We'd heard of Vien's Fresca Pizza online and from friends. We knew they had an interesting twist on their slices with the cilantro oil brush. We had to try it. The slices were great, and Vien was willing to indulge us in a few questions about his business.
Sadi: So I just wanted to know, how is business going?
Vien: It's good. Ya.
S: Is this usually a busy time...or slower?
V: Usually busy time.
S: Winter time. Winter time is usually...
V: Winter time is more...ya...people.
S: How long have you guys been open here?
V: 5 years.
S: Ok, so why did you decide to open a pizza restaurant?
V: Because I work here before.
V: It's the same place.
S: Ok, so...I guess...why did you decide to enter the restaurant business? Why restaurants?
V: Because this before was a restaurant. it's a pizza place too.
S: Yup. But I guess why pizza? Why not another type of job?
V: Because I had work pizza before. I worked the same job.
Andrew: Did you know you wanted to work in the restaurant business before you even started working here or did you just fall into it?
V: Before I worked at same thing. Same job. Same pizza.
S: What do you want people to know about your restaurant?
V: What do I want them to know?
S: Ya. What do you want them to know.
V: So now we have a menu. Just you know...it's on JustEat. You know, on internet. So usually, people we have too much review and they have nice review on internet so lots of people know of us.
S: Do you guys look at the reviews online? Do they matter to you?
V: Ya sometime.
S: What's the most popular dish here?
V: Ya some customer, they say best pizza. Best pizza in town.
S: What's the one that sells the most? Which pizza?
V: The margharita one.
S: Which is the one you're the most proud of?
V: The pizza.
S: Ya. Which one is your favorite.
V: My favorite is the margharita.
S: Why the margharita?
V: I don't know. It's very light. Very light to eat. When you eat, you don't feel like to...to poo. When you eat pizza like margharita, it's good taste. More taste.
A: So we have a question for you. Was it always...I mean you were mentioning business is good. Was it always great...like did you struggle when you first started?
V: The first time I start. Well we change the owner now. That's most people I work before, they don't know why we change the name.
S: What was it before?
V: Ya that's the place I work before this. You know, this place got fired. Then so, the landlord doesn't want the owners here anymore. So I talk to landlord and I take over the place. You know, I did renovations, then I run back the same business, the same pizza, the same everything.
A: How was it like working for Massimo's Pizza? How was it like working for them versus now since you know own it?
V: You know, I worked 18 years for them.
A: And how were they like? Were they good?
V: Ya they were good.
A: What did they teach you? Did you learn anything from them?
V: I learned from them. 18 years. I got lots of experience to learn how to...because before I run the business. I run for Massimo too.
S: Did you ever think...about making more pizza? Like more different kinds of pizza?
V: This is my family business. It's only me and my wife. It's too much work for me. For me, my wife is like 7 days a week here. I don't want to work more. If I want to get more, I make like chicken wing or something. I make more business but I'm too tired.
S: Ya. Do you get enough sleep?
S: How many hours?
V: Today last night, I went home at 4 o'clock. I wake up at 8 o'clock.
S: Wow. Ya.
V: Sometimes it's very hard. It's very hard to me. I looking for people for work but you know, nobody want to and how to make the pizza.
S: What would you say is the best part of the job?
V: Best part? What do you mean?
S: Like what is your favorite part of the job? Like...do you like owning a pizza restaurant?
V: Because...I work before for Massimo and then after...after...the place, I have family. I have 3 kids. I got a mortgage. You know very hard for me to make income for me to pay for my mortgage. So that's why, I borrow some money from my friends and I say maybe I want to run the business. Maybe...maybe good...maybe I try the first year. A little bit slow. Then after years, it picks up a little bit.
S: And now...is it easier now? Is it comfortable now or still...stressful?
V: Ya it's comfortable now. Straightforward. The stress is...in my hours worked. I don't have time to sleep. Now, lots of people, lots of customer. They know I'm here. Lots of people come back.
S: If someone is going to open up a restaurant and they came to you for advice, what piece of advice would you give them?
V: If somebody is going to open up another place?
S: Ya if someone is going to open up a restaurant and you're going to tell them something to help them, what would you tell them?
V: No, I don't want to.
S: No I mean...
V: You mean I'm teach him to do something?
S: No I mean a piece of advice you would give them. What should they keep in mind or what should they do I guess? If someone is going to open up a restaurant, what should be important to them? What do you think they should think a lot about?
V: The same food? Well there's lots of people. They open up and they take more customers. You know when they open up more business. But you know I...I don't mind. For me, I make...enough for rent, pay the bills, cover just for me, a little bit for my wife, a little bit. Just enough for me.
S: I mean if someone is going to open up a restaurant, what would you tell them?
V: This area is good. Because more people walk around. This area has nice people you know. More people over here. Close to U of T. I say good business around here.
S: When you opened up this restaurant 5 years ago? Did someone give you...did someone help you, did someone give you a nice piece of advice...did someone say something to you that helped you?
S: Just you by yourself.
V: Yes I do myself.
V: Because that's the way I do myself. Before, how I make for Massimo and now I work the same thing. No one tell me you have to do this way, you have to do that way. I just do it with my own.
A: How did you meet Massimo? Like 18 years ago you said you were working for him?
V: Oh I have friend who was working here before. Ok so he give me some...before I was a driver. I was a delivery guy. But then after that you know, some people collect quicker and then some people working hard. They looking for another job or something. And then I go inside to learn how to make pizza, how to make pasta. That's all.
S: In your opinion, is it easy to learn how to make pizza? Or does it take 18 years? Is it difficult and does it take a long time.
V: No. It depends on how you are, how you think. If you love the job, it's easy for you. If you don't like the job, it's very hard for you. If you like the job, it's easy for you to learn. Very fast for you how to learn how to make pizza. If you don't like, then it's very hard.
S: If you are not here, I know you work 7 days a week and you don't get a lot of sleep but if you are going to eat another restaurant, what's your favorite restaurant?
V: I know right now it's very hard for me to think about it. For me now, it's too late. I am almost 60 years ago. If I finish this one, I don't want to work no more. Nobody else. Retiring. Almost 60 years old, nobody can hire you with 60 years old.
S: Oh I mean if you were going to eat somewhere, do you have a favorite restaurant that you like to go to to eat?
V: To eat something? I like Vietnamese food like pho.
S: Which place has the best pho?
V: Tien Thanh (Dundas and Ossington). That's my favorite pho and I like.
S: Ok I think that's everything. Thank you for your time and for doing this!
Fresca Pizza & Pasta
302 College St.