Sbarro is an American pizza restaurant chain that specializes in New York-style pizza and Italian-American cuisine. However, with its meat-heavy menu, some Muslims wonder – is Sbarro halal?
In my opinion, the answer isn’t completely straightforward. While Sbarro doesn’t claim to be a halal restaurant, some of its ingredients and preparation methods may make certain menu items halal-compliant.
Let’s take a closer look at what halal means and Sbarro’s menu to make an informed decision.
What is Sbarro?
Sbarro is an American pizza restaurant chain that specializes in New York-style pizza and Italian-American cuisine.
Here are some key facts about Sbarro:
- Founded in 1956 in Brooklyn, New York by the Sbarro family. The first location was an Italian grocery store that also sold pizza.
- Sbarro pioneered the concept of selling pizza by the slice in malls and other locations. This allowed them to grow quickly across the United States.
- Currently headquartered in Columbus, Ohio and owned by Sbarro LLC. The company operates over 600 restaurant locations in the U.S., plus more internationally.
- Sbarro is best known for hand-stretched New York style pizza baked in coal ovens. Their pizzas range from classic cheese to meat-loaded options.
- Other popular menu items include pasta dishes like baked ziti, stromboli sandwiches, chicken parmigiana, and classic Italian desserts like cannoli.
- Sbarro restaurants are primarily located in malls, airports, service areas, and college campuses for convenient quick-service dining.
- In recent years, Sbarro has faced steep competition from fast casual pizza chains and filed for bankruptcy twice since 2011. But new management is revamping menus and stores.
- Sbarro has made efforts to offer some halal ingredients, like halal certified beef for meatballs. But most menu items contain pork and alcohol, preventing Sbarro from being fully halal compliant.
What Does Halal Mean?
Halal is an Arabic word that means “permissible” or “lawful” in Islamic law. When it comes to food, for meat to be considered halal, the animal must be slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines.
This includes invoking the name of Allah while slitting the throat, causing as little suffering as possible to the animal. The animal also must be in good health at the time of slaughter.
For non-meat foods and products to be halal, they must not contain any haram (prohibited) substances according to Islamic law. This includes pork, alcohol, and certain animal byproducts.
Food preparation methods and hygiene standards also play a role in determining whether a menu item is halal.
Is Sbarro Halal?
The halal status of Sbarro depends on the specific location. In some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, all Sbarro locations are halal-certified.
This means that all of the meat used in their food is slaughtered according to Islamic law, and there is no cross-contamination with non-halal ingredients.
In other countries, such as the United States, not all Sbarro locations are halal-certified. This is because there is no government-mandated standard for halal food in the US.
However, many Sbarro locations in the US do offer halal options, such as chicken and veggie pizzas.
If you are unsure whether or not a particular Sbarro location is halal, it is always best to ask the staff.
They will be able to tell you if the food is halal-certified or if there are any potential cross-contamination concerns.
Here are some of the countries where Sbarro locations are halal-certified:
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
Here are some of the countries where Sbarro locations may or may not be halal-certified:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
If you are traveling to a country where you are unsure about the halal status of Sbarro, it is always best to err on the side of caution and avoid eating there.
There are many other great halal restaurants available, so you should be able to find something to your taste.
Sbarro’s Halal Practices
While many menu items would not meet strict halal standards, it’s worth noting some positive steps Sbarro has taken regarding halal practices:
- According to Sbarro’s customer service department, their tomato sauce contains no pork or animal products, using only tomato paste, olive oil, salt, and seasonings. This is key for halal compliance.
- All beef used in meatballs and other menu items is 100% halal certified, slaughtered under Islamic guidelines. However, the presence of pork makes the final menu item impermissible.
- Sbarro avoids mixing halal and non-halal meats together in dishes. So while the beef is halal-certified, items may become haram by adding pork products like pepperoni.
- Most desserts contain no animal byproducts, but the presence of alcohol puts them in a grey area. Items like cannoli shells and tiramisu contain wine or rum.
So in essence, Sbarro makes some effort to source compliant ingredients. However, the preparation methods and presence of alcohol and pork prevent most menu items from being considered truly halal.
There are some veggie and salad options that can work, but use caution and scrutinize the menu.
Recommendations for Muslims Dining at Sbarro
Based on an informed halal analysis of their menu options, what do I suggest for Muslims seeking to dine at Sbarro? Here are some recommendations:
- Opt for vegetable pizzas without cheese to avoid cross-contamination in the oven. Request clean cutters and prep areas. Or stick to pasta and salads.
- Ask about the alcohol content of desserts like cannoli or tiramisu fillings. Choose dairy-free options when possible.
- Request halal-certified options using dedicated cooking equipment. Some locations may accommodate customized orders. Check ahead.
- Avoid meats, chicken, pepperoni, sausage and other questionable ingredients. Stick to veggie toppings to be safe.
- Politely ask questions about preparation methods, ingredients and alcohol use. Choose based on your comfort level.
- Support restaurants making halal offerings. Sbarro’s effort counts, though menu limitations remain.
- Have backup choices if halal options are limited. Be flexible but stay true to your personal standards.
- Thank Sbarro for their efforts in halal practices. Encourage further menu development to serve this market.
Here are some recommended halal-friendly alternatives to Sbarro for Muslim diners seeking Italian-American cuisine:
- Olive Garden is a popular Italian restaurant chain that offers a wide variety of pasta dishes, salads, and pizzas. They have a dedicated halal menu that is certified by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA).
- Domino’s Pizza is another popular pizza chain that offers a halal menu. Their halal pizzas are made with chicken or beef pepperoni, sausage, and ham.
- Papa John’s Pizza is a third popular pizza chain that offers a halal menu. Their halal pizzas are made with chicken or beef pepperoni, sausage, and ham.
- Little Caesars Pizza is a budget-friendly pizza chain that offers a halal menu. Their halal pizzas are made with chicken or beef pepperoni, sausage, and ham.
- Pizza Hut is a popular pizza chain that offers a halal menu in some countries. Their halal pizzas are made with chicken or beef pepperoni, sausage, and ham.
- Pasta Mania is a fast-casual Italian restaurant chain that offers a wide variety of pasta dishes, salads, and pizzas. They have a dedicated halal menu that is certified by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA).
- Nando’s Peri-Peri is a Portuguese flame-grilled chicken restaurant chain that offers a variety of chicken dishes, salads, and wraps. They have a dedicated halal menu in some countries.
The Bottom Line
Is Sbarro halal? The verdict is not entirely straightforward given menu limitations. But with knowledge of ingredients and preparation methods, Muslim consumers can make smart choices.
Sbarro’s efforts toward halal deserve recognition, though stricter compliance would open their brand to a wider audience.
I believe keeping an open and constructive dialogue with food providers is the best approach. This allows the halal community to voice their needs while supporting positive progress, however incremental.
With growing Muslim populations in the West, halal dining options will only continue to expand.