MODESTO, Calif. — A new pizzeria is taking a bold approach to Modesto's culinary scene by blending a passion for healthy foods with a boldness for creativity.

Playing off the ideas of fresh produce, plant-based meats, and bold fusions of Indian, American, and even Mexican flavors, Pizzeria Halt is slinging fearless flavors with a healthy twist.

Its fresh idea that came out of Sambit Duttaroy's own needs when he first came to Modesto from India in 2018. Usually, a city full of new flavors and foods is a delight to a chef, but, for Duttaroy, the change in diet wasn't an easy one.

"When I came here, I had to go out for having food here," said Duttaroy. "I had some problems with the lactose and all this stuff."

With his experience, starting up a restaurant where he and his family could cater to their diets was a natural direction, but the decision to go vegan didn't come about until he went to a Kaiser Permanente conference. It highlighted the diets of cancer patients and the big role vegetables can play in health.

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The Kaiser conference stirred the vegan inspiration, and his background in Indian cooking started the push toward pizza. He studied it and eventually applied his own craft, fusing flavors he liked.

"Experimental, it means innovation in a different way. We can be a fusion of Indian style, Indian spices, and Indian herbs in the pallet of American style," Duttaroy said.

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A vegan pizza from Pizzeria Halt in Modesto
Eliciel Villalobos

Even though a quick look at the pizzeria's menu doesn't exactly capture the vegan vibe — with pizza names like Chicken Pesto, Steak Fajita, and Chipotle Chicken — the "meat" on the menu is all plant-based from brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

The finger food appetizers won't skimp on the bold flavors either; his riff on buffalo wings with ranch dressing swaps the chicken for roasted cauliflower. 

Duttaroy has hopes to expand the business, but, for now, his goal is to make the best product he can. Even if that means, he's got to change his menu from time to time to keep things fresh.

"That is what we are focusing on, delivering the best quality product which the people will really appreciate," said Duttaroy. "At least once if they try, they will stick to it. That is my confidence."

Pizzeria Halt is at the start of it's soft opening, with hours running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The soft opening hours will extend to 9 p.m. by Feb. 4, and an official grand opening and ribbon cutting takes place on Feb. 14. 

You can find Pizzeria Halt at 3440 McHenry Ave in Modesto.

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