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Taco Bell has announced the return of the Mexican pizza, a favorite for South Asian communities across the country.
Like many children in Indian families, Krish Jagirdar was raised vegetarian, meaning most fast food joints were off the table.
“The one place that we were allowed to go to, that we did often go to, was Taco Bell,” he said. “The Mexican pizza was the item that I gravitated towards again and again. Hugely, hugely popular amongst Indian Americans.”
Jagirdar said he would swap out meat for beans. But it wasn’t just vegetarian options that drew Jagirdar’s family to Taco Bell — he says the flavors and emphasis on spice appealed to Indian Americans because they’re similar to food at home.
“They have a heavy emphasis on spice,” he said. “So I think in a lot of ways, it’s kind of as close as they can get to, like, Indian fast food while still being obviously part of American culture.”
Despite the name, the Mexican pizza is a distinctly American concoction. No such thing exists in true Mexican cuisine, and some might argue the snack doesn’t really even look like pizza either.
Nevertheless, Taco Bell’s creation developed a strong following since it debuted as the Pizazz Pizza back in 1985, especially among South Asian communities.
“It’s almost like an inside joke with people where it’s like you meet another brown person, you’re just like, ‘What do you get at Taco Bell?’ Like, obviously the Mexican pizza,” said Rima Parikh, a comedian and writer who professed her love for the Mexican pizza in a 2020 article.
She had even customized her go-to order: substitute beans for beef, add potatoes and nacho cheese sauce. And, at some point, nacho fries made their way onto her pizza.
So, when the item was discontinued in 2020, she felt at a loss.
“I was kind of stuck where I was like, oh, I don’t even know what I’m supposed to like. I guess I’ll try something else. But I think in terms of my main item, I was like, I don’t know what that is anymore,” she said.
When the beloved menu item was discontinued a year and a half ago, the disappointment ran deep.
So Jagirdar rallied to bring it back. He started a change.org petition that gathered more than 170,000 signatures.
“I sent it out to my friends and my family, and I mean it when I say that petition started spreading like wildfire through text message chains, email chains, like I’m talking about old Indian uncles and aunties that are sharing it in their groups.”
Then, last week, to Jagirdar’s surprise, Taco Bell got in touch.
“They’re like, ‘Hey, we’re bringing back the Mexican pizza. And, you know, we super, super appreciate everything that you did to really kind of stoke the desire for the revival of it.'”
The Mexican pizza hits menus again on May 19, and both Parikh and Jagirdar have the day marked on their calendars.
The audio version of this story was edited by Amy Isackson.