Biz Beat

Indian restaurant spices up food scene

When Modestan Frank Johnson made his passage to India recently, it was to help make a film. While he was there, Johnson developed a fondness for the food. A diabetic, he believes that the healthier Indian cuisine helped him overcome many of the problems associated with his disease.

When Johnson returned to Modesto, he was approached by friends from India who live in the valley and wanted to open a restaurant. Seeing a chance to share his love of India and its food, Johnson immediately joined the restaurant venture — and Guru Indian Cuisine was born.

The new restaurant is at 950 Oakdale Road, Suite A, behind the KFC outlet, near Monaco's. Previously the site was home to a barbecue restaurant, Italian eatery and pizza parlor. Johnson, who manages the operation, and co-owner Baljinder S. Bhatti have revamped the interior to create a setting that will help transport folks on their own passages to India. They have added paintings, accents and other design features from India. Traditional music plays in the background.

But Johnson, Bhatti and crew know that it's the food that will really set the tone for their restaurant. So they have brought in a chef from Punjab, India, who made a name for himself cooking in New York City. The menu they've cooked up features rice, vegetarian, seafood, lamb and chicken dishes. They also serve sweet and sour snacks, or chaat, and desi dishes, traditional (hot) favorites.

But no matter what diners want (tandoori king prawns, lamb curry, chicken makhni) they can order it mild, medium, spicy or extra spicy — whatever suits their taste. The restaurant also serves up appetizers, speciality breads, soups, salads and, for the less adventurous, even burgers. A full bar and meeting room with seating for about 40 remain. The place is also a wireless hotspot, with a laptop available for customers' use.

For those who would like to try Indian cuisine, but aren't sure what to order, the staff is trained to walk guests through the menu. But for those who want to do some experimenting on their own, Guru Indian Cuisine also has a luncheon buffet Monday through Thursday with 18 dishes. And Johnson's convinced that if people try the food, they'll discover what he did — something they'll always savor. For more information, call 529-5700.

Elsewhere on the Business Beat:

What is it: Nick-N-Willy's World Famous Pizza at 1570 E. F St., Oakdale, in the Oakridge Shopping Center. Phone, 578-6416. Web site,

What it does: Nick-N-Willy's is known for take-and-bake pizza, but also has a comfortable dining area. It sells pizzas using hand-tossed dough, fresh-cut ingredients, 25 premium toppings, 6 cheeses and four signature sauces. Some of the pizzas include the Nick-N-Willy's classic (pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms and black olives) and the Aegean (olive oil glaze, mozzarella, fresh garlic, spinach, marinated sun-dried tomatoes, feta and oregano. It has a variety of salads as well as garlic bread and desserts.

Who runs it: Mike and Margaret Berberich are first-time business owners. Mike Berberich has more than 20 years in the food industry, working for Tri Valley Growers and Del Monte Foods. The first Nick-N-Willy's opened in 1989 and became a franchise in 2001. Hours for the Oakdale outlet are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

What make is special: Nick-N-Willy's features gourmet pizzas. It's the only Nick-N-Willy's Pizza in the valley.

What is it: A Beautiful Reflection by Kerry at 202 W. Main St., Suite 212, Turlock. The shop is upstairs in the Mercantile Mall. Phone, 656-0700.

What it does: A Beautiful Reflection offers facial treatments, including enzyme peels, European facialsand crystal-free microdermabrasion. The staff also does waxing for face, underarms, arms, legs and back. All treatments are done by a certified esthetician using recent technology, including diamond dermabrasion. It is designed to reduce fine lines, large pores and mild acne scars. The shop also offers makeup for proms and weddings. And it sells costume jewelry: crystal earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and more.

Who runs it: Kerry Strickland is a first-time business owner. Strickland previously was a retail manager for 24 years. A Beautiful Reflection opened in April. Hours are 8 a.m. to6 p.m. Monday through Saturday by appointment only.

What makes it special: A Beautiful Reflection offers a quiet, calming atmosphereand the latest treatment technologies. Mobile service to weddings and special events to perform different services also is available.

Have an item for Business Beat? Send it to David W. Hill, Business Editor, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352; or COMPILED BY JILLIAN HANKSAND DONNA FALCO,BEE NEWSROOM ASSISTANTS