New Barbarian restaurant serves pizza in Downtown Berkeley

Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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New York-style pizza with an Indian twist has arrived in Downtown Berkeley. Barbarian opened its doors two weeks ago on 2012 Shattuck Ave., offering $2 pizza slices, including a chicken tikka masala variety.

In addition to the stacked pizzas boxes and cans of ground tomatoes you might see at other pizza restaurants, Barbarian’s decor includes swords and a pair of mounted antlers. A mural depicting a bar fight between barbarians covers the wall — “pirates … (and) Vikings,” according to Deepak Aggarwal, who owns Barbarian as well as Berkeley restaurants Tigerlily and East Bay Spice Company.

“Barbarians, they go out and have fights, have fun,” Aggarwal said. “I want to make (the restaurant) look fun.”

The barbarian theme is also reflected in the menu, which will largely be composed of meat dishes that don’t require silverware, in other words, “barbarian-style,” according to Aggarwal.

The current menu offers various types of pizza, including vegetarian slices, but will grow to include two more options: a turmeric buttermilk fried chicken sandwich and a lamb burger. Aggarwal plans to limit the menu to those three items — one type of burger, one type of sandwich and pizza. He said he would rather make only three items but make them better than anyone else.

Barbarian is still in the process of getting off the ground. There aren’t menus or a sign in front of the restaurant yet, but Aggarwal expects to have a liquor license in a couple of weeks. Barbarian began its delivery services Wednesday, distributing more than 60 orders.

“I’m not trying to get richer,” Aggarwal said. “What I’m doing is (providing) a reasonable price and good-quality food.”

Berkeley alumnus Ankur Kansal said he came to Barbarian because of its low prices, adding that he enjoyed the chicken tikka masala pizza the most.

According to Aggarwal, Barbarian sold more than 1,000 slices of pizza last Friday, and so far, 60 to 70 percent of the restaurant’s customers have returned.

Aggarwal said that his restaurants are known for their tikka masala sauce. After moving to the United States in 1993, Aggarwal started his restaurant career by selling samosas and tikka masala sauce with rice at his first restaurant, an Indian convenience store called K.P. Deli. Barbarian took over the deli’s location when the store closed last year after 20 years of operation.

Aggarwal is no stranger to starting new restaurants. After founding K.P. Deli, he established other restaurants, including Khana Peena Indian Cuisine and Main Street Pizza. He said he will spend the next month or two working at Barbarian to make sure employees are properly trained before moving on to starting another restaurant.

Next, Aggarwal plans to open a brewery in El Cerrito that serves pizza, burgers and sandwiches.

Contact Matthew Lo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @matthewlo_dc.