If music is the universal language, pizza might be its closest rival. Case in point: Aaron and Natalie Truong have been turning pan-Asian dishes into pizzas at farmers markets in Beaverton, Oregon, since 2021. And nothing, it seems, has gotten lost in translation.
Now they’ve opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Hapa Pizza, hoping that their fans are ready to sit down, dine in and pig out on pies boasting the Vietnamese flavors of báhn mì and pho as well as offerings inspired by other Asian culinary traditions.
According to PDX.Eater.com, those fans haven’t let the Truongs down. When the 18-seat eatery opened on March 10, there were lines stretching out the door.
Other local restaurants and businesses also turned out to support Hapa Pizza’s grand opening. Salt & Straw served free scoops of ice cream with any purchase, and the Truongs offered random giveaways from restaurants like Tan Tan Café & Sauces, specializing in Vietnamese cuisine; Not Umamis Cooking, a Japanese-American pop-up; and Kala, a Thai-inspired dessert shop.
“We felt a lot of love and support for sure,” Aaron told PDX.Eater.com. “People kept saying, ‘We’ve been waiting for this.’”
Hapa Pizza, originally a popular fixture at the Beaverton Farmers Market, offers menu items like the Báhn Mì Pizza (Vietnamese BBQ pork, pickled radishes and carrots, cilantro, a creamy white sauce and sriracha aioli) and the Pho Pizza (slow-cooked stewed brisket, pho sauce, onions, mozzarella, cilantro, green onions, bean sprouts, hoisin sauce and sriracha aioli), along with the Tom Yum Pizza (a Thai Tom Yum red sauce, shrimp, mozz, red onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and cilantro) and the Char Sui Pizza (Chinese BBQ pork, bok choy, green onions, a honey drizzle and kewpie mayo).PDX.Eater.com reports that the Truongs also plan to add an okonomiyaki pizza featuring cabbage, pork belly, green onions, furikake and bonito flakes.
The pizzas are baked in a gas oven with a 24-hour fermented crust that yields a light, chewy texture similar to a Neapolitan-style crust.
The Truongs decided to change careers and jump into the pizza business during the pandemic. Natalie was a stay-at-home mom raising the Truongs’ two young children, and Aaron was a mental health therapist. After buying a Roccbox backyard pizza oven on a whim, they launched the Hapa Pizza pop-up at the Beaverton Farmers Market. It turned into a runaway hit, even though the Truongs had no prior experience in the restaurant industry. Their next goal was to turn Hapa Pizza into a food truck, as PMQ reported in August 2021, but when they found an available space on Southwest Broadway Street, they went for it.
Writing for The Oregonian, Michael Russell said he was initially “skeptical” of Hapa Pizza until he tried the pies for himself. “The details—from the light, airy dough to the way the pizza’s residual heat softened the bean sprouts and herbs, just as they would in an actual bowl of pho—convinced me the Truongs were on to something. And even if the Asian-inspired pies don’t move you, the classic cheese and Margherita pizzas are better than any I’ve tried in Beaverton.”
The term “hapa” is Hawaiian for “half and half” and is “used colloquially to refer to people who are half Asian and half white,” Aaron told The Oregonian. Natalie is Japanese-Chinese-American. Aaron’s father was born to a Chinese family living in Vietnam, while his mother was born in Taiwan and eventually moved to Houston, Texas.
Hapa Pizza, Aaron said, is a “fitting name for the kind of pizza that we make because it’s blending two different cultures together in Italian and Asian.”
As an Asian-American family operating an unconventional pizzeria, the Truongs want to create a short documentary about the founding of Hapa Pizza “and the community that empowered them.” They’ve set up an IndieGogo campaign to fund the documentary, with a flexible goal of $100,000.