Matt Surrusco tastes some Italian favourites, from wood-fired brick oven pizza to decadent, coffee-infused tiramisu, at Phnom Penh pizzeria and restaurant Limoncello’s new location. Photos by Lim Sokchanlina.

As soon as you walk past the gate at Limoncello, your eyes are drawn to the massive, wood-fired brick pizza oven in the restaurant’s front courtyard.

Owner Silvio Pezzaro, 48, built it himself – one of a few custom-made pizza ovens he has constructed in Cambodia since arriving in the Kingdom seven years ago.

Pezzaro, who hails from Biella, a small town in northern Italy, says he built the Naples-style oven in about one month.

It can cook four to five pizza pies at once, at 400 degrees.

While the oven is impressive and helps churn out tasty thin-crust pizza, the restaurateur says pizza is only as good as the dough from which it is made.

“It’s easy, but at the same time not easy,” he says about preparing good dough. The trick, he says, is to allow the dough to sit for hours so it doesn’t rise too fast and produce a crust that may be a tad too heavy on the stomach.

Working in restaurants and pizzerias in Italy since he was 15-years-old, Pezzaro has learned to craft a near-perfect pizza crust, which rivals that of beloved Phnom Penh pizzeria Piccola Italia Da Luigi on Street 308.

But Limoncello, which reopened at its new central location in mid-October after six years at its base on the capital’s riverside, offers much more than pizza.

During our visit, we started with the tuna tartare, a tangy, refreshing appetiser that you will not want to share. Sliced black olives and diced avocado are intermingled with cubes of pink tuna, all drizzled with orange and lemon juice and zest.

The dish, which Pezzaro says will be added to the menu soon, came with a small salad mix of avocado, olives and cherry tomatoes and a basket of pizza bread, simple baked dough topped with olive oil and rosemary.

Next up was the house speciality Limoncello pizza ($9), a thin-crust pie covered in melted mozzarella, and layered with crisp rocket, cherry tomatoes and thin slices of Parmesan cheese. While fresh greens are not my favourite pizza topping, the big slices of Parmesan and tasty crust left me satisfied.

One of my favourite dishes is the fusilli alla crudaiola ($7.50). The vegetarian pasta is full of a delicious variety of Mediterranean flavours and textures, including sweet sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and an oily basil pesto sauce. Also, more avocado.

Rounding out the meal, the creamy tiramisu ($4), a classic coffee-flavoured Italian dessert, did not disappoint. The cocoa powder coating, spongy cake and large portion was a decadent cap to what was a delicious meal.

With wine bottle light fixtures, a framed Fellini film poster and two spacious rooms on the ground floor, the restaurant is more airy and casual than its previous iteration. And Pezzaro says he will soon open an upstairs space, which includes a bar and seating inside and a balcony for al fresco dining.

14 Street 264, Phnom Penh.
Tel. 081 800 210.
Open daily, from 11.30am to 2pm; 5.30pm to 10pm.