For this reporter, it came as quite a shock, that in Vientiane – a city heavily influenced by its south-European heritage – the only pizza-place mentioned in The Lonely Planet is the Swedish Pizza and Baking House. The small but cosy eating place has become a big hit for both locals and foreigners. Actually the place has gained so much popularity in the Lao capital that the owner Daniel Wissmar now opens another restaurant right between the biggest tourist attractions.
When asking the ambitious owner the explanation behind the unlikely Swedish success must be found in a – surprising, but never the less very successful – cocktail of the unique Swedish version of the well-known Italian speciality, a high level of quality and a long-term knowledge of the taste of the Lao.
“In the beginning it was mostly expats and backpackers, who found their way to my pizzeria, but since the rumour of the quality of the pizzas has started to go around among the locals, more and more Laotians come to eat,” Daniel Wissmar says.
Less salt and more bananas, please
According to Daniel Wissmar, the history of the rather strange Italian-Swedish gastronomic fusion can be dated about four decades back in time.
“When the Italian guest-workers came to Sweden in the seventies, they brought along their pizza-recipes and quickly they opened pizza restaurants there. To adjust their food to the Swedish taste they started fusion with some of the Swedish traditions,” he explains.
And that combination seems to be just right for more than just the Swedish people.
“Today the Swedish pizzas have developed to a unique version, where you for instance can have banana-topping on the pizza – a combination which also is quite popular here in Laos. The locals also likes the fact that we keep the level of quality as high as possible – in fact most of our ingredients are shipped here from Sweden to give the pizzas the right taste,” Daniel Wissmar ads.
The young Swede has also learned from the Italian/Swedish example and has made some adjustments of the pizzas himself – in order to better suit the taste buds of the Laotian people.
“Our pizzas are less salty than you would make them in Sweden, Laotians do not like their food as salty as we from the western part of the world do,” he says.
Besides pizzas, the restaurant also sells different kinds of bread and cakes, most of them are traditional Scandinavian.
“My personal favourite is the Semla, a traditional seasonal cream bun, which we Swedes eat around Shrovetide,” Daniel Wissmar reveals.
Runs in the family
The plan to open the pizzeria was quite obvious. The urge to open eateries in Vientiane seems to run in the blood of the Wissmar-family.
“My farther, Sune Wissmar, has run the Scandinavian Bakery in the centre of the city for about 15 years now. My family moved to the country in 1992 when I was 16 years old, because my mother got a job on the Swedish embassy here in Vientiane. Doing nothing is not my father’s strongest side, so he opened the bakery,” Daniel Wissmar tells.
After finishing his education on the Swedish school in the city, Daniel Wissmar started to work at his father’s bakery.
“I really like it here Vientiane, it is a fantastic city and even though it is a capital the broad streets and the low buildings give the city a relaxed village-like atmosphere to it. I don’t feel like going back to Sweden. But after a couple of years working with my father I wanted to start something on my own, and because I personally missed a good pizza place, I decided to start one myself,” he ads.
Clearly many other people in Vientiane share that opinion. So many that Daniel Wissmar has now opened a new and bigger pizza-place located in the middle of the tourist walking-zone between some of the greatest attractions of the city.
“My Dad doesn’t like expansions, but I would like to make my restaurants grow as much as possible. Eventually I might even open one or two more pizzerias,” the ambitious ambassador of Swedish pizza in Vientiane smiles.