At the corner of 3rd Avenue and Lawrence Street in Black Diamond, the small Italian Fresh Pizza building has the veneer of a drive-by eating establishment.
A daily special of $5.99 for a 14 inch cheese or pepperoni pizza gives the impression that quality is sacrificed for speediness, a place for people on-the-go.
But inside of the small building, the 45-year-old Pakistani Protestant, Pelus Javed, builds every single one of his pizzas from scratch, including the pizza dough, which he makes each morning before he is open for business.
While it may take longer than going to a regular pizza place, Javed believes that the difference in his stone-baked versions attract customers for their taste and freshness. Additionally, making his own dough saves costs, which allows him to sell pizzas at cheaper prices.
Born near Islamabad, Pakistan, Javed has more than 17 years of experience cooking. Cuisines in his repertoire include Middle Eastern, American, Greek, Indian and Italian dishes.
Since 1992, when he emigrated to the United States, he says that he “just cooked and cooked all the time.”
First working at the Hilton in Bellevue, he also served as a chef for the Tantulus in Issaquah, the Four Corners Bar and Grill and the Union Junction School.
When he decided to start his own business, Javed chose to center it on Italian pizza for reasons that he said are practical.
“I have to make a living,” he said. “I have to support my family. It’s the most popular.”
Before even stepping inside, customers are made aware of Javed’s religious beliefs. A small poster for Lake Swayer Christian Church is on the door. The interior walls are decorated with portraits of Christ, and Javed ends every transaction with “God bless you.”
Although educated at the St. Joseph Convent School in Karachi, Pakistan, Javed was raised by a Protestant mother. However, his educational background has given him a very straightforward attitude about Christianity.
“I don’t mind Catholics, I don’t mind Protestants,” he says. “I believe in Jesus Christ.”
His outspoken enthusiasm for Christianity is the direct result of growing up in Pakistan, where 95 percent of the country is Muslim and less than 5 percent is Christian. The country also has very strict religious laws. Speaking in opposition to Islam and publishing an attack on Islam or its prophets are prohibited.
Javed said he and his family were forced to hide their religious practices, which he isn’t forced to do in America.
“I don’t want to have to keep (my beliefs) a secret,” he said. “I like it here (Black Diamond/Maple Valley).”
He currently lives in Maple Valley with his wife and two daughters, where he moved in 2004. His brother and sister still live in Pakistan, unlike Javed, they have encountered problems obtaining passports.
“It is very hard to get a visa,” he said. “They want to come, but it’s very hard.”
Italian Fresh Pizza is located at 32721 3rd Ave Black Diamond, WA 98010. Deliveries and orders can be made by phone at 360-886-5111.