The 32-year-old, who runs an Italian restaurant in Hue, noticed Vietnamese diners always ask if the restaurant has ketchup or hot sauce when eating pizza.
“We usually eat pizza without adding any sauce because it already has enough seasoning. I was surprised when customers asked for ketchup or hot sauce, which our restaurant didn’t have. Later, I bought them to meet customer demand,” Cortinovis said.
The Italian chef added pizza in Vietnam has a wider variety of toppings such as beef, chicken and pineapple. Before opening a restaurant in Hue, Cortinovis used to live in Ho Chi Minh City for a year.
“I guess there are many restaurants in Vietnam that make American-style pizzas with many types of toppings on the crust. I prefer the traditional recipe, and if anyone doesn’t like it, I will try to explain to them more about Italian cuisine,” he said.
In addition, Cortinovis noticed Vietnamese do not usually eat pizza right after it is served but often chat and eat other dishes first.
“The pizza must be eaten right away because it is still hot and a bit crunchy after getting out of the oven,” he noted.
A pizza at Marvin Lorenzo Cortinovis’s restaurant in Hue Town in central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.
Another difference noticed by the chef involves drinks. Normally in Italy, diners eat pizza with beer, wine or sparkling water. “I find it interesting that Vietnamese order drinks like smoothies, tea, and juices during meals. We usually don’t serve those drinks in Italian restaurants,” he said.
Cortinovis was also surprised to see Vietnamese always sharing their meals.
“In Europe, each person has their own portion and they don’t share it. For example, if I order a portion of pasta, it is only for me. But Vietnamese customers want to share their plates of pasta. It was difficult to explain it to them though now I got used to it.”
For Cortinovis, the purpose of opening a restaurant is not only for the money, but also to introduce traditional Italian cuisine to Vietnamese.
Despite the differences, he finds both cultures very interesting and appreciates them. “I have learned a lot while working with the kitchen assistant and serving customers,” he said.