Troy's Italian Kitchen isn't just great pizza! Vegans and vegetarians rave about their food!
[00:00:01.330] - Lloyd
Hey, it's Lloyd with Perfect Crust pizza liners and Incredible Bags, and I'm joined today by Chef with Chef Neil and his wife Palak from Troy's Italian Kitchen. Hi, how are you guys?
[00:00:14.290] - Neel & Palak
Good. How are you?
[00:00:15.580] - Lloyd
Excellent. Thanks for joining me. I just want to say that I've been looking forward to talking to you for a long time. And I'll tell you why. I've been watching you on social media and interacting with you a little bit. And yours is kind of a great small family business story. Your food looks fantastic. And so I've really been wanting to learn a little bit more about Troy's.
[00:00:38.560] - Neel & Palak
Well, thanks for having us, Lloyd.
[00:00:40.800] - Lloyd
OK, so here's my first question for you. It's Neel and Palak. Why is it Troy's?
[00:00:47.890] - Neel & Palak
So when we bought the place, the name was already Troy's and it was a well established pizza place in the area, especially the community knew about Troy's. So we just left it alone.
[00:01:01.090] - Lloyd
Gotcha. And when was that?
[00:01:03.220] - Neel & Palak
This was, we bought the place on May 7th of two thousand and eighteen. Nineteen.
[00:01:11.950] - Lloyd
OK, great. Excellent. So tell me a little bit about Troy's, the level of service, a little bit about your menu, kind of what you offer.
[00:01:20.710] - Neel & Palak
So, I mean, we're honestly just a very small mom and pop pizzeria. We have a very small dining area, but we actually did close it off, obviously, for the pandemic and we decided we're not going to open back up for dine-in, it was never a big thing for us anyway. And we're happy with the takeout. We're just a neighborhood pizza joint. We offer a lot of very basic normal pizzas and then we try to we try to funk it up a little bit.
[00:01:54.640] - Neel & Palak
So we our first thing was we added the chicken tikka masala pizza because we're both Indians and so those that flavor comes to us pretty naturally. And believe it or not, that's one of our best selling pizzas we have. I know. We're both vegetarians. So our biggest thing was like when we go out to eat for ourselves, finding food options gets a little difficult. And a lot of places you go to, they'll be like, well, we have a salad.
[00:02:24.880] - Neel & Palak
And it's like, well, I don't want a salad I want food so we know how hard it is. And we bought the place. One of the things we really wanted to do was expand on vegan options, because this area in particular, like the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area, has a very large vegan following with not a lot of options. And so one of our main goals was to try to add more variety to our menu and cater to people with more dietary restrictions.
[00:02:57.670] - Neel & Palak
So we wanted to add more vegan options. That was the main thing we started working on. And right before the pandemic hit last year, we found a great vendor that we could work with and it really just took off for us. And we've been working on expanding our gluten free menu, too. So, you know, a lot going on.
[00:03:22.030] - Lloyd
Yeah, so a couple things. I looked up where you are on Maps and you're, you're in the heart of it. You're not far from Arlington National Cemetery. I mean, it's not like you're on the outskirts of D.C. You're right there right?
[00:03:35.050] - Neel & Palak
We're literally two miles away from the Pentagon.
[00:03:38.200] - Lloyd
Wow, that's great. Yeah. And in terms of kind of the vegan vegetarian thing, I have to say that I have many vegan and vegetarian friends and talking to them, you know, their frustration at going to a restaurant where there's maybe like one thing and it's not particularly great. To them, they feel like it while they understand it's their choice. They feel like it shouldn't have to be much of a sacrifice. And I guess that's why I'm kind of fascinated by your menu, is when I look at it, you have a lot of options.
[00:04:12.520] - Lloyd
And it's funny because you said we're just a simple pizzeria, kind of not not a huge menu, but we've added some stuff. So I'm on the West Coast, I'm in California. And here many of the pizzerias serve basically pizza, salad and wings. So their menu would fit on a business card, whereas, you know, you have appetizers and salads and sandwiches and virtually in every category you've got a vegan or vegetarian option, right?
[00:04:42.100] - Neel & Palak
Yes. And that was our main thing. When we started developing our vegan menu, we didn't want just one staple item. Like you said, a lot of the frustration comes when you go out to eat and you have one option just so they can say they have an option for everybody. We wanted to make sure we had an option in every category. So if I have an appetizer, I want to make sure I have vegan appetizers, I want to make sure I have vegan calzones, pizzas, sandwiches, everything. Pastas. Yeah.
[00:05:16.460] - Lloyd
Regarding the chicken tikka masala pizza, I have to say that, like, I know some people are super purist about pizza, but I've been in the pizza industry now for 20 years or more. And I just while I really enjoy the authentic Italian pizza, authentic New York pizza, I think it's such a great platform for these fusions. And I find that some of the most interesting things that when I taste something and I go, that's new and that's really neat.
[00:05:47.480] - Lloyd
And chicken tikka masala pizza is kind of cool. So when the pandemic is over, I come out to the Washington area. That's absolutely one of the things I'm going to try because it looks fantastic in your social media. So one of the things that I wanted to ask you about was you do online ordering and you do delivery both in-house, it seems like kind of for a limited radius and then third party, right?
[00:06:16.080] - Neel & Palak
[00:06:17.310] - Lloyd
OK, and that that brings up my next question, which is you being featured in an Uber Eats ad for the Wayne's World. And how did that happen? And did you know what's going to happen?
[00:06:28.760] - Neel & Palak
It's funny because a couple like three or four months, someone called us from Uber Eats and said, hey, would you be willing to do have us do a commercial on you guys? And we said, yeah, that's fine. And I totally forgot about it, and then a customer told us that, hey, we saw your commercial on like Fox Five or something, and I'm like, there's no way we did a commercial. And then another customer sent me the commercial and was like the Wayne's brother did a commercial on you. And I'm like, what the heck?
[00:07:03.160] - Lloyd
[00:07:03.910] - Neel & Palak
And like, literally now people are just coming in trying our calzones, trying our different pizzas. And it's just like Uber Eats wanted to help local restaurants. And we told them, yeah, why not. Let's, if it's free, why not, you know.
[00:07:25.930] - Neel & Palak
They didn't tell us exactly what it was going to be. They just said it was going to be one of their eat local campaigns. And I'm thinking, OK, great. So it'll be like a little spotlight. I think the lady had mentioned that they were going to use somebody that the local public would recognize. And I'm thinking, OK, so it might be like a newscaster, someone local to the area. We were not expecting, you know, the people from Wayne's World. So that was very, very great.
[00:07:57.610] - Lloyd
Yeah, that's a great spot. And, you know, the two guys are saying, I'm going to eat it, get something from Troy's Italian Kitchen in Arlington, Virginia, and I'm like watching it. That is so cool.
[00:08:11.040] - Neel & Palak
Yeah, we loved it.
[00:08:11.290] - Lloyd
Yeah, that is awesome. And then regarding your marketing, you do a great job on social media. Your posts on Facebook and Instagram are great. And you guys have great scores on Yelp, four out of five Google reviews, four point six out of five. And I see that you're real interactive with the people who review. Is that something that you sought to do, like right from the start? Because I think it's great that you do that.
[00:08:39.010] - Neel & Palak
So we we actually hired a marketing person down in L.A. She's actually very, very fantastic. She's amazing. You know, with her, we we made a point that any kind of reviews, good reviews, bad reviews, whatever the case is, less than twenty four hours, we need a reply back to them. Every review should get a response. And we've noticed even the bad reviews that we get. I mean, look, everyone gets bad reviews, you know, but what we've done is we've taken over those bad reviews and asking, why don't you come try us again?
[00:09:21.160] - Neel & Palak
We will make sure that everything is right. And now, like I want to say, are the rating for bad reviews when customers don't come back, it's changed over like let's say if there's ten people, at least seven of those bad reviews, those people will come back and try us again and make and we can make them into repeatable customers.
[00:09:45.760] - Neel & Palak
And I think that was something we started from the get go, because even when we bought the place, because we didn't change the name, we left it what it was. The main thing we focused on in the beginning was all the negative reviews that were on Google from the previous owner or previous establishment. We went back and let them know that, hey, you know, we're under new management, new ownership. We'd love for you to come give us another chance.
[00:10:14.470] - Neel & Palak
Please reach out to us. We offer you a discount to give us a try, you know, just reaching out to them and letting them know that things are different. And if they're still not happy, that's I mean, unfortunate, but I think. I think it's been great for us. It lets people know that we are invested in them as much as they are in us and we care. We genuinely care what they think and how they feel about our service and our food.
[00:10:46.880] - Lloyd
Right. Well, that's how you present in social media and in the reviews. I think that's great. I mean, I see restaurants that they that they never respond to a review, which to me seems kind of odd. I really like the back and forth and I don't see a lot of bad reviews. What I see is a lot of reviews where people are just raving about the specialty menu, vegan and vegetarian options, because they really appreciate that.
[00:11:11.240] - Lloyd
And, you know, I don't know if it's repeatable for everyone. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with your kind of interests and food. You're being vegetarian yourself, Chef Neel's training, et cetera, et cetera, that I'm not sure everybody can do it. But I think that people that that, you know, maybe are afraid of doing that at some level they should look at because it's a big part of the public.
[00:11:35.450] - Neel & Palak
Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's kind of the way the world is going now too. And honestly, our biggest goal is making sure that everyone that walks in our door has an option on something they would like to eat.
[00:11:52.130] - Lloyd
Right. Right. So we're going to be wrapping up here in a few minutes. But I'll ask about something that you did recently, and that is your Big Dill Pizza always on the cutting edge. So tell me where this where this came from and what the reception has been.
[00:12:14.540] - Neel & Palak
It's launching today. So it was one of those things I've been talking to Neel about for a couple of weeks. Right. And I'm like, I don't know. We eat jalapenos on a pizza and we eat pineapples on a pizza. You know, eat a lot of pickled type items, why not a pickle. And he is looking at me like what? We're not eating pickles on a pizza. This isn't a sandwich. I was like, I don't know, I think it could be really good.
[00:12:42.080] - Neel & Palak
You just kind of cut the sourness of the pickle with like garlic sauce and I don't know, some other stuff. He is like, I don't know, just try it one day. And so I did one of the days this week when Neel wasn't at the store, I made a pizza. And then he came in a little later that day and I was like, here, I need you to try this. And he took a bite. He was like, this is really good. I was like, I told you! And it's going on TikTok right now.
[00:13:13.460] - Lloyd
Yeah. Yeah. So it's it's sort of a running gag, too, with Eric, the other guy that I work with from Incredible Bags and Perfect Crust that we have a customer that will send them like a picture of of a pickle pizza every day just because Eric is like, I'm never going to try this. And so when I saw pop up on yours, I thought, oh, my God, even Troy's Italian Kitchen is going with the dill pickle pizza.
[00:13:38.280] - Neel & Palak
We are not afraid to try something new. If it doesn't do well, it doesn't do well, but I'm going to try it.
[00:13:44.420] - Lloyd
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, no, I think it's great. But what about that? I got to tell you, I had a good laugh. Totally.
[00:13:50.400] - Neel & Palak
Maybe we'll convince Eric to try ours.
[00:13:53.900] - Lloyd
That would be great, I will definitely be telling him all about yours. So I would imagine he's going to be commenting on your social media. Neel and Palak, it's been delightful. I know you're busy. It's East Coast time. You got to get ready for lunch. So I'm going to let you go here in a minute. Where can people find you on social media?
[00:14:13.580] - Neel & Palak
Troy's Italian Kitchen is our handle on Instagram. Troy's Italian Kitchen is on Facebook. And then it's just Troy's Italian on Twitter.
[00:14:22.310] - Lloyd
Great. If you guys aren't following, you're missing out, so please check them out. I think once you do, you'll see why I've been looking forward to this interview for a long, long time. I want to thank you guys so much for joining me today. And you guys have a great day.
[00:14:35.960] - Neel & Palak
Thanks, Lloyd. Thank you very much. Thanks.