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Pizza Cones points to global integration

Update: February, 01/2015 - 16:51
Quick and cheesy:Pizza cones are available in flavours like seafood and chicken mushroom.

For diners who feel that previous pizzas fell flat, this Vietnamese fast food franchise offers a convenient solution. Annalise Frank reports.

When Le Thi Bich and her husband Nguyen Chi Nghiem travelled to Taiwan, they came upon a fast food restaurant serving pizza cones.

"Taiwanese flavours are very strong," said Bich, 31. "They only had one flavour: Chicken and cucumber. But it had a lot of spices."

Bich and Nghiem "loved" the fast-food pizza adaptation and decided to bring it back to Viet Nam - but they changed the spices to suit Vietnamese tastes.

The couple has two children and wanted an opportunity to build a family business in the restaurant sector. This was their chance.

The trend of making pizzas in cone form caught on in Europe and the US more than a year ago, and has spread to a few Asian countries. But Pizza Cones was the first to introduce it to Viet Nam, Nghiem said.

The couple opened their first restaurant last March in Ha Noi and has since expanded to eight locations, including four in Ha Noi, one in Ha Long City and one in HCM City run by Nghiem's brother, Nguyen Chi Nghia, 38.

Tea and fries: Diners can pair their cones with French fries or sweet tea.

Pizza cones are generally made by hand in Italy, Nghiem said. It takes about an hour. But Taiwan's adaptation, using a machine, shapes the dough in 17 seconds. Pizza Cones uses similar machines.

"Around the world, pizza has been known as a slow food, but we changed the concept, made it fast - fast like KFC or something," said Nghia, who was up in Ha Noi for a visit.

After the speedy dough-shaping process, Bich and Nghiem stuff the pizza ingredients in and bake the cones for 5 to 7 minutes. Served in a wrapper on a plastic stand, the cones were hot, dripping with cheese and ready to be eaten on the go. I visited the original restaurant, a small, purple-and-green hole-in-the-wall in Hai Ba Trung District.

Waffle dogs: These "waffles"contain hot dogs.

I chose the chicken mushroom sauce pizza cone and my friend had the seafood pizza cone - both customers' favourites, according to Nghia.

The first bite started with crunchy crust and ended with a mouthful of chicken, mushroom, mozzarella and a white alfredo-style sauce. That was my favourite bite. The cone was crispy, and the cheese on top was bubbling and brown.

The ingredients tasted fresh. The product was plain, devoid of any complex flavours, but in that satisfying, warm, comforting way - like a plain croissant or a grilled cheese.

My cone paired well with the restaurant's most popular drink, a fruity hong tra (pink tea) that goes for VND19,000 (US$0.9) and is actually pretty orange. It's the classic sweet and salty combo, reminiscent of grabbing pizza and a Coca-Cola at a bowling alley or diner back in the US. The French fries also tasted like standard diner fare.

Pizza Cones

Address: 148b Bui Thi Xuan, Ha Noi, Viet Nam

Tel: 093 680 06 55

Price Range: VND50,000-65,000

Comment: Name says it all

The family-run business opens at 9am and closes at 11pm.

In addition to pizza cones (VND29,000 each), they also serve hot dogs wrapped in waffle cones (VND19,000), spaghetti (VND39,000), several variations on fried chicken and French fries (VND15,000-25,000) and salads (VND19,000-29,000).

Pizza Cones started serving their waffle-wrapped hot dogs, a strange but oddly fitting addition to the menu, six months ago. Nghiem and his wife wanted a new, exciting product to bring in more customers.

"In Ha Noi they really like French food," Nghia said.

"So they (the couple) went to search for a new product and found the ice cream cone hot dog."

Then, around Christmas, Pizza Cones debuted a new line of sandwiches, called Bear Paws, made with bear-paw-shaped wheat and rice flour buns. Customers can choose their bun flavour - plain, chocolate or green tea - and their fillings - beef, chicken or fish. — VNS


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