It is a measure of just how cosmopolitan Saigon has become in the last decade that the question of what are the best pizzas in town is actually one worth asking.
These days the debate over which outlet does the crispiest crust and provides the tastiest toppings is as vociferous and noisy as the clamour of a gang of cyclo drivers fighting over a lone, bemused tourist.
In common with most countries outside Italy, there are two schools of thought among Saigon’s pizza makers. Some prefer to go down the authentic Neapolitan route of crispy thin crusts, judicious use of cheese and simple, fresh and often gourmet toppings. Others adhere to the less refined American approach, with weighty calorie-fest that compensate in girth for what they lack in subtlety.
As far as this aesthetics-obsessed Europhile (that’s me by the way) is concerned, the former will always trump over the latter. So for my money, the best venue in town is Scoozi. A compact open-air venue in a secluded corner of Downtown, this restaurant generally makes exemplary use of its oven, which is said to have been imported directly from Milan. Bases are thin and crispy, but with enough inherent chew to avoid being brittle. If you are in town on a Sunday evening, the two for one pizza offer here is a particularly winning bargain.
Other Italianate venues of note include La Braceria and La Hostaria, both on Le Thanh Ton Street. The former prides itself on its authenticity and is in possession of a wood-fired oven. Hefty portions of cheese, however, tend to be applied, which might not be to the taste of real pizza purists. The latter is one of city’s best-established Italian restaurants and its pizzas are suitably solid. A word of warning however – key ingredients are often absent, as witnessed by a recent experience I had with a Capricciosa missing artichoke hearts and olives.
For those who prefer American-style pies, choice tends to trump over quality. Having said that, the offerings at Jaspas are generally pretty decent. The Australian-owned mini-chain of bistros, with venues on Dong Khoi and just off Hai Ba Trung, like to go hard on portion-sizes and their pizzas come loaded with sauce, cheese and toppings. They may not be the way mama used to make them but they are very tasty nonetheless. Other options for American-style pizza include the cheap and cheerful Pepperonis and Zoom Café, both in the backpacker ghetto around Pham Ngu Lao. Oh, and there’s always Pizza Hut.