Two cultures meet on a dish.
A pizza spot in Prospect Lefferts Garden combines the flavors of the Caribbean with Neapolitan style pizza. ZuriLee Pizza Bar, opened by two Guyanese-American brothers in 2015, a few doors down from their traditional Caribbean restaurant MangoSeed, offered them a chance to expand while staying true to their background, said one of the co-owners.
“We are Caribbean and we know Caribbean food, and that’s always the first choice or go-to food because it’s your background, but then my brother and I were thinking, ‘What else do we like besides Caribbean food?’ ” said Paul Burrowes.
He and his brother Jermaine, avid pizza lovers who grew up in Flatbush, figured they could combine two completely different cuisines — both popular city-wide — and fuse them together, he added.
“We eat pizza three times a week — pizza is our thing and we grew up on New York style pizza,” he said. “But the older we got, we started to venture to other styles of pizza. And our approach was ‘Let me take my culture and throw it on top of these pies and make it different.’ ”
The brothers tested multiple combinations of flavors and styles before they settled on a menu that includes wood-fired pizzas topped with oxtail, jerk chicken pizza, and salt fish — three foods common in the Caribbean community.
Burrowes worried that the flavors could prove as divisive as the debate over putting pineapple on pizza, but he also figured that the niche flavors would find a following among Brooklyn’s large population of first and second generation Caribbean-Americans — and also among curious eaters looking for the next thing.
“In New York style pizza they put everything on it, chicken and this and that — and that’s natural,” said Burrowes. “But when you want to venture out to the real pizza lovers and those who venture to wood-fired, pizza, and now you’re throwing chicken, and saltfish, and oxtail on it, it’s scary because people are so drawn to tradition and you don’t want to piss them off.”
But no one has complained so far, said Burrowes — and some of the pies he was most hesitant about sell the most quickly.
“We haven’t heard any complaints about our jerk chicken pies — it’s like the best selling pie and ironically the one I was most scared of,” he said. “I was scared of putting jerk chicken on a pie, but now everyone wants that jerk chicken pizza, and the oxtail one.”
The Burrowes brothers named the restaurant after both of their daughters names — Zuri and Lee, and they named two pizzas after the girls’ favorite toppings — the Zuri, a pepperoni-laden pie, and the Lee pizza — a cheese-heavy pie of cheddar, harvati, and gouda. And another menu option features cabbage, tallegio, mozzarella, and provolone cheese — an interestingly pungent but delectable pie aptly named “Funky Flatbush,” said Burrowes.
“It’s really funky, but it tastes hella good,” he added.
ZuriLee Pizza Bar [755 Flatbush Ave. between Lenox Road and Clarkson Avenue in Prospect Lefferts–Garden, (718) 513–6084, www.zuril