Pronto Cafe, a casual pizzeria that opened in early 2016 at 645 Cambridge St. in East Cambridge, is now serving Uyghur cuisine, per a tweet from a passerby. Indeed, the pizza warmer is empty, and the menu (see below) indicates that the restaurant is now called Pronto Uyghur Cuisine. (Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group from Eastern and Central Asia, primarily living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.)
A sign outside, however, declares that a restaurant called Silk Road is coming soon, serving Uyghur cuisine. An employee explains that the restaurant is currently going through the permitting process to get the new name approved, so for now, it’s still technically Pronto Cafe.
The space is also in a transition period; it’s still fairly bare, but it will undergo renovations before grandly opening under the new name, possibly in August, at which point the decor will reflect the Uyghur culture. One cool feature of the current space: Photos of a couple dishes are displayed on digital screens, and if you ask about something on the menu, an employee will display the dish in question on one of the screens.
For now, Pronto Cafe/Pronto Uyghur Cuisine/Silk Road is softly open but will close again later in the summer for a few weeks of the aforementioned renovations. In general, it’s currently open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (except for Fridays, when it opens at 4 p.m.), but call (617) 945-1909 to verify before heading over; an employee mentioned that the restaurant may be closed tomorrow, for example. (Once Silk Road officially opens, the restaurant will have a website and social media accounts, but during this transition period, you won’t find it online.)
Uyghur cuisine is difficult to find in Massachusetts, although it isn’t entirely unfamiliar, drawing influences from various parts of Central Asia, China, and beyond. A popular food truck called Uyghur Kitchen was on the road around Boston in 2014-2015, primarily serving kebabs, but it has since shut down. Common Uyghur dishes include samsa (brick-oven lamb pies), laghman noodles (hand-pulled noodles served in stir-fry dishes), pilaf (a rice dish often served with mutton, carrots, onion, and more), nan (flatbread), kebabs, and dapanji (“big plate chicken,” a spicy chicken stew).
Keep an eye out for the official opening with the real name and renovations later this summer, but in the meantime, swing by the East Cambridge space for some no-frills Uyghur cuisine.