It's pizza o’clock in expat-favourite Tuol Tumpoung, and guests of Pizza CUTe are already devouring their slices and washing them down with a cold glass of beer.
Pizza CUTe, a venture of two Italian entrepreneurs, opened only a few months ago, but it has already made a name for itself as one of the best places to savour the beloved Italian dish in Phnom Penh.
The restaurant is cozy and simple in its decor, and boasts a fine selection of Italian dishes, from staples like pepperoni pizza to rarer items like panzerotti, a savory turnover similar to a calzone but smaller. The kitchen is managed by an Italian cook.
One of the satisfied customers this afternoon is Vanessa Iriniglia, who has been travelling in the Kingdom since December. After sampling the dish in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, she says Pizza CUTe’s pizza is hands-down the best.
“After travelling around Asia, I think this is the best pizza ever. It’s very nice and home-made. It’s like what you would find in Italy,” Iriniglia says, noting that the eatery has excellent cheese.
Iriniglia says Pizza CUTe’s menu is very affordable, an opinion echoed by Chin Nana, a customer from Prey Veng province.
“Considering the quality of the ingredients, I don’t think this is expensive at all,” says Nana. “I like it because it is healthy food. All the ingredients used to make these pizzas are healthy.”
Although she generally favours Cambodian cuisine, if she feels like Western food, she often chooses Pizza CUTe. She says the eatery is a great place to grab a beer with friends and enjoy good food.
“What keeps me coming back is the delicious pizza and the good atmosphere. I often come with my friends for a good chit-chat and to enjoy the food,” she says, adding that, “I particularly like the salami pizza. It’s perfect.”
Italian customer Luca Boggio, a resident of Phnom Penh that works remotely for a US company, says today he’ll be having a panzerotti.
“It tastes just like back home. They use quality ingredients from Italy, but the pizza is not expensive,” says Boggio, who has been in Cambodia for eight years. The design is “simple, but nice,” he points out.
Pizza CUTe is the creation of Andrea Salvatico and Alessandro Passanante, two Italian entrepreneurs with a long history in the hospitality and F&B businesses.
Salvatico, a 54-year-old from Genova, has a master’s degree in hotel management earned in Rome and 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
He has spent the last nine summers navigating the Mediterranean Sea aboard a luxury yacht where he works as a manager. In the summers, he lives in Sihanoukville’s Otres Beach, where he owns a house.
“Then I met Alessandro Passanante, who is an expert pizzamaker,” he says.
Hailing from the town of Torino, Passanante, 40, learned the art of making pizza from an Italian master in Otres Beach.
“Andrea and I decided to move to Phnom Penh six months ago after the recent massive Chinese invasion of Sihanoukville,” Passanante tells The Post.
Together they opened Pizza CUTe in October last year, serving a wide selection of pizzas, pasta dishes, cold cuts, salads, and paninis, among other Italian favourites, all priced $5-$20. Pasta options include ravioli, gnocchi, and spaghetti.
“Pizza CUTe offers the only real Italian pizza in Phnom Penh for now. The dough is more important than the toppings. People love our bases, which are highly digestible. This is our secret,” Salvatico says as he goes around the bar to salute guests.
“You can come to grab a quick snack or you can sit down and enjoy a proper Italian pizza. Of course, you can also get takeaway or get your order delivered home,” he says.
The eatery’s name is a reference to a specific variety of pizza.
“The name ‘Pizza CUTe’ has been on my mind for a couple of years. It comes from the word ‘cut’, because what I originally wanted to do was open a shop offering pizza by the slice. In Italy, this is called ‘pizza al taglio’, literally ‘pizza cut’.”
“Then we added the ‘e’ to make the name more appealing to young Cambodians,” he said.
Their customers are mostly tourists as well as teachers and NGO workers living in Phnom Penh, Salvatico says.
Star dishes are the burrata with three different kinds of tomato, handmade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, and potato gnocchi with four kinds of cheese, he says.
They can be accompanied by any of their 10 Italians wines, he notes.
“Pizza CUTe is a modern pizzeria; it is not exactly what people have in mind when they think of the traditional restaurants in Italy,” he says.
Salvatico says the reception has so far been very positive. “My plan now is to grow the Pizza CUTe brand. I want to open a new outlet in Phnom Penh.”
Pizza CUTe is located on Street 450, Tuol Tompoung, Phnom Penh. It opens 11am-10pm every day. For more information, visit their Facebook page @pizzacutecambodia or call 078 790 679.