Pronti wraps up breakfast, lunch, and dinner
On an unpromising stretch of Highland Avenue — at the corner of Second Avenue, across from Staples and Petco — a storefront that used to offer assorted backache-relieving merchandise has morphed into something far more enticing: a colorful, attractive little restaurant called Pronti Bistro. Ho-hum, you say, another quickie Italian spot? Not so fast.
It turns out that “pronti’’ is the Punjabi name for paratha, the delectably tender round bread that’s almost as flaky and buttery as a croissant — but far more useful as a sandwich platform. And that’s exactly what Manpreet and Raman Kohli, the two brothers who own Pronti Bistro, use the bread for: a variety of wraps, suitable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that put the ordinary American version to shame. The place offers a few soups and salads, too, but the prontis are its glory.
On our first visit, we start with a fairly traditional combo: Mumbai Madness ($6.99), a pronti stuffed with the seasoned potato-pea mixture called aloo. The friendly young woman behind the counter suggests adding lettuce and tomato for crunch and a bit of yogurt sauce for tang. The smooth aloo plays beautifully with the crisp lettuce, encouraging us to grow more adventurous with the cross-cultural possibilities.
And there are plenty of them: A lot of the fun at Pronti lies in customizing your wrap, with a wide assortment of toppings and sauces that let you play it as purist or fusion-y as you desire. The Lucknow Special ($7.99), featuring marinated charbroiled lamb tikka, takes on a decidedly Grecian air with our addition of feta, black olives, and mint yogurt sauce; Delhi Dynamite’s chicken tikka ($6.99) goes all Fenway on us when we toss in bell pepper, onions, and cheddar. (The Red Fort, also $6.99, might have worked better there, with tangy tandoori chicken instead of tikka.) But we play it straight with the Chandigarh ($6.99) and are thrilled with its decidedly subcontinental blend of charbroiled paneer cheese and lightly spicy mango sauce.
Pronti offers a couple of breakfast wraps, too: the Boston Nashta and the Punjab Nashta (both $3.99). The Boston — two eggs, scrambled, with your choice of sausage, bacon, or ham — is just fine, sort of the apotheosis of the drive-thru fast-food wrap. But the Punjab, or bhurgi pronti, is the one you want. These eggs take on a rich new intrigue when scrambled with scallions, onions, peppers, tomatoes, coriander, and other spices. Why Mc-Anything when you can breakfast like a maharaja?
Beware, though, of the blisteringly hot chai ($2.99); it’s nicely spiced but left a nasty burn when we tried to drink and drive. Better to sip like a civilized person at one of the small tables in Pronti’s cheerful, brightly painted space. Or, if you must rush, take a fruit smoothie ($3.99) — despite the “lassi’’ in the mango drink’s name, they’re really milkshakes, and the strawberry tastes best.
Aloo, paneer, and a shake? Welcome to America, and hurrah.
Louise Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.