Sure, chicken tikka masala is featured on the menu at Royal Spice in Keene. So are shrimp scampi and chicken tenders.
That’s because owners Perparime “Perpy” Abdullahu and her husband, Sushant Dhuri, want their customers to leave happy. The couple opened their restaurant a year ago in the same space another Indian restaurant, The Spice Chambers, formerly occupied.
In fact, Dhuri worked there as a chef. The restaurant’s former owners were friends, and Dhuri moved to Keene from Chicopee, Mass., to help them.
His wife didn’t immediately follow. For six years, she owned her own Indian eatery in Chicopee, where she grew up and where most of her family is located.
“My husband started falling in love with Keene and I started coming to visit,” she said, adding that Keene started feeling like home.
After three years in business, the owners of The Spice Chambers at 8 Winter St. were getting ready to shut their doors.
“The owner (Dorrie Masten) suggested we take over the restaurant,” said Abdullahu, who then sold her own restaurant and moved to Keene. “There wasn’t much maintenance to do. We opened in three weeks.”
Although it was tough to move away from her hometown and family, Abdullahu began to feel more comfortable in Keene. In her other job as a translator, Abdullahu said she’s traveled through several states.
She and her husband, who runs the kitchen, are members of the Keene India Association, which creates awareness of Indians and Indian culture and educates people about Indian immigrants as well as gives back to the community.
Because they appreciate their customers, the pair aims to please them.
Dhuri has an impressive pedigree as a chef. After working in restaurants in India (he is a native of Goa, a beach resort community), he attended culinary school and then went to work in a ship’s galley for Norwegian Cruise Lines for five years. There, he learned to cook many different types of cuisine, and for thousands.
About a month ago, the couple added an Italian menu to their Indian offerings. Both dinner menus are served seven nights a week.
They describe their Indian cuisine as traditional: the menu includes such favorite items as naan, a flatbread in flavors like garlic and chive or rosemary and olive; dal, a lentil-based side dish; popular entrees such as tandoor chicken cooked in yogurt and spices in a clay oven; and desserts including rice pudding with cardamom and rose water. The bar serves a selection of Indian whiskeys and beers.
“We give options for people who have never had Indian food,” said Abdullahu. “Most people think of Indian food as spicy — it has spices and a lot of flavor, but it’s not spicy if you don’t want it to be. I tell people to start with a mild dish and move up to something spicy if they want.”
The Italian menu has several recognizable classic dishes including chicken parmesan and fettucine alfredo. A Wednesday night buffet includes two Italian items — one vegetarian and one with meat — each week.
“People come first for Indian food and on their second visit they order Italian,” said Abdullahu.
They also added a kids’ menu with selections like French fries and mozzarella sticks to satisfy the entire family.
“Our kids when we go out want something different besides Indian food,” said Abdullahu. “I feel we have options for everyone in this restaurant.”
Most importantly, employees are trained to treat customers how they themselves want to be treated.
“We don’t look at customers as dollar signs,” said Abdullahu. “We look at them as fellow human beings.”
Royal Spice is at 8 Winter St. in Keene and is open for dinner every day from 3:30 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit royalspicekeene.com.