As the final days of summer come to a close, residents of Parsippany-Troy Hills don’t want to waste what’s left of the season. Every day, out-of-district visitors will see township residents looking for new venues of fun, even at their local libraries.
And on August 24th, about 50 people attended the Parsippany Main Library for a lecture regarding the fusion of Italian and Indian cuisine. The lecture was led by Rockaway resident and Indian chef Mickey Chopra, who has been lecturing on several cuisines he cooks with for the past year.
“I feel good about doing this,” said Chopra.
“Most people don’t know about Indian cuisine. So I want to educate on Indian food and how we can infuse it into Italian cuisine. It’s a blend of spices and herbs together, with a slow cooking process and voila, a delicious dish.”
Chopra has made cooking delicious dishes his passion for the over 35 years. Originally from India himself, he moved to the United States in 1987 in search of his American dream. And that dream started him off as a dishwasher of a restaurant, to a supervisor, and then to a manager. Eventually, Chopra got to travel around the nation, working in multiple eateries and restaurant before opening up his own establishment in Boonton two years ago, known as i2i Italian Indian Fusion family-style restaurant.
“In Boonton, there’s over a dozen Italian restaurants, but I wanted to do something different,” said Chopra.
“It was my kids who gave me the idea of blending Italian food with Indian food. As of now, we are the only Indian-Italian fusion restaurant in the world.”
i2i Restaurant was recently voted number one in Morris County by consumers Daily Record. And more recently this month, Chopra himself received the Chef of the Year Award by the Federation of Indian Association during India Day parade in New York City. But journey was never easy.
“I made a new dish every night and gave out samples to many people,” said Chopra.
“But on opening day, no one came, until an Indian-Italian couple walked in. Today, our most popular appetizer is the naanchos, and our most popular dish is the chicken marsala. Recently, I’ve seen a spike with couples coming in with their kids. Kids don’t want to come because they’re not too excited about Indian cuisine. But we’ve added dishes like pizza and spaghetti and meatballs. That way, kids came come while their parents enjoy the more Indian options. I’ve had couples who tell me that they had to leave their kids with babysitters because they want to try the food here, but their kids were not wild about Italian-Indian fusion.”
For his lecture, Chopra brought with him a collection of different spices used in his restaurant, such as curry powder, thyme leaf, turmeric powder, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom seeds, roasted cumin seeds, oregano, and tandoori masala marinade. Attendants were allowed to come up and take a whiff of each powerful spice.
“Some spices have had further use other than for food and cooking,” said Chopra.
“For turmeric powder, you can put a little in water, stir, put a little on your face and you’ll be glowing. During weddings, the bride and groom would be bathed in it.”
Chopra further treated his crowd with food samples from i2i. This included chicken makhana penne a la vodka, paneer makhana, tikka masala garlic knots, and basmati rice with peas and cumin. And the attendants, numbering to nearly 50 people, enjoy every bite.
“We are used to India flavor, so I like the mix up,” said Parsippany resident Krina Raval.
“This was a good lecture. I wasn’t aware of the i2i Restaurant but I’ll definitely go there now.”
Montville resident Gilda Calvin felt the same way.
“This was a wonderful introduction to Italian-Indian fusion cuisine. Mr. Chopra was very friendly, and his food was delicious and highly-spiced.”
And the library staff, such as adult programs coordinator Jean Marie, were also delighted in having Chopra at their facilities and sampling his food.
“Chef Chopra was very personable,” said Marie.
“The audiences were also comfortable with him to ask questions about his career and food. And that’s a very big deal, for some speakers often make audiences uncomfortable to speak.”
Chopra is also the owner of a Vinnie’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, also located in Boonton. Chopra later intends to open up a new establishment in the Bridgewater area, called Kake Da Hotel, an authentic Indian cuisine restaurant. And towards the end of his lecture, he even gave out food certificates for free appetizers or pizzas.
“I like to thank Jean Marie and the Friends of the Library for sponsoring his event,” said Chopra.
“I hope this talk was very informative for all audiences of all walks of life.”
For more information on the programs and activities of Parsippany’s public libraries, visit their website at https://parsippanylibrary.org/.