A taste of the old country in Provo

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Authentic food brings India and Italy to Provo’s front door.

The Bombay House, located on University Ave., uses traditional recipes and a traditional tandoori oven to tender authentic flavors.

“It takes a lot of time to do things the way we do them,” Daniel Shanthakumar, owner of Bombay House, said. “We follow the old traditions. We grind our own wheat flour and grind our own spices. Everything we use is from India except for the fresh fruits and vegetables, which we get locally. You can’t even find food at home like this.”

Russ Blacker and Ally Robison enjoy authentic Italian pizzas at Terra Mia. (Stacia Wahlgren)
Russ Blacker and Ally Robison enjoy authentic Italian pizzas at Terra Mia. (Stacia Wahlgren)

Shanthakumar, a 1990 BYU-Hawaii graduate who is originally from the city of Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, believes that the food served in his restaurant is not the only thing that contributes to the authenticity.

“It’s like coming into a little India,” he said. “You feel like a part of the family when you are here.”

Allison Carlon, an exercise science major from Great Falls, Va., said he loves the Bombay House.

“I love the atmosphere and the food,” Carlon said.

Carlon said she can taste the difference between authentic food and knock-offs.

“It’s different when you’ve grown up making those types of food,” she said. “It tastes better. There was this restaurant by Cafe Rio called Curryosity that was run by some guys who had served their mission in India, and it just wasn’t as good.”

Terra Mia, in Orem, prides itself on its authentic Italian food.

Annette Castreg, general manager of Terra Mia, said part of the authenticity is the employees.

“We have two pizzaiolos that specialize in making pizzas with our wood-burning oven,” Castreg said. “A pizzaiolo is highly respected in Italy.”

Both of their pizzaiolos are certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. This organization safeguards and promotes the culture of real Neapolitan pizza.

Castreg said because Terra Mia’s food is so authentic, much of its customer base comes from individuals who have been to Italy.

“Italians, returned missionaries and people who have traveled to Europe love our food,” she said. “But our food is so authentic that Americans sometimes struggle with it.”

Jennifer Hedelius is an employee at Terra Mia. She said the owner is from Naples, Italy, and insists on the absolute authenticity of the food.

“His goal was to bring a little bit of home,” Hedelius said. “He imports many of the ingredients we use, or we homemake them.”

Even though the restaurant prides itself in its authentic food, Hedelius said customers sometimes complain about the taste.

“It’s different,” she said. “They often say the mozzarella is too soft or greasy, but that is what makes it authentic. That’s the way it is supposed to be. It’s a thin-crusted Italian pizza with a fresher feel.”

Hedelius also said because the food is authentic, the food costs are increased, and therefore, the prices on the menu are a little bit higher than some would expect.

“The food is decently priced, but it does cost more to get the ingredients the owner wants,” she said. “People don’t always like that.”

Although the different tastes make some shy away from Terra Mia, there seems to be a real market for purely authentic food.

Ally Robison, a master’s student in public administration from St. George, said that the authenticity comes from the way the food is cooked.

“It seems as if it’s cooked differently,” Robison said. “It’s the wood-burning oven and the ingredients.”

Robison isn’t the only BYU student to love Terra Mia’s authentic tastes.

Russ Blacker, a master’s student in business administration from Chicago, said he loves authentic Italian food.

“These kinds of flavors make it authentic,” Blacker said. “You normally don’t get a pizza with pine nuts.”

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