The Best Pizza in Saigon

food - Saigon/HCMC: Sept. 17, 2018

Pizza, invented in Italy a long time ago, finally turned up in Ho Chi Minh City. But the forms the popular Italian bread dish adopted when conquering Vietnamese taste buds have changed over time…

For a list of pizzerias or restaurants that serve good pizza in the city, scroll all the way down and be properly amazed.
For my reviews of three different styles of pizza in Ho Chi Minh City, please read on now. But make sure to put some cloth beneath your chin, or you will be drooling all over the place.

The best pizza in Saigon

Origins of Pizza

One of the most famous foods in the world. Scientists have found bread that was baked over 7,000 years ago on the island of Sardinia. Italians created bread with additional ingredients since the neolithic age. The direct predecessor of pizza was the focaccia, while the word pizza itself was first mentioned 997 AD in Gaeta, Italy.

Flower Pizza in Ho Chi Minh City

Pizza in Ho Chi Minh City

I grew up in Austria, just north of Italy and my hometown is also home to several Italian families, who run pizzerias and trattorias, proudly serving the tastiest and most popular dishes of their home country to Austrians and tourists alike.

When I eventually moved to our lovely Saigon, it took several weeks until that too familiar pizza craving took hold of me and I went on the prowl. Nothing was able to hold me, when I hurried out of that dodgy alley at Bui Vien where I used to live upon arrival, and I entered the next best restaurant that claimed to be "Italian".

Well, this questionable experience was the beginning of a journey in search for proper pizza. Worlds apart from chains like Pizza Hut, Domino’s and the like.
I was diving head first into a world as flat as a disc, a world of olives, sausage, chives and peppers. A world where the floor is red like savoury tomato sauce and the trees look like healthy broccoli. A world of soft, melting, fragrant cheese!

Cutting at Espy Pizza

In Pursuit of the Best Pizza in Saigon

Since nobody wants to read my ramblings and cravings we go straight in medias res now and talk about the three shades of pizza in Saigon:

The Original

Pizza originates in Italy and it is not only the taste and presentation that makes a good Italian restaurant, it is also the very special flair. To investigate the primeval pizzeria, I went to La Hostaria on Le Thanh Ton street, where I met Roberto from Rome, who runs the place in a traditional Italian manner.

The Gourmet

While traditionalists stick to recipes handed down for generations, the Japanese soon discovered that creative play with fresh ingredients can increase the joy of eating pizza for many people. 4Ps Pizza in Le Thanh Ton street, where I went to learn more about gourmet pizza, even make their own cheese in Da Lat!

The Colorful

Many Italian natives brought pizza to America, and the Americans adopted and changed the popular dish into a colorful fun experience suitable for the American way of life. Some may call it a snack, I rather call it party pizza. However, I went to Espy Pizza in Cong Quynh street to find out more about New York style pizza.

Original Italian Pizza and Ambience in Saigon

La Hostaria on 17B Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, District 1

Located in the most colorful area of Le Thanh Ton street, we call the area Little Tokyo, you find La Hostaria. The ethnic Italian restaurant is tucked away between hotels and spas and the first thing you see is the huge pizza oven built of red bricks. Two chefs are busy with the creation of appetizing breads.

La Hostaria

I met Roberto from Rome, who runs the place with his team and the second thing I realized right after the oven are the warm and friendly smiles and the good vibes. The staff is relaxed, quite like Roberto himself:

“We maintain a happy work environment, because I spend more time with my staff
than with my family and I didn’t travel 10,000 kilometers to be grumpy.”

And that’s what you feel at the restaurant and taste in the fresh pizza as well. Roberto and I talk about life in Vietnam, the area and family. As you may know, Italians value their family as much as Vietnamese do and I soon felt at home at the cozy place.
La Hostaria exists since 2007 and the main credo is to respect the food, respect the people and have everybody who leaves the restaurant to remember it fondly.

La Hostaria Restaurant

The ingredients for the delicious pizzas, and the marvelous pasta for that matter, are fresh. Vegetables from Da Lat delivered every day, homemade sausages, homemade sauces, homemade bread.
That’s what I love: Sourcing fresh, sourcing local, and doing so with commitment. The few things that La Hostaria can’t source in Vietnam or make in-house, prosciutto for example or authentic parmesan cheese, they import directly from Italy.

The female chef, Francesca, is from Sardinia. Now it is no surprise why the pizza at La Hostaria tastes so delicious: The inhabitants of Sardinia are among those with the longest lifespan in the world. Scientists believe, that this is the case because of the great food in Sardinia and the happy attitude towards life.Hostaria Le Thanh Ton

But Now Let’s Taste Some Authentic Italian Pizza, Shall We?

The most popular pizzas on the menu are the Five Cheese and the Prosciutto di Parma, Rucola e Parmigiano. We decided that the last one is definitely one to try. And the second one I picked was the Delicata.

Prosciutto di Parma, Rucola e Parmigiano

Prosciutto di Parma, Rucola e Parmigiano

This fantastic creation was made with La Hostaria’s speciality, the black bread crust. I will marvel about that later. So, the two pizza chefs who manage the oven, molded the dough masterfully and added the parmesan and other primary ingredients to the pizza, before the heat turned it into a mouthwatering base for the fresh and fragrant rucola, that’s rocket salad, and the air-dried Parma ham. You will say it looks great on the picture, yes? Now the picture is nothing compared to the taste!

Delicata

Delicata

The Delicata is a pizza that comes without tomato sauce, but cream instead. The toppings are cheese, tomatoes and other fresh ingredients, so it meets its name perfectly. The Delicata is 100% delicious.

Black Bread and Other Specialities

Grissini

The homemade black bread dough, and the slices of black baguette that are in the little basket that is included in the meal, are absolutely delicious and unique in Ho Chi Minh City as far as I know. If you want to try something new and you are interested in how the Europeans eat, the black crust is a must.

The People

The customers of La Hostaria are usually foreigners. European and Japanese expats to be more precise. And thanks to the credo of respect and happiness, they keep coming back for more, quite like I do.

One More Thing

Every Thursday is candle night at La Hostaria. The light is lower, flickering candles illuminate the smile of your partner and you can enjoy great pizza and pasta. Perfect for couples.
Especially try the pasta. I had ravioli recently and they were great!

The Japanese Approach to Gourmet Pizza in Saigon

Pizza 4Ps on 8/15 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, District 1

Just four walking minutes away from La Hostaria, tucked away in an alleyway you find Pizza 4Ps with their marvelous pizza creations on the menu. The first thing you notice at the entrance is a lady with a reservation list. Booking a table is necessary at 4Ps, and despite extending the restaurant multiple times over the past four years since the opening, the venue is usually full with pizza lovers.

Pizza 4Ps

Since the owner himself went to Hanoi for opening a second venue up North, I met his wife Sunny and his partner and friend Mr. Takuya, to explore the world of Japanese gourmet pizza.

The credo of 4Ps is “from the farm on the table”, and all the ingredients are sourced as fresh and natural as possible. They even, and that is very dear to me, run a cheese manufactory in Da Lat, where delicious burrata, string cheese, mozzarella and camembert is created from fresh milk. Actually, I need to disclose that now, I am a regular customer for their camembert. The cheese is not only cheaper than French imports, it’s also better.

The Story of Pizza 4Ps

Pizza 4Ps Saigon

The story of this classy pizzeria started long ago with a demanding girlfriend. “I want a pizza.” she said, and her boyfriend replied “Okay, let’s order some at Pizza Hut then.” “No,” she replied “I want a real pizza, like they eat in Italy.”
Now, everyone of us knows what he did then, right? He went into the garden and started building a real, wood-fired pizza oven in his spare time. The making of the oven and the creation of the first pizzas was not just a lot of fun, it also attracted a dedicated circle of friends who turned these “baking events” into a tradition. With time, the demanding girlfriend vanished from the baking circle, but the friendship and love for the flat bread disks with cheese stayed. And finally, somebody had the idea to open up a small pizzeria at the end of an alley in Ho Chi Minh City.

What Does 4Ps Mean?

4Ps stands for “Personal Pizza Platform for Peace”. The idea is that “Delivering Wow & Happiness” to Vietnamese pizza friends, so their contentment and satisfaction is increasing the level of peace in our world. Now, let’s put that to the test and see if eating their pizzas increases my personal level of peace!4Ps Le Thanh Ton

So Let’s Eat some Japanese Gourmet Pizza Now!

For starters I got to investigate the world of cheese with fresh and delicious mozzarella cheese, prepared in the classic Italian way with tomatoes, basil and olive oil. This is actually one of the most famous Italian dishes, since it depicts the Tricolore, the Italian flag with the three colors white, red and green. The second starter is a sample of 4Ps camembert cheese. As I said, I know it already and the fact that I buy this cheese on a weekly basis shows that it’s delicious.

And now for the pizza!

Burrata Prosciutto Pizza

Burrata Pizza, 4Ps, Le Thanh Ton

The most popular bread disc at 4Ps is their Burrata Prosciutto Pizza. Burrata is a bag of mozzarella cheese, filled with cream and mozzarella strings. It is similar to lava cake in the aspect that of you cut it open, the liquid filling comes out. There are rucola, prosciutto and fresh tomatoes as well, and I tell you, it’s absolutely delightful!

Flower Pizza

Flower Pizza

The second pizza I get to try is the Flower Pizza and it’s amazing what you can create with Vietnamese flowers if you put them on a bread instead of in a vase. The tasty dish is made using pumpkin and leek flowers, Tonkin jasmine, daylily and Sesbania. So next time you celebrate an anniversary with your queen, you know where to get some flowers that are not only beautiful, but yummy as well.

The People

Pizza 4Ps focuses mainly on Vietnamese customers, especially those who found their way to escape the attraction of the large fast food chains that are dominating Vietnam and are, quite like you at the moment, after some serious gourmet pizza.

One More Thing

You should really book a table if you want to visit Pizza 4Ps, but if you are after the cheese only, then just waltz in and get some.

New York City Pizza Fun - By The Slice!

Espy Pizza on 154 Cống Quỳnh, Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1

A completely different, yet equally delicious and colorful experience in Saigon is Espy, where friends of original American pizza have gotten their one or two slices of New York style pizza for around two years now. And if you are exceptionally hungry or catering to a party you can take home one of their huge, whole pizza pies, measuring half a meter in diameter. Customized in up to four different styles per pie.

Espy's Wall of Fame :)

I met Khai and Eric, owners of Espy, to learn as much as I can about New York style pizza.
The many Italians that relocated to the USA in the past brought with them their favorite food. And in the new world of taste and cultures, the chefs quickly adapted to their new clientele.

At Espy Pizza, they try to source as local and fresh as possible. They even make their own sausage, and the customers, tourists and regulars alike appreciate it with ordering flavorful variations like Meat Lover, Philly Cheesesteak, BBQ Chicken or Veggie.

The Making Of an American Pizza Pie

Tossing the pizza at Espy, Cong Quynh street

But first, the dough is made and left overnight or even for days, to rise properly and develop the perfect consistency to be pulled, tossed and turned into a perfectly even, thin and crispy crust.
If you take a look at the open kitchen and you are lucky, or have a special appointment like I did, you can see the chef tossing the pizza.

Tomato Sauce

On top of it comes homemade tomato sauce and the toppings pizza friends desire on their tasty slice. The pie is baked on its tray at first, because at a diameter of 50 cm the handling is a bit different than the smaller one-portion pizzas. When it’s baked long enough, it’s baked directly on the stone plate to get its perfectly crispy crust.

New York Style

Let’s try a slice of authentic New York style pizza!

We decided to make one pie with four different sections and I ate a nice slice of the “Supreme” quarter, sprinkled lightly with the homemade chili oil that is offered next to the register.

A slice of deliciousness and cheese

The only way to eat a huge slice like this using your hands is to fold it up. Fortunately there is a colorful illustration on the wall, depicting an exact step-by-step guide how it’s done the American way.

The People

The customers of Espy are international pizza lovers. Backpackers from the area, expats from all over the city and Vietnamese pizza lovers. During the time I was there, several people entered and it was obvious that they are returning customers. “Hey, what’s ready today?” or something like that was the most asked question, voiced in a merry tone.

Espy's Pizza

Espy Pizza is a cheerful, colorful venue and one of the must-visits in the backpacker’s area of Saigon. The bulletin board on the ground floor shows many excited reviews and pictures of happy people about to enjoy their slice.

One More Thing

Check out their combos and promotions, that are prominently displayed on the menu and include pizza as well as salads and other American dishes.

Conclusion

On my quest to find the best pizza in Saigon, I discovered more than just a flat bread with sauce and cheese on top.

I found authentic values, commitment, creative ideas, great people and hard work.
I explored the various shades of pizza to shed some light on the differences between Italian, Japanese and American style of pizza baking in Vietnam. The three venues I chose to visit and present as an example are among the best pizzerias of their kind in the city and I can recommend each one of them warmly.

La Hostaria in Ho Chi Minh City

List of Pizzerias in Ho Chi Minh City

Now that we know everything about our three categories of pizza, where else can we get one of the delicious flat breads with their fragrant toppings?

  • Espy Pizza - 154 Cống Quỳnh, Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1
  • Pizza 4Ps - 8/15 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, District 1
  • La Hostaria - 17B Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé, District 1
  • Basilico (InterContinental) - Le Duan X Hai Bà Trưng, Bến Nghé, District 1
  • Geisha Café - 85 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, District 1
  • La Cucina (Crescent Mall) - 103 Tôn Dật Tiên, Tân Phú, District 7
  • Buzza Pizza - 5-7-9 Nguyễn Trung Trực, Bến Thành, District 1
  • The Long (Times Square) - 22-36 Nguyen Hue, Bến Nghé, District 1
    Try their pizza+drink promotion at a reasonable price! Also their Italian chef, Giovanni, was named as a great cook during my research. Got to check that out.
  • La Bettola - 84 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Bến Nghé, District 1
  • Vittorio - 137 Bùi Viện, Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1
  • Pendolasco - 87 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, District 1
  • Ciao Bella - 11 Đông Du, Bến Nghé, District 1
  • Casa Italia - 86 Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, District 1
    Try the salmon pizza there, office rumor has it that it’s delicious!
  • Chef Mamma's - A43 Trường Sơn, Phường 4, Tân Bình District
    Thanks Bert for your comment, added Chef Mamma's to the list.

Local insight:

Did you actually know, that there is a mathematical theorem called the “Pizza Theorem”? It’s about slicing a disc in a certain way that resembles the way we slice our favorite bread discs.
Just look it up if you are into maths!

The almighty crust

What is Your Favorite Pizza in Ho Chi Minh City?

Okay, and since you went and tried one, some, or even all of the pizzerias I suggested, I’d be happy if you would leave a comment, naming your personal favorite, add your own experience or challenge my opinion.