Choices of Italian eateries are plentiful in Jakarta, from family friendly pizza chains to upper-class restaurants offering authentic Italian cuisine. However, a new kid in town, Popolamama, begs to differ. It’s an Italian fast-food restaurant chain from Japan that serves fresh, halal - certified by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) - pasta and homemade pizza. Though the cute name may sound unfamiliar, Popolamama is quite famous - at least in Japan. Established in 1995 by JC Comsa Corporation (JC Comsa), up to 150 of its restaurants can be found in the country. JC Comsa is a Tokyo-based manufacturer and seller of various food products in Japan and internationally, such as pizza crust and dough, bread, shredded cheese, sauce, condiment, meat and chicken. "JC Comsa is one of the biggest suppliers of pizza dough for Domino's Pizza in Japan," said Popolamama general manager Farah Milda at the chain's latest eatery in Grand Indonesia, Central Jakarta. Partnering with PT Indofood CBP Sukses Makmur - a subsidiary of food giant PT Indofood Sukses Makmur - in a joint venture to run the restaurant chain, JC Comsa has moved fast to expand Popolamama outside Japan. Since June 9, it has opened three eateries in Sudirman Plaza Indofood Tower in Central Jakarta, Taman Anggrek mall in West Jakarta and Grand Indonesia. "We’re still concentrating on Jakarta and will soon open more branches in the capital, preferably in places that serve as an office, living space and shopping mall to grab a bigger market," said Farah. In terms of appearance, especially the shop at Grand Indonesia, Popolamama offers a minimalist yet homey feel - in accordance with its Italian-derived name “popolare” and “mama”, which literally means “the most delicious homemade food is from mama's kitchen”. It doesn't scream “expensive” but it’s interesting enough to grab shoppers' attention to dine there for the first time. After savoring around nine of Popolamama's signature dishes, they didn't disappoint. Out of its 20 main-course dishes consisting of pasta and pizza with starting price of Rp 42,000 (US$3.56), newcomers should try the savory, refreshing aglio olio with Japanese mushroom and smoked beef, the spicy yet pleasant pescatore with red sauce, shrimp and squid, the melt-in-your-mouth pizza margherita with basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and the salty hot-flavored diavola pizza with a spicy beef sausage topping and melted mixed cheese. Since the restaurant is on a mission to make pasta a staple in Indonesia, just like nasi (rice) and bakmi (noodles), it’s really serious about its pasta. "We only use fresh pasta made of 100 percent durum wheat, ground into semolina flour that is popularly used in fine dining and gourmet restaurants, resulting in a rather wet and chewy texture. To sustain its high nutrient and fiber content, the pasta is only heated when we boil it for exactly three minutes; a consistency we can achieve due to the a 24-hour aging process," said Farah. As for the pizza, the restaurant's Napoli-style pizza is baked using a stone oven with a temperature of 450 degrees Celsius, resulting in a unique crispy and chewy crust but with a taste in the middle in just 90 seconds of cooking. "Napoli-style pizza basically uses a very simple topping as the dough is very thin, so it is very important to use the perfect dough and sauce combination," said Farah. The eatery also offers delightful choices of snacks and coffee that use Carraro Tazza D'oro beans (a blend of 90 percent Arabica and 10 percent Robusta). The restaurant’s café latte and apple pie come highly recommended.