Down the alley next to one of Sanya’s fresh markets, you’ll find Pizza Dato, a humble but tasty pizzeria operated by friends Vicky Kokoreva and Chef Ivan lukhtay.
Image via Pizza Dato
The rain hammered down on the day we stopped by to see the shop but Kokerva and lukhtay both dutifully pulled on rain gear to deliver pizzas to customers. That day had been unexpectedly busy but it made sense. Not many wanted to step out in the drizzling rain when Pizza Dato can bring deliciousness straight to you.
Kokoreva was kind enough to let us try some pizza and take along an extra meaty one for family. You might say we’re pizza connoisseurs at That’s Sanya and we couldn’t refuse her offer. Pizza Dato passes the test in cheesiness, flavor and dough density. The pizzas are not greasy like popular chains.
Image via Pizza Dato
We can attest to how clean their kitchen is.
You’re getting a fantastic pizza with high quality when your order from them. You can also snag a salad or garlic bread. We even saw them strain the berries for a bottle of really fresh juice. Sip on that.
Image by Vanessa Jencks/That's
Pizza Dato is important to Sanya because it's an indie business fully owned and operated by Sanya-based expats. One small choice any individual can take to impact the Free Trade Port is by buying from local, unique brands like Pizza Dato.
They’re also a fully legal and registered business. With their success, residents can point to them as an example of achieving the Sanya dream.
Most of our communication took place through either Chinese or automatic translator apps. This is how they communicate with customers who don’t speak Russian or Chinese.
Kokoreva told us that due to the pandemic in 2019, she and Iukhtay lost their jobs at the travel company they had been working at since 2017. Lukhtay had four years of experience making and selling pizza in Russia.
“Especially in Sanya, there are few places to boast about a good New York-style Pizza, which we think is interesting,” Kokoreva told That’s.
Sanya’s affordable and international food market is underdeveloped, something which travelers from China's first-tier cities may not be used to.
Kokoreva wanted to open a business to try the experience and connect with people. It hasn’t been easy to start though.
“It's very difficult because our company is registered as a foreign business. We have problems with document processing. In addition, we had financial difficulties at the beginning of our work.”
Navigating through the system wasn’t the only trouble.
“One difficulty is that most of our pizza products are imported. It's hard to find everything we need on our island, so we collect pizza ingredients from all over China. Pizza Dato really looks at growth, and it's a slow growth model.”
Despite this, Pizza Dato has found considerable success.
“Our pizzas are often ordered by big companies, and especially our smallest customers, children, are very happy to receive our pizzas. We like to give people happiness. Customer feedback also keeps us moving forward and creating new things.”
Image via Pizza Dato
To help with the unexpectedly busy days, they created an app to make things more convenient for their customers. They also have plans to further their stake in the Chinese market through food delivery app Meituan.
“In the future, my dream is to develop my business to a larger scale, with a big and beautiful restaurant and a large number of employees, where you can invite anyone. We’ll have fun with friends and family, and eat Pizza Dato’s New York-style pizza.”
Kokoreva’s advice to those who’d like to take the plunge into starting a business in Sanya is to do what you really want to do, be patient and don’t be afraid to take the first step toward your goal.
“There will be a lot of difficulties in building your business in China, but everything will come together.”
To order from Pizza Dato, join their group by adding them on WeChat (ID: pizza_dato) or searching for Pizza Dato in your mini-programs.
Daily 11am-11pm. 13016287587. WeChat ID: pizza_dato. See listing.
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[Cover image by Vanessa Jencks/That's ]
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