Pizza restorante serves up a slice of Italy
|Catch of the day: Restorante Italia is a popular meeting point for foreigners, expats and local people in Hai Duong.- — Photo italia.vn
Festooned with classy artwork and the green, white and red of Italy's famous flag, Restorante Italia has the substance to match its style, with an enticing array of Italian classics on the menu. Khanh Chi reports.
The dazzling blitz of green, white and red that adorned the front of the three storey building immediately caught my eyes as I was riding down Pham Hung Street in Hai Duong City one day. It reminded me of Italy's national flag, the country known far and wide for its pizza, pasta and other tasty dishes.
As I got closer I saw that it was a restaurant and to me the name, Restorante Italia, says it all.
Without a second thought, I pulled in and decided that I would fill my empty stomach with a real Italian style pizza, No 1 on my list of favourite foods. I have never been to Italy, so whenever a friend or colleague returns from a trip there, the first question I ask them is, "how was the pizza?"
As I was passing the door, I stopped to look up at a big, embossed boot stuck high up on the wall above the reception desk facing the entrance, and to my surprise, the red boot was dotted all over with Italian place names.
After choosing a table and taking a look through the extensive menu that included Italian and European dishes, I went for a cheese pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella and other cheeses.
While waiting for my lunch, I decided to entertain myself by taking a "tour" of the restaurant, from the ground floor to the top. It was only 10.30am in the morning so I appeared to be their first customer. I was glad that "my tour" would not disturb any customers eating and the staff were really obliging.
The cosy atmosphere is complemented by lots of pictures featuring Italian culture, with two really big oil paintings of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and traditional Venetian Masks hanging on the walls by the staircase leading upstairs. I particularly liked the idea of tucking away the toilets in a small, red tiled building inside the main building.
I returned to Restorante Italia a second time during a field trip I was making to Hai Duong Province with a group of friends from Italy, who were on their way to the World Heritage site at Ha Long Bay in nearby Quang Ninh Province.
|Everything covered: Artichoke salad and vegetarian pizza form part of the extensive menu including Italian and European dishes. - VNS Photo Khanh Chi
My craving for pizza never stops and we all agreed to stop and have pizzas along with a few other dishes. We had the cheese and tomato pizza, VND180,000 (US$8.5) for a large one, a large seafood pizza, also for VND180,000 and a large vegetarian pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh seasonal vegetables for VND170,000 ($8).
Before the pizzas were served, we indulged ourselves with some cold drinks and a special starter, as recommended by the restaurant's owner, Juergen Eichhorn, then we ordered antipasto all'Italiana at VND265,000 ($12.5) a plate from a long list of cold entree's.
"If customers have the time and want to enjoy something special, we offer this, a traditional taste from northern Italy," said Eichhorn, pointing at a dish on the menu.
"It's a selection of cold cuts of Italian meats, combined with fresh homemade bread... pork, beef or lamb, depending on the individuals religion or taste," he added.
Needless to say, when the cold cuts were served up in front of us, we all gasped "Wow!"
|Tasty entree: Antipasto alla Italiana is a highly recommended starter with cold cuts of Italian meat and filled fresh bread slices. - Photo italia.vn
The appealing, finely arranged pork and bread slices adorned with a small salad and a mixture of bread and eggs boiled in a vegetarian soup, resulted in us using our forks and knifes straight away but at the same time, it was a shame to spoil such a delightful arrangement.
We were then served our pizzas with an artichoke salad (VND120,000, $5.7), which combined salted artichoke, olives, fresh rocket, sliced tomato and cheese with a selection of olive oils and fruit vinegars.
"Great! the fresh mozzarella is fantastic," my friend Lisa exclaimed after her first bite.
"It's the true taste of an Italian pizza. I feel like I have been transported back to Italy."
"It sounds ridiculous to be eating Italian food here in Viet Nam rather than Vietnamese food, but I do like to find out what other foods from across the world taste like."
From the very first sight and bite of our food, as well as my previous experience, I knew we had made the perfect choice on a rainy summer day.
The light dough produced a thin and crusty base and the toppings were very tasty and well seasoned. We finished our lunch leaving nothing but empty plates.
Although the others felt too full for dessert, I decided to go for a pancake filled with ice-cream. Topped with some hot chocolate sauce and some sliced fresh strawberries, the taste of the hot pancake combined with ice-cream was superb and absolutely delicious.
"We follow traditional Italian culinary tastes, with the best blends of European food and dishes," said Eichhorn, a German.
"We import the main products like the pasta, tomatoes, flour and so on from Italy. For instance, Pelati tomatoes are a special Italian variety and the only way to make a real good pizza or pasta."
Eichhorn said that he was proud that Restorante Italia, which opened in 2010, is a popular meeting points for foreigners, expats and local people in Hai Duong. Foreign guests make up to 65 per cent of the restaurant's clientele.
According to Eichhorn, among the 200 dishes, 40 of which are vegetarian, Restorante Italia offers homemade pasta and pizza, steak in a range of different sauces, many fish dishes and on request a BBQ, as well as German and other European dishes such as Hungarian Goulash, German pork knuckles and many more. — VNS
Add: 1 Pham Hung St, Thanh Binh Ward, Hai Duong City
Tel: +84 (0) 320 3894894
Price: VND100,000 - 300,000 ($4.8-14)
Comments: lovely surroundings and wonderful food. Why not have a BBQ with the best meat ever?