Kumar Chhetri and his wife, Sanumyan Varee Pratan, moved to Hicksville three years ago to start a restaurant because they were attracted to the cultural mix and accepting community. They opened New Chilli & Curry Restaurant on Woodbury Road on Mother’s Day 2008.
“We thought it was a good day because every culture loves their mother,” said Chhetri, 52.
Their sense of culture has driven not only their decision to move to Hicksville, but the theme of their eatery. New Chilli & Curry serves Chinese, Thai and Indian food and has decor to match. Hanging on the wall over the entrance to the dining room is a photo of the Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader of Buddhism. A mix of Indian, Chinese and Thai music fills the restaurant with ambient sound.
Varee Pratan, 42, said the couple and many of their Indian friends were drawn to the hamlet because of friends and family there, and she liked how other Indian residents meshed traditions with American culture.
“I enjoy mixing the two cultures [American and Indian],” she said, highlighting that in India families often stay together in the same house for multiple generations. “In India we are very loving, but there’s too much pampering. Here you are out after 21. We say, ‘Let them go but with love.’”
Customer William Geiger, 54, of Hicksville stops in once a week with his significant other, Elizabeth Squires, 46. The two often venture out to try new foods, and Geiger said he has come to trust the owners to the point of trying a goat dish the next time he visits.
“We were first drawn to Kumar and Sanaam's [the name Sanumyan goes by] genuine warmth, and that was followed up with delicious food,” said Geiger of the Chhetris, who make it a point to chat with all of their customers to create a family atmosphere.
Varee Pratan said she and her husband run the restaurant with family in mind and hope they can integrate some Indian cultural values into American families the way their American customers have rubbed off on them.
“In here you have kids sitting between parents and they’re on their iPads,” she said, laughing. “In India we talk to each other at dinner. We say, ‘How was your day?’ We want that for our customers in here.”
This week, for the second installment of our “Town Focus” series, community journalist T.C. McCarthy is reporting from the hamlet of Hicksville. Have a suggestion about someone he should meet or a place he should visit? We want to hear from you about how to get the full Hicksville experience. Reach out through Twitter, email or in the comments below.