Almost any day at Narruto Bowl is more creative than almost any day at almost any other kosher restaurant. And yet that just wasn’t good enough for co-owner and chef Joshua Massin.
According to their website, Narruto Bowl is “a synthesis of Asian and Latin American street foods, soul foods, comfort foods, and homestyle cooking.” If that’s confusing to you, you’re likely not the only one. That said, their website also features the somewhat simpler goal of the restaurant:
“Narruto was created to bring you the foods you like to eat: A place to treat yourself and nourish your soul with foods from around the world.”
But behind that admirable goal, Massin had a problem two years after opening the restaurant.
“I was getting frustrated with having to work within the confines of a brand that I originally thought was genre-defying enough to do just about anything,” he said, before elaborating on where his mind was headed. “I had been ruminating over lots of different meat and bread concepts for a couple of months after a deep dive into the art of dough and bread making.”
Massin was sure that he wanted to start making dough in house, but he didn’t want to make something you would find at other restaurants. Narruto Bowl had built a very strong brand when it came to creativity. Massin wanted to stay loyal to that concept, but he couldn’t figure out how. After thinking long and hard, he finally had an amazing idea.
“We could do an ever-changing meat pizza special that only ran once a week.”
This allowed the creativity to shine through while not greatly impacting the standard menu and therefore staying within the boundaries of the restaurant. Massin and his co-owner, Jason Rosenblatt, agreed to go with Tuesday in order to upgrade their slowest night of the week. Let’s just say that worked out better than they thought.
4:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
(or until sold out!)
461 Cedar Lane
Teaneck, NJ 07666
RCBC (Rabbinical Council
of Bergen County)
Without a pizza oven (an investment too expensive to justify for one night a week), there are only so many pizzas that can be made in one day. But with a limited quantity, the race was on.
“Now Tuesdays are one of our busier nights, and we have people that order—and pay—for the pizzas in advance,” Massin said.
In fact, Pizza Tuesdays became popular enough that the restaurant had to start capping the advance sales so that they would have some pizza for the customers who walk in to eat on Tuesday nights.
The pizza concepts vary more wildly than anyone might expect. One recent pie was titled “The Dixie” and was topped with sausage crumbles, creamy gravy (made with non-dairy cream), mushrooms, Italian parsley, and mini biscuits. Compare that to a month earlier when Massin decided to mix in a few weeks of calzones including the Chicken Parm Calzone. That entry was made with gochujang (Korean fermented red chili paste) tomato sauce, arugula, and non-dairy mozzarella.
Where does all the inspiration come from?
“I have a huge library and I read it voraciously. My wife jokes that I look like I’m in a beis midrash with all the seforim opened in front of me, switching back and forth among the volumes as I follow a train of thought,” Massin explains. “When I get stumped, I’ll troll the internet looking for iconic pizzas, sandwiches… really just anything, and see if I can cram it into a pizza format and make it delicious.”
Let’s just say his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Rosenblatt will usually release photos and descriptions of the pizza on social media platforms anywhere from six to 24 hours in advance. There are people who await the release of the info and don’t make dinner plans before finding out what kind of creation Massin has unleashed this week.
While it’s easy to find people online complaining that kosher restaurants are all the same and don’t innovate or branch out, it’s truly amazing to have an eatery such as Narruto Bowl, where there’s a constant creation of phenomenal food with a real sense of purpose behind it.
Remember, “Narruto was created to bring you the foods you like to eat.” Seems like Massin is accomplishing the goal and introducing people to foods they didn’t know they’d like.
But everything is good on pizza, right?
Nati Burnside is a freelance writer living in Fair Lawn and is a man of many interests. He can be reached at [email protected]