Vetri-Trained Chef Stretches out with ‘Pizza Crime’ Pop-Up


After studying under the Philadelphia master, Arnab Maitra is bringing ‘pizza so good it should be illegal’ to the Westmont and Haddonfield Farmers Markets.

By Matt Skoufalos | July 6, 2018

Pizza chef Arnab Maitra outside his father’s Haddonfield restaurant, La Cafe Creperie. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

For most of his adult life, pizza has been following Arnab Maitra wherever he’s gone.

It started when he was a delivery boy in South Brunswick.

It continued after culinary school, when he joined food services corporation Sodexho, and was placed in charge of pizzas.

But Maitra’s career as a pizzaiolo really skyrocketed after Marc Vetri hired him on for the opening of Osteria in the Moorestown Mall.

“For whatever reason, Marc Vetri decided, ‘I’m going to show him [how to make pizza],’” Maitra recalled.

“It was all a dream after that.”

Maitra spent two weeks at the elbow of one of the premiere Italian chefs in the region, watching Vetri’s process and taking his corrections to heart. He made use of that instruction in stints at Pizzeria Vetri and Porta in Philadelphia, taking tips from the master as he built up his own skill set.

“It was watching an artist work,” Maitra said. “He was intense, and it’s what made me what I am today.”

From Vetri, Maitra says he learned how to appreciate the dough; how to finesse it, top it, how to obsess over the minor details that make it great. He learned to un-complicate his recipes. And Vetri also taught him the most important lesson: find your own way of doing things.

“Vetri said, ‘Everyone’s doing pizza; you’ve gotta sell your own story,’” Maitra said.

Arnab Maitra’s Pizza Crime makes a variety of different pies, including his staple margherita (foreground) and rotating varieties like the cheese, herbs, and egg white pie in the background. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“I don’t want to copy what they’re doing,” he said. “I want to add my own thing to it.

“Now I get to use my own discretion.”

Maitra’s own thing is a pop-up pizza stand he calls “Pizza Crime,” from the quip that it “tastes so good it should be illegal.”

The dough is his own, from-scratch recipe, and so is the San Marzano tomato sauce; toppings change every time.

“For me, pizza is like a blank canvas,” Maitra said.

“As you grow, you realize that the simpler it is, the better it is.”

With the backing of an uncle who helped bankroll his purchase of a Roccbox pizza oven, he’s taking those flavors to the Haddonfield and Westmont Farmers markets, and booking private events, too.

But if you see Maitra at one of these events, don’t be surprised if he’s as deep in thought as he is in the dough.

“It’s therapeutic stretching pizza,” he said. “I just disappear. It’s amazing.

“It’s the best feeling ever,” Maitra said. “Words can’t explain it.”

NJ Pen is free thanks to regular, small contributions. Please support our workGet e-mails, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, or try Direct Dispatch, our new text service.


Comments are closed.