Since fall 2016 Ho Chi Minh City’s Pizza lovers have a new choice in town when it comes to some traditional made wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza — “Italiani’s Pizza” opened its gates in the heart of the City at the busy roundabout intersecting Lý Tự Trọng, Nguyễn Trãi and Cách mạng tháng Tám.
The location is — in a very interesting contrast to the characteristic rustical wooden style of the interior of the venue — also the home of Vietnam’s first Bitcoin ATM ( operated by Team BitcoinVN which runs Vietnam’s oldest Online Bitcoin Exchange) which has been launched in the same year; allowing customers to buy and sell the nowadays infamous digital currency.
Opened by the two young Vietnamese entrepreneurs “Kevin” Hung Bui (28 yrs) and “Ariel” Le Nguyen Thao Nguyen (27 yrs) the two succeeded in delivering their customers such memorable food delights, that they were able to expand Italiani’s to their second location in Hàn Thuyên (which also houses another Bitcoin ATM) in 2017.
Q: Ariel — you both studied abroad and returned to Vietnam and decided to launch “Italiani’s”. A rather unusual choice — given that opening a restaurant is usually not seen as a common career step for somebody who graduated at a Business school abroad. So — what is your story and how did the idea for Italiani’s come about?
A: Well, I was working an office job, then I met Kevin. He wanted to open a restaurant business; and I had always wanted to run my own business. We are young, so why not? It is a tough business, but a pretty easy one to get into.
Q: What makes a really good pizza?
A: It all comes down to getting the basic elements right — you start with the perfect dough, then the top quality tomatoes & fresh mozzarella, & nothing beats the intense heat and smoky flavour that comes from a proper wood-burning oven.
Q: Your location is also hosting Vietnam’s longest operating Bitcoin ATM. You basically inherited the machine from the previous location owner. Was it the first time you ever got in touch with Bitcoin — and how did your personal views on Bitcoin change since then?
A: Yes, it was my first time. Then I started talking more to my friends and customers about it; I realized many people were interested or already invested in it. I am not sure if it will ever truly become a currency; but the Blockchain technology behind digital currency is quite fascinating.
Q: The quality of service and the strong focus on providing your customers with a pleasant culinary experience apparently are showing positive results. You were able to expand Italiani’s to one more location in HCMC over the past two years. How did you manage the common challenge for restaurant owners to keep up the same quality standards across various locations — and given that you mastered this expansion so far: Do you have plans to even expand the Italiani’s brand to further locations?
A: It is important that you fill your restaurant with the people you trust. Every staff member, regardless of their position, contributes in some way to the overall customer experience. So I am all about hiring the best staff we could. Yes of course we would love to further expand our business; but we also do not want to rush into anything. We will expand when the time is right.
Q: What is the most memorable positive experience you had so far in over two years operating Italiani’s?
A: One thing I love about running a restaurant is that you get to serve and talk to many different people from different paths of life. Many became our friends because they love our foods so much. When we first opened, there were two Italian guys who spent a few months in Vietnam on a business trip. They just happened to stumbled upon our restaurant; and they visited almost everyday. Before they left for Italy, they got our staff uniforms as souvenirs and gave us a bottle of Italian wine. It was so nice to feel such love from our customers.
If you feel hungry now ( or simply want to buy some Bitcoins ) — Italiani’s at Lý Tự Trọng 290 is opened from 11 AM to 1 AM, while Italiani’s Hàn Thuyên is open from 11 AM to 10 PM.
Italiani’s also provides Delivery service for their entire menu!