Peter Cornish samples the wares of an Italian-trained Vietnamese piazzaiolo. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
On the corner of the Dien Binh Phu and Hai Ba Trung junction is a funky little pizza and beer joint serving up deliciously different pizza and some of the city’s best craft beer.
Opened a little over a year ago by Vy Nguyen, Pizza & Bia has made a name for itself among residents of District 3 and Phu Nhuan who stop off to grab a beer and a bite.
It’s not a large place, and about half the area is taken up by the open kitchen where you can watch your pizza being prepared and cooked while enjoying a cold beer.
The turn-around time from order to served is about 15 minutes, perfect timing for finishing your beer and ordering a fresh one to accompany your pizza.
Vy is a qualified pizzaiolo and knows her stuff. While living in Indonesia some years ago she made a trip to Italy and became fascinated by the way pizza is made, impressed by the tossing and whirling of the dough. She had been running cooking classes at home for some time and always dreamed of one day opening her own restaurant.
She returned to Italy two years later and enrolled at the International Culinary School, signing up for 12-hour days to become their first, fully-trained Vietnamese pizzaiolo. And the proof is in the pudding, er, pizza. There are 13 different pizzas on the menu with some quickly recognisable, like the classic Madam Margherita (9” VND145,000/12” VND215,000) with mozzarella, Neapolitan tomato sauce and fresh basil, or The Pepperoni (9” VND175,000/12” VND265,000), with spicy sliced Italian pepperoni, mozzarella and more tomato sauce.
But Vy also likes mixing it up a little. There’s The Quiet American for the meat lovers (9” VND185,000/12” VND275,000) smothered with ground beef, more Italian pepperoni, ham, pancetta and mozzarella, or the Apocalypse Wow (9” VND185,000/12” VND275,000), with Italian pepperoni, jalapenos, chilli, red capsicum, moozzarella and tomato sauce.
But what is really blowing people away is the Banh Mi Pizza (9” VND175,000/12” VND265,000) with the tastes of your favourite banh mi from the lunch lady around the corner. Piled with pork belly pieces, pickled carrot and daikon, fresh coriander, sliced cucumber, spicy mayo sauce, mozzarella and a soy sesame vinaigrette. Sounds a little weird perhaps but believe me, you’ll love it!
Also on the menu is Madam Vy’s lettuce, cherry tomato and parmesan salad (VND115,000), a generously laden mixed cheese and cold cuts platter (VND225,000) and if you’ve got room for dessert there is affogato (VND85,000) vanilla ice-cream with hot Italian espresso or affogato Frangelico (VND135,000) with Frangelico wine. Delicious!
There’s Heart of Darkness on tap with pours starting from VND105,000, and bottled East West from VND95,000. Te Te White Ale comes in at VND120,000 for a bottle and imports such as Flying Monkey from Canada start at VND140,000 or Anderson Valley from California start off at VND160,000.