La Jolla’s Afghan-American pizzaman may have the recipe!

By Linda Hutchison

Where does one cuisine end and another begin? It may seem a long way from the rice and naan and kabobs of Afghanistan to the Italian-American pizza of La Jolla, but to Samay “Sam” Qadiri, there’s no distance at all, just a short leap of the imagination.

As the owner of Pizza Pronto on Fay Avenue, Sam is both a product of the American melting pot and a cutting-edge creator of our constantly evolving fusion cuisine.

Afghan-Italian anyone? How about California-Afghan-Persian? And a little Greek or Indian thrown in for good measure?

Judging by his many loyal and enthusiastic customers, and the success of Pizza Pronto since Sam took it over a few years ago, it seems that his unique blending of culinary tastes are a hit with local food lovers.
Sam’s love for cooking began when he was age 6, living in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

When his older sister married, he began helping his mother in the kitchen. As the family grew to include a total of five brothers and three sisters, Sam continued cooking and learning to make many Afghan and Central Asian staples, such as naan bread (a teardrop-shaped flatbread), basmati rice, and a variety of kabobs, stews, and dumplings.

In 1987, with his father in the military and Afghanistan at war with Russia, the Qadiri family moved to Pakistan. Two years later, they arrived in the United States as refugees, sponsored by his grandmother, who had moved to San Diego. By then, his father had died.

It was not an easy time, remembers Sam. “We had $10 when we landed.” After adjusting to a different culture in Pakistan, the family had to readjust in California.

Sam Qadiri, owner of Pizza Pronto on Fay Avenue -Photo by Linda Hutchison

But before long, teen-aged Sam was cooking again. When one of his uncles ordered pizza (which he’d never seen before) for a family picnic and Sam saw it disappear in two seconds, he was hooked.

He walked over to a nearby Vons and examined the frozen pizzas.

“I can make that,” he told his brother, buying the ingredients. He came home, rolled out the dough, put his sister to work grating the cheese, and added the special sauce.

The family loved it and soon he was adding new dishes. “Lasagna was next,” he said.

Sam finished high school, attended college, worked various jobs, including McDonalds and his uncle’s car dealership, married, and now has two sons and a daughter.

“But my dream was to own my own business,” he said. When he had the opportunity to take over Pizza Pronto, he took it, and was soon expanding and experimenting with the menu. He added new pizzas, pastas, salads, Persian chicken kabobs, Afghan beef kabobs and rice.

Sam is proud that his hard work has paid off and that he can send money back to help relatives in Afghanistan. “It’s like a dream come true,” he added. He is also proud of the freshness and quality of his food. “We don’t have a freezer or a fryer,” he said. “We make our pasta fresh daily, from scratch.”

And he doesn’t plan to stop mixing cuisines any time soon. “I’m always inventing new dishes, adding an American twist to foreign foods.” He gets his ideas from visiting restaurants, Greek and Indian recently, and watching the food channel.

For more information, visit or call (858) 459-9000.

Related posts:

  1. How will you be celebrating National Pizza Month?
  2. Large crowd turns out to honor servicemen killed in Afghanistan copter attack
  3. Panera Bread debuts in La Jolla Village
  4. San Diego-based troops join flood relief effort in Pakistan

Short URL:

Posted by Staff on Jul 10, 2012. Filed under Dining. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply

La Jolla Community Calendar


Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6

RSS North Coastal News

  • Local camp shapes Solana Beach youth into community leaders July 28, 2014
    After attending the inaugural La Colonia de Eden Gardens Youth Leadership Camp last year, Edgar Vergara was inspired to make positive change in Solana Beach’s Eden Gardens community. Along with other local teens, the 15-year-old co-founded the youth group La Colonia Changers and recently hosted a town hall forum on underage drinking. Passionate about making […]
  • Del Mar Union School District approves new contract for superintendent July 28, 2014
    The Del Mar Union School District Board July 23 approved the new contract for Superintendent Holly McClurg through June 30, 2018. Per the contract, McClurg’s annual salary will be $185,000 with an annual doctoral stipend of $10,000. She will receive a car allowance of $400 a month, 25 vacation days, health benefits and a retirement contribution of $700 a mon […]
  • Carmel Valley 5K and 10K to hit Gonzales Canyon trails in September July 28, 2014
    A new trail running race is coming to Carmel Valley this fall. Jeff Stoner of Del Mar’s Seasick Marketing visited the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board to update the board on the plans for the Carmel Valley Trail 5K and 10K Run, set to take place on Sept. 20. A portion of race proceeds will go toward the Challenged Athletes Foundation. […]