Pizza Joint Cooks It Up Kosher

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sinbad’s Pizza owner Al Qutub tosses a variety of unique toppings onto his homemade pizzas — egg, anchovies — but it’s the kosher and halal meat that sets him apart from other pizza joints in town. The Kanawha City pizzeria has offered kosher and halal meat since Qutub took ownership in November 2010. Customers can order kosher beef pepperoni, gyro lamb meat, chicken and, on rare occasions, kosher sausage, he said.

Qutub, an observant Muslim, said he knows “a lot of Muslims and people in the Jewish community so I’d like to cater to them. “Some people have wanted pepperoni their whole lives and they never have had the option,” Qutub said as he rolled out dough for a small pizza. Kosher meat refers to a series of laws that govern how the animal should be killed and which parts of the animal can be eaten.

Sinbad’s offers an array of Mediterranean food — all made by Qutub, the main employee — gyros (“they really embody the Sinbad name”), falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj, and kibby — a Mediterranean dish made of bulgur wheat and herbs and filled with ground beef and spices. Born in the West Bank of Jordan, the native Palestinian brought his Mediterranean-inspired food to America in 1979. Qutub studied electrical engineering at West Virginia Tech but his heart has always been in cooking, he said.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sinbad’s Pizza owner Al Qutub tosses a variety of unique toppings onto his homemade pizzas — egg, anchovies — but it’s the kosher and halal meat that sets him apart from other pizza joints in town.

The Kanawha City pizzeria has offered kosher and halal meat since Qutub took ownership in November 2010. Customers can order kosher beef pepperoni, gyro lamb meat, chicken and, on rare occasions, kosher sausage, he said.

Qutub, an observant Muslim, said he knows “a lot of Muslims and people in the Jewish community so I’d like to cater to them.

“Some people have wanted pepperoni their whole lives and they never have had the option,” Qutub said as he rolled out dough for a small pizza.

Kosher meat refers to a series of laws that govern how the animal should be killed and which parts of the animal can be eaten, according to the website chabad.org. The animal is slaughtered by invoking the name of God, using a sharp knife, and concentrating on how the blood is drained from the animal, Qutub said. Halal is an Islamic term Muslims use to designate food they are allowed to eat, he said.

It’s also important to use separate utensils, he said, as he cleaned a pizza cutter to slice a kosher pepperoni pizza with banana peppers.

Sinbad’s offers an array of Mediterranean food — all made by Qutub, the main employee — gyros (“they really embody the Sinbad name”), falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj, and kibby — a Mediterranean dish made of bulgur wheat and herbs and filled with ground beef and spices.

Born in the West Bank of Jordan, the native Palestinian brought his Mediterranean-inspired food to America in 1979. Qutub studied electrical engineering at West Virginia Tech but his heart has always been in cooking, he said.

“Every time I was driving by [Sinbad’s] with my son next to me, I said, ‘Son one day this would be mine.’ I heard that the second owner wanted to sell it and I jumped on the opportunity.”

Local farmers are also jumping on the opportunity to offer kosher and halal meat, said Buddy Davidson, the state Department of Agriculture’s communications director.

“What we’re seeing at the department is that there are more local options for people to get certified kosher and halal meat. We’ve encouraged our farmers that there is potential there for goats and lambs [as kosher meat] because there is an ethnic demand,” Davidson said.

When Qutub makes a kosher pizza, he arranges the toppings so that the cheese covers the kosher meat. Pork has more fat than kosher beef so covering the beef with cheese prevents it from drying up during the cooking process, he said.

Qutub said his customers are happy that he is catering to a specific food preference but many people aren’t aware that Sinbad’s offers kosher pizzas and gyros. With the exception of a sign on the side of the small restaurant that reads, “Kosher and halal pizza,” customers wouldn’t know about the special meat — it isn’t advertised on the menu.

“I was just talking to one of my guys to have a revamp of the menu. I did it hastily just to get [the menu] out … but I want to delete some items and add some to make sure that kosher [and] halal meat [is on the menu],” Qutub said.

One Muslim customer, who ordered a kosher gyro, said he likes having the option to eat kosher meat at Sinbad’s.

“It definitely provides people in the community an opportunity they haven’t had before,” he said. “This is still a growing city and this is a big thing for us because we don’t have a restaurant that offers a finished product.”

Reach Megan Workman at megan.work…@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.