With a menu chock full of traditional delicacies, since its grand opening a year ago, the Wood Fired Pizza K’Be pizzeria has been inviting guests to swing by and experience a slice of Vietnam in every bite.
The eatery, located at the foot of Lang Biang Mountain is already being considered one of Da Lat’s finest places to pick up a slice on the go— with tourists crowding around the counter during lunch and dinner.
James Reelick, the company’s proprietor and former herbologist from Connecticut, opened the modest pizzeria in 2007 after first discovering Lang Biang Mountain on a hiking trip.
In addition to fresh cheeses, his toppings include vegetables grown on farms not far from the pizza shop scattered across the mountain and surrounding region with its temperate climate.
“All the ingredients for pizza in the shop are purchased from K’Ho ethnic group farmers, ensuring the quality and taste is authentically Vietnamese,” said James Reelick’s wife and co proprietor, Ms Lien.
Mr Reelick’s holistic approach to pizza is reminiscent of farm-to-table enterprises in Europe and the United States, which is a rarity in Vietnam.
The key to the Reelick’s success appears to lie in a technical precision honed during his previous career as a herbologist, coupled with a quixotic instinct to engineer the perfect pizza experience.
The overall goal is “delivering wow and happiness,” Mr Reelick, 54, said and the important thing is attention to detail.
“While many pizzeria owners focus heavily on secret sauces, the Wood Fired Pizza K’Be makes an amazing statement with simplicity and its wood fired ovens.”
Mr Reelick is a self-described ‘pizza maniac’ with a passion for cooking who said he developed a particular fondness for the dish after learning how to build a wood-fired pizza oven at a Sun Valley resort in Idaho.
In 2007 shortly after moving to the Da Lat area he began pondering ways of striking out as an entrepreneur. Given his interest in pizza and Vietnam’s rising middle class, he said, opening a pizzeria with a wood-fired oven struck him as a logical strategy.
Mr Reelick said he acquired a building in Da Lat and invested his savings into renovating the building, kitchen gear and other start-up essentials. He and his wife worked laboriously designing the pizzeria and ovens.
Customers like establishment, where the average pie costs about VND100,000, because it satisfies customers eager taste buds at competitive prices, Mr Reelick said.
“The taste is delicious and the price is reasonable,” a tourist said on a recent Monday evening in the restaurant’s packed dining room.
Reelick is determined to expand his brand far beyond Da Lat and pizza, with an initial goal of opening hostels and hotels in the area and later— who knows.
He also intends to develop an American style version of attractive BBQ with beef, pork, lamb, chicken sandwiches to add to his menu of bold flavours.