Lockdown was an arduous time for those of us who are dedicated to Vietnam’s food culture. It only took one try at fighting our way through the masked crowds of Vinmart to prove that the blue plastic stool stands and the wide array of restaurants lining every street across this city are the true heart and soul of Hanoi. Sitting at one of the many curbside eateries enables one to feel linked to the capital’s chaotic lifestyle. Lockdown prompted the question: what defines a food culture when its gates are closed?"
Forever a topic of heated discussion across the popular Hanoi Facebook groups, the search for the ultimate delivery pizza had become even more critical as our usually bustling city ground to a halt.
As the weeks continued, Hanoi’s inhabitants turned to their favorite comfort foods to bolster the mood during an otherwise stressful time. Plates of Hanoi found new local favorites on GrabFood to keep our Vietnamese cravings satisfied, but we were not immune to the grumblings of our lonely (and bored) socially-isolated stomachs.
Forever a topic of heated discussion across the popular Hanoi Facebook groups, the search for the ultimate delivery pizza had become even more critical as our usually bustling city ground to a halt. Opinions were lobbed back and forth with no true resolution in sight. Recommendations ranged from the well known to the local pie joints, but who among us was ready to take on the duty of naming the Best Delivery Pizza in Hanoi?
We at Plates of Hanoi could not let this challenge go unanswered. Lockdown may be (and will hopefully remain) behind us, but good pizza is forever.
“The greasy remains of other people’s pizzas prompted my journey to understanding a slice in its fundamental state.”
The call for the shouldering of this responsibility was put out to our remaining friends who had not jumped on the last flights out of Vietnam. The ones we found have strong opinions and arguably sufficient note-taking abilities and were willing to sacrifice their quarantine bods to our carb loading requirements. Our reviewers were:
Corrin: Committed ex-New Yorker and previous award-winning assistant cheesemaker. “I have eaten the best pizza in the world. A New York City slice has literally no rival. Think I’m wrong? Come at me, bro.”
Stephanie: Determined annual birthday pizza-eater… long past the age that pizza birthday parties were deemed age-appropriate. “Pizza has become a delicious reminder of my impending death. And probably will partly be the cause of it.”
Sophie: Expert stylist and founder of the blog Hip & Wholesome. “If the pizza doesn’t present itself beautifully, it doesn’t belong in your body.”
Katie: Analytical carb eater and previous teenage dishwasher at Lorenzo’s in Ponteland, England. “The greasy remains of other people’s pizzas prompted my journey to understanding a slice in its fundamental state.”
At 8:00p.m. on a Friday night, three delivery people on motorbikes simultaneously arrived outside the building gate. They all eyed each other, suspiciously, as we stepped onto the street in face masks, checking our emailed receipts and doling out payments to each one in exchange for cardboard pizza boxes of various sizes. Their job finished, motorbikes and drivers vanished into the night. The revving engines reverberated in tandem down the eerily empty street.
After carrying our teetering pile of pizzas up five flights of stairs to the Plates of Hanoi office, we arranged them on the kitchen counter and passed out real plates, because we are nothing if not perfectionists about our pizza consumption. Categories and rating procedures had been arduously predetermined, and as we opened the first box we steeled ourselves for the delicate task ahead.
People of Hanoi, we give you: Round 1 of The Plates of Hanoi Search for Hanoi's Best Delivery Pizza.
Paolo & Chi
Pizza Prosciutto E Funghi (150k VND for size medium)
Crust 3/5 Sauce 3.5/5 Topping 3/5 Appearance/Smell 4/5 Overall 3/5
Paolo & Chi almost created a permanent rift in our group of judges. At first sight, not all of us were happy with the pie we were presented with. “It’s a bit orange...” said Katie, tearing off a slice. Our rankings spread from second place to fourth, and even the category ratings varied across the experts’ score sheets.
We appreciated that the base was neither too thick nor limp, but the crust was so smooth that Corrin said, “It looks like plastic.” There was an even distribution of toppings and plenty of them, but for being the significantly smallest pizza of the night, it didn’t feel like much of a bargain. Plus, Corrin continued, poking at a bit of prosciutto, “This tastes like the ham that comes in a Lunchables.”
With imported ingredients and pizza that is served to your door as soon as it comes out of the oven, they kindly request that you stop drunkenly falling asleep before the delivery person arrives.
Paulo & Chi’s known status as one of the few late-night pizza delivery spots in Tay Ho is what has given this restaurant an avid following since its beginnings. The founder, Chi, began the restaurant in 2011. At that time, Chi remembers, not many western-style restaurants were open past 10:30 p.m. As Chi first started making pizza, word spread from friend to friend, and since then he has been serving pizza until 2:30 a.m. to the late-night masses. Chi says, “Pizzas are our top selling [menu items]. The flavor is inspired by the famous, original Italian-style pizzas.” With imported ingredients and pizza that is served to your door as soon as it comes out of the oven, they kindly request that you stop drunkenly falling asleep before the delivery person arrives.
Quattro formaggi pizza (165K VND)
Crust 3/5 Sauce 2.5/5 Topping 4/5 Appearance/Smell 4/5 Overall 3.5/5
The fragrant smell of blue cheese hit us as soon as we opened the Daluva delivery box. Our mouths were watering before the slice even hit our plates, but we shortly discovered this is a pizza that is best eaten... immediately. Within a few minutes, the pizza settled and the thick, stiff crust had become a point of contention. “It reminds me of the crust you would find on a frozen pizza,” said Sophie.
“I would eat this pizza sober.”
The owner of Daluva told us the pizza chef is “always researching and is passionate about working with flour.” Corrin, the American at the table, said she didn’t hate it. “It reminds me of pizza you find across the U.S. It’s definitely not authentic, but if I bought it with a discount coupon, I’d think it’s not bad.”
Katie paused her self-appointed task of trying to individually taste all four cheeses and declared, “It has a good sauce-to-cheese ratio. It’s a well balanced pizza.” But still, a major disappointment for all of the judges was the sauce. We found it way too sweet, even for our Vietnam-adjusted palettes. Sophie and Katie’s opinion of this pizza weakened as the night stretched on, but at the end of the tasting Corrin still said, “I would eat this pizza sober.”
Veggie pizza (170K VND)
Crust 3.5/5 Sauce 3.5/5 Topping 3/5 Appearance/Smell 3.5/5 Overall 3.5/5
Crust Pizza, the second late-night delivery option in our lineup, is a pizza that none of us had actually consumed while sober. Straight out of the box, we were all more than slightly unnerved by the pie’s appearance. “It looks kind of like a fake toy pizza,” said Katie, peering at it over the rim of the box. “All the veggies are perfectly placed… I don’t know if that's a bad or a good thing.” As it turned out, none of us did.
The smattering of cheese did little to keep our taste buds entertained, but the pastes were a huge hit.
Corrin stated that the pizza looked like what a 90’s video game graphics team would have modeled a pixelated pie on. It was generously covered in veggies but they were shriveled and overcooked. With the abundance of toppings, we were surprised to discover that what this pizza was lacking in most was: flavor.
Luckily, Crust makes up for this by including homemade fermented chili paste and homemade jalapeños with every delivery. The smattering of cheese did little to keep our taste buds entertained, but the pastes were a huge hit. Katie voiced a major complaint that Crust doesn’t provide a larger serving with each pie.
Crust uses fermented dough for their pizza, and though supposedly famous, we found it as dull as we did the other pie components. As Stephanie said, “The crust isn’t as good as the name suggests.” Hers was left unfinished on her plate.
Half Milano Salami & Chorizo/Half Eggplant Margherita (206K VND)
Crust 4/5 Sauce 4.5/5 Toppings 4.5/5 Appearance/Smell 5/5 Overall 4.5/5
The first mark against Pizza 4P’s was waiting an hour and fifteen minutes for it to arrive. The now-international chain only recently began their delivery campaign as a way to compensate for the recent lockdown, and they certainly have been struggling with it. This is a pizza that is best eaten directly from the brick oven, and the company has been attempting to help customers recreate that experience at home. In the company’s founder’s classic Japanese style, an obnoxiously cute “reheating kit” was included in the box, but after waiting so long for a lone delivery pizza we ditched the tinfoil and prepared ourselves to be underwhelmed.
“It tastes like luxury,” said Sophie as she licked a speck of sauce off her fork. “Eating this makes you feel like you’re not in Hanoi.”
Opening the box, we unanimously “oohed” in appreciation over the gorgeous presentation. Katie, eyeing the pie suspiciously, hesitantly offered, “That looks like a proper Italian pizza.” The pizza was evenly covered in toppings and both meat and vegetarian halves were equally flavorful. All of the judges adored the balsamic-y glaze coating the marinated eggplant.
As for the encouraged reheating: the crust, though delicious, certainly was soft. If we had followed instructions (which have even been presented with an amusing video campaign on the company’s social media pages), we would have steamed the pizza on the stove using tinfoil and a pan. But although the toppings were slopping off the unstable base, it still was the best crust we tasted all night. “It tastes like luxury,” said Sophie as she licked a speck of sauce off her fork. “Eating this makes you feel like you’re not in Hanoi.” Real Italian pizza is meant to be eaten with a fork and knife… right? Whatever, we’re going with it. As their mission declares, Pizza 4P’s still is “delivering wow”, albeit a slightly soggy one.
Winner: Factoring in price, delivery time, and overall taste, we have to hand Round 1 of Hanoi’s Best Delivery Pizza to the Quattro Formaggi Pizza from Daluva’s. It may have its faults, but given the knowledge that any pizza ordered for delivery in this city will be immediately scarfed down straight from the box (and usually accompanied by a Bia Hà Nội), this pizza provides flavor and delivers exactly what it claims to be.