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Paratha and Parrots (Yes, Parrots) at Alfa Capri

Before meeting a friend to get dahi puri at Bansuri for Battle Dahi Puri -- it's only a snack, you know, not meant as a whole meal -- I decided to grab a bite of "real" dinner down the street so that I wouldn't be starving again at 10 p.m. and scarf down a tub of Fage yogurt because it's the only thing I have in my fridge right now.

In the same West Bellfort-facing strip center as Sweet n Namkin and Salaam Namaste sits Alfa Capri. It sounds like a mid-'80s upscale dinner place -- where peacocks may or may not strut around the grounds -- in name only. In reality, it's a Pakistani game room that just happens to serve food. I could revisit a place I'd just reviewed or I could hit up something new. I chose the new and headed into Alfa Capri.

Alfa Capri was fairly busy inside. The clientele was all men, whose heads swiveled very nearly off their necks when a woman walked into the place and up to the counter. They glared at me, every last one of them. The place had gone silent except for the soap opera-style show on the televisions. Games had ceased. I felt like I had crashed a party.

Hungry and determined to eat despite the cold reception, I ordered a chicken paratha wrap and a salty lassi. The man behind the counter gave me the oddest look as I did so, but told me to sit down and wait: "Give me 15 minutes," he said, before retreating into the kitchen.

It was then that I noticed the parrot.

In the far right corner of the restaurant was a giant white cage containing an equally large white parrot. A sign next to it indicated that the parrot's name was Capri and that it was friendly, but to please not rattle the cage.

This sign did little to deter the oaf of a man who was mindlessly shaking and hitting the cage like Lennie Small's more aggressive, far stupider cousin (he's in the, er, sequel to Of Mice and Men). The parrot, for its part, seemed to be oblivious to the idiot and continued grooming itself as well as it could amidst the miniature earthquake that was happening in its little world. Eventually, the man grew tired of shaking the cage and wandered back to the game room side of Alfa Capri to rejoin his friends.

As I waited for my food in a booth, I noticed that men traipsed in and out of Alfa Capri very quickly, always throwing me a glare or suspicious look as they did. They'd go up to the counter, exchange a few words with the owner and sometimes some money, then leave. I had zero idea what was going on anymore, as dozens of men came quickly in and out and the parrot squawked plaintively in the corner.

Finally, my food and lassi arrived. The paratha itself was particularly lovely, just layer upon layer of whole wheat with luscious ghee seeping out in each bite. It had been wrapped around curried chicken, white onions and tomatoes in much the same way as a gyro. The only difference is that the paratha wrap didn't need a lick of anything like tzatziki sauce thanks to all that ghee and the moist chicken itself.

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My lassi was of the straightforward variety: no salt or cumin or anything else on top, just the yogurt itself. But, strangely, it was served on ice. I've never seen this before, but perhaps I've been going to the wrong Desi restaurants.

I finished the wrap and the lassi rather quickly, feeling increasingly uncomfortable inside Alfa Capri as the evening wore on. The parrot had escaped from its cage and was fluttering around one corner of the restaurant, although no one -- the owner included -- seemed to care or notice. I went up to pay my tab and get out of there.

Oddly, once at the register, the owner was suddenly friendly. "Did you like your food?" he asked. I told him that I'd loved it, truly. He seemed pleasantly surprised and handed me a to-go menu. I saw that Alfa Capri served bun kebab for breakfast. "I'll have to come back for this!" I told him, brightly. He smiled and nodded. "Yes, please do!"

I walked out of Alfa Capri even more confused than I'd entered. But at least I'd found a new breakfast place in the process.

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