Pizzaioli plying their trade come from all over. Arnab Maitra just might be the only Indian-born, Benin-raised pizza chef in Haddonfield, N.J., where he is baking in a Forza Forni nicknamed Lilo at his new shop, Pizza Crime.
Pizza Crime? “It just popped into my head,” Maitra said. “Pizza so good it should be a crime.”
Bold statement from a quiet man, but he does have a solid background in pizza, learning the Neapolitan style at Osteria and Pizzeria Vetri.
Maitra’s world travels began shortly before his birth 36 years ago. His parents were living in West Africa, where his dad had an import-export business. They flew back to Hyderabad, India, to claim his birthright. The family then moved back to Benin where they lived until moving to the United States in 1996.. “I’ve been a Jersey boy ever since,” he said — Scotch Plains and then South Brunswick.
Maitra delivered pizzas as a kid while his father opened Coriander, an Indian restaurant, in Voorhees. He went to the Art Institute of Philadelphia for culinary school and worked as a short-order cook for corporate caterer Sodexho before joining the opening kitchen crew at Marc Vetri’s Osteria Moorestown in 2013. That led to a shift at the pizza oven at Amis. When the next work schedule at Osteria was posted, Maitra was assigned to the pizza station, directly under Vetri.
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“He was always pushing the limits, asking questions, trying to keep learning,” Vetri recalls.
Maitra’s next move was to Philadelphia, where he became sous chef at Pizzeria Vetri on Chancellor Street before leaving Vetri to run the pizza operation at Porta nearby.
Haddonfield seemed like a good town, and the shop’s location across the alley from King’s Road Brewing Co. and around the corner from a wine-tasting room from William Heritage — is ideal. Pizza and beer go together well.
While planning Pizza Crime, which opened in September 2020, Maitra did pop-ups with a portable Roccbox oven, hitting farmers’ markets in South Jersey and gaining a following.
His eight-pie pizza menu includes the familiar margherita and marinara, as well as a rich creation called Da Shroom, which has braised cremini mushrooms, house-made mozzarella, a creamy, full-fat soft cheese called Robiolina, and fresh thyme.
There are a few salads, stuffed peppers, and two calzone.
Chicken wings are brined and then baked in the oven and served with a bright and zesty Fresno pepper mostarda with a side of gorgonzola to tame the heat. Desserts include pizza fritta, fried dough rolled in cinnamon sugar and orange zest and served with dulce de leche.