatery owned by Klime and Anita Kovaceski featured in April 2018, additionally attained glory from Yelp this 12 months, getting ranked No. 50 within the web site’s “Prime 100 Locations to Eat” checklist for 2023. That’s along with being named to The Day by day Meal’s “101 Finest Pizzas in America” checklist in 2020 and OpenTable’s “Prime 100 Eating places in America” roster in 2019.

Klime and Anita Kovaceski are seen standing outside, and Anita is holding a plaque that says Top 100 Places to Eat while Klime is wearing a white apron with the same words

How do they do it? “I graduated [from college] in restaurant and resort administration, initially,” Klime informed PMQ lately. “So, for me, interplay with my visitors, workers and suppliers is every little thing.”

What’s Klime’s greatest piece of recommendation for different restaurateurs? “At all times break your previous habits,” he mentioned. “By no means assume that every little thing. Go to work with one factor in your thoughts: What’s it that I can study immediately that I didn’t know yesterday?”