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AMHERST — Amit Kanoujia might have been spot-on when he said you say something at least twice a day that comes true.

For example, when the current restaurateur said some time ago how he wanted to open a pizza shop across from his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, that dream came true.

“I remember, I’d walk by and be like, ‘Man, one day I’d want to have a shop right in that place,” said Kanoujia, when talking about 150 Fearing St., the brick building that currently houses his fairly new restaurant, Campus Pizza.

This is far from Kanoujia’s first foray into the restaurant business. Professionally-trained with a degree in culinary arts from Switzerland, the entrepreneur has worked alongside his parents, Alka and Omi Kanoujia, at their Northampton restaurant the India House, which opened in 1984.

“I’ve always been a part of India House in some way, shape or form,” Kanoujia said. “As a kid, I’d run around giving water and crackers.”

Kanoujia went to UMass Amherst for hospitality before going to culinary school. When he graduated from both, he became even more involved with India House’s kitchen operations.

Now, he is embarking on his new journey with Campus Pizza at 150 Fearing St.
For the last 25 years, the location has been the site of a pizza joint in some capacity. Just recently, it housed College Pizza and then Sunset Grill & Pizza.
Since taking over the space and officially opening Campus Pizza on Aug. 31, Kanoujia has made it his mission to create a restaurant that serves UMass Amherst students looking for something tasty and affordable.

“I always had a bug for wanting to open something in Amherst,” Kanoujia said. “I always had my eye on this, this spot in particular, just because I wanted to do something UMass-related since I was an alum.”

Campus Pizza is the ideal spot for college students for two major reasons: it has all the comfort food staples one might be looking for including wings, grinders, calzones and Greek-style pan pizza; and it is open until 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The latter factoid is important because most college students are looking for a bite to eat after a long outing.

“It’s been awesome to be there for those late nights when everyone comes in and it’s a lively environment,” Kanoujia said.

So far, the barbecue and buffalo chicken bacon ranch pizzas and fresh bone-in wings have been fan favorites, according to Kanoujia, who uses fresh ingredients in everything he makes.

For the longtime restaurateur, using those fresh ingredients for his pizza is important, especially since he will get a lot of New York and New Jersey students who take their pizza very seriously.

“Our pepperoni, for example, is very high-end pepperoni that cups with the heat, so each bite, you’re getting a taste of that pepperoni, the oils, everything,” Kanoujia said. “When the students, or any clientele, can pick up on what we do, from the sauce to the cheese, to the pepperoni, and they’re like, ‘this is different, this is good,’ that’s a gratifying experience for me.”

Kanoujia may take some of his cues from pizza hotspots like New Jersey and New York, but he always makes sure to offer something familial, too.
Notably, Kanoujia made sure to add Indian entrees on the Campus Pizza menu including chicken tikka masala, channa masala and paneer tikka masala.

“I wanted to set us a part a little, so when we came back this semester, we added Indian food,” Kanoujia said.

The extensive menu and lively atmosphere are a culmination of Kanoujia’s lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. For him, providing a haven across from his alma mater is an “awesome” full circle moment.

“I’ve been blessed with great family and mentors who helped me, who have been in the business themselves who’ve helped me with this,” Kanoujia said. “In the last decade, UMass Amherst has made huge strides academically, on the food scene, nationally in the rankings, so it’s a proud moment to be a part of that, to be, to say I’m a UMass alum.”

Readers can learn more about the restaurant by visiting its website, campuspizzamherst.com.

rfeyre@thereminder.com | + posts