How unlimited pizza became an iftar tradition
Over a decade ago, Dhaka was introduced to the phenomenon of unlimited pizza and its faithful companion, the bottomless drink. The first and only time I have ever availed this offer was back in fifth grade. My mother, a dedicated pizza lover, took me to Pizza Hut on Satmasjid Road.
For an eleven-year-old, the concept of unlimited pizzas was quite baffling. I had imagined there would be a mountain of pizzas, and I would definitely eat around 50 slices. However, both assumptions turned out to be wrong fortunately, as the pizzas were served by waiters and I could only manage to eat five slices.
Pizza Hut had introduced unlimited pizza for the first time in Bangladesh around that time -- an offer only available during Ramadan. Back then, Dhaka’s restaurant scene was not booming as it is now.
Shafquat Ameen, a recent graduate from Bangladesh University of Professionals, reflected on a tradition that he had with school friends. “We were eighth graders when we first went to Pizza Hut during Ramadan, and we finally stopped after eight years in 2016 as we’d grown too old for it.” However, Shafquat and his friends reminisce those memories fondly, and their yearly iftar tradition has simply shifted to other restaurants.
Tabasser Ahmed, another fresh graduate from Dhaka University, believes one can never be too old to devour a staggering 23 slices. He thinks it’s the Bengali thing to do. “I think it’s in our nature to love unlimited offers. I chose ‘Cheez’ for unlimited pizza this year because it’s reliable.”
Pizza is not a Bangladeshi food, yet it has defined Ramadan hangouts for an entire generation. “I started going for this offer when I was really young and looking back, it was just for fun. The human body is not designed to appreciate 17 slices of pizza in one go but it took me five years to realise this. In my friend circle (like in many circles) it’s part of the yearly iftar tradition,” said Azmin Azran, a second-year DU student, who has been to different pizza joints for iftar every year since 2012.
The spirit of competitive eating definitely comes into play in these offers, which is difficult when you’re ordering a la carte. “I do love pizza and even now, the prospect of unlimited dough and cheese seems dangerously enticing, but I can tell from experience that the physical stress and mental guilt is really not worth it,” said Azmin.
Tabasser begs to differ, saying the “struggle” was worthwhile.
How does one become the champion of eating pizza? “Yes, 23 slices are definitely a lot. The secret is to not keep count when you’re eating. When you’re aware of the number, your body gives up when it could’ve had more,” he said.
Azmin points out that while the pizza joints have certainly changed, the crowd has not. “There was just Pizza Hut way back then, but now the local establishments are also doing well. The crowd still mostly consists of young men, eating their way through entire pizzas to prove a point.”
While all-you-can-eat offers are fun for customers, it seems quite stressful for the restaurant staff. Labib Tarafdar, a partner at Cheez, said they plan out pizzas for the day according to the number of bookings, so that there is no delay in service or deterioration of quality. “This is the first time we’re offering unlimited pizza and the response has been great so far. We can seat 95 people at a time, and for that we would need around 150 pizzas. We do our best to prepare beforehand, while still making sure the ingredients remain fresh.”
As the customer-base grew, the restaurants also upped their game. Labib created a number of different toppings for Cheez that blend Bengali flavours with the Italian base. “Our two most popular toppings are kala bhuna and shorisha shrimp, and average slice count for customers is around 10-11, I think,” he said.
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