About 48 kilometres from Chandigarh, a two-hour drive leads to Dochi village in Kasauli, a city in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district. In popular culture, Kasauli secures its reputation as a small, touristy town for nature lovers, history geeks and literary enthusiasts who are interested in exploring Khushwant Singh’s fancy bungalow on the Mall Road or visiting the British-era Christ Church that was last seen on the celluloid in the movie Madras Cafe. Over the years, the hill station has been evolving, reinventing itself, especially when it comes to food and dining. The best example of this is the rising popularity of Dochi Pizzeria & Coffee House, a humble roadside café serving Italian cuisine at village Dochi.
It was in October 2021 when Vikaas Gupta, 34, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, started the petit café. While chasing his dream to live in the hills, he stumbled upon a quaint tea stall-cum-daily-needs shop, which has now been replaced by the pizzeria.
“In 2019, I had started an online art company, Urbankarigars. The business did well, but we had to pause it when Covid hit. That’s when my wife and I moved to the mountains. I spotted a tea stall and thought of opening a place that offers nothing else but good pizza and coffee. The man who ran the tea stall is now Dochi’s landlord,” he says.
To Vikaas, hospitality business comes naturally. His family owns a boutique hotel, called Basil – The Residency, in South Delhi and as a student he did a part-time gig at McDonald’s in Australia. Dochi, however, is not your regular fast-food joint. It is cosy, exquisite and exclusive.
The menu offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian calzones and woodfire pizzas made with Italian flour that is fermented for 24 hours to 72 hours. “We use seven varieties of cheese, including fior di latte mozzarella (sourced from Maharashtra), mozzarella Parmesan, cheddar and goat cheese (Chandigarh), and feta and gruyere from Amiksa Cheese (based in Mashobra),” informs Vikaas.
Some of the pizzas on the vegetarian menu include different versions of the margherita pizza, from green chilli to classic, farmhouse pizza, marinara and feta pizza. The non-vegetarian on the menu range from pepperoni, chicken and feta to ham and cheese. “The dough of Neapolitan artisanal sourdough pizzas needs a long time to ferment, but only 90 to 130 seconds to cook, depending on the temperature of the oven and hydration of the dough. In fact, the coffee we serve here is freshly grounded. We have an in-house blend of premium Arabica beans, sourced from South India, Amazon and some imported varieties too,” he shares.
Dochi is a tiny cabin, accommodating barely 20 people at a time. Its skeleton is made with iron and wood, all painted in red, put together with polycarbonate sheets. “There were many factors which led to this design. We wanted to use glass, but it couldn’t be used because of the structure being right on the road and surrounded by thick forest. For safety concerns we had to use these polycarbonate sheets for maximum visibility and openness. We had to make do with a large oven and a fully set up kitchen and seating in a confined space but it worked for us as we wanted to keep it small and exclusive,” Vikaas says.
With the eatery becoming increasingly popular, about two months ago the pizzeria started serving its guests on ‘only reservation’ basis. “Although we have a very quick turnaround time for our tables with super fast service, we had long queues on weekends and public holidays which would result in parking problems and guests sometimes had to wait for hours. We are getting nearly 150 people a day, on an average. To be able to serve our guests better and improve their dining experience, we decided to take orders only through reservations,” he adds.
If you love food and nature, Dochi promises an aesthetic palate for both. Tables can be booked at dochi.in; the starting price of the dishes on the menu is ₹510. It is open between 11.30am and 8:30pm.