Il Piccolo Pizzeria: Italian Stall With 50+ Dishes By Chinese Hawker |
Behind The Food Hawker Interviews

Meet The Chinese Hawker Running A Popular Italian Stall With 50+ Dishes

25th June 2024

Il Piccolo Pizzeria is an Italian stall run by a Chinese-born hawker


It was supposed to go like any other Eatbook review. We drop by the stall, shoot a few pictures, then stuff ourselves silly with the food—mission accomplished. But as we wrapped up our session at Il Piccolo Pizzeria, Zhou Zong Qing, the stall’s 57-year-old owner, presented us with three Italian desserts: tiramisu, panna cotta, and chocolate mousse. Delicious, I said, after sampling a mouthful of each. Did you make these yourself?

“I did,” he replied. “I make everything on the menu from scratch.”


That is extraordinarily impressive, considering that Il Piccolo Pizzeria’s menu features more than 50 Italian dishes, many of which you rarely see at hawker stalls. These include pizza quattro formaggi, salmone penne pasta, and arguably the stall’s claim to fame, gnocchi (this is amusingly labelled “cheese potato” on the signboard).

25 Best Italian Restaurants In Singapore For All Budgets—$7.90 Pasta, Truffle Pizza And More

Because a man like that deserves more than just a mere review, we decided to interview Mr Zhou on the spot. Our first question: how did a Chinese national like him end up selling Italian fare at a coffeeshop?


“I’m from Hangzhou,” Mr Zhou began. “I was already a hotel chef back home, but seeking a job that paid better than that, I ended up coming to Singapore in 1998 to work at Denny’s (a popular American diner that ceased its Singapore operations in 2002).”

Having cut his teeth in the Chinese culinary world, Mr Zhou had to learn an entirely new cuisine for his role at Denny’s. But he managed to do so with ease.


“I would say that Western cuisine is easier to prepare than Chinese. After a week of training, I was able to start in the kitchen already,” said Mr Zhou.

“I would say that Western cuisine is easier to prepare than Chinese.”

After Denny’s closed for good, Mr Zhou became proficient in Italian cuisine while working at his friend and former colleague’s now-defunct hawker stall named Pizza Pasta (yes, no kidding). Those few years he spent at the stall seemed to have a profound influence on him: when he opened his own stall in 2011 at its present Toa Payoh location, Mr Zhou decided to adapt Pizza Pasta’s menu of over 50 dishes for Il Piccolo Pizzeria.


That many dishes for a one-man operation is surely a tall order for most, but Mr Zhou prefers to keep the menu exactly the way it is. “I don’t want to change here, change there—too complicated,” Mr Zhou explained. “Plus, I want to cater to as many people’s different tastes as possible.”


A day at Il Piccolo Pizzeria often starts at seven in the morning, three hours before the stall opens, as Mr Zhou has to prepare all those different dishes. The aforementioned Gnocchi Di Patate ($7.50) is one of those dishes that is particularly time-consuming to make.


“You cannot be lazy if you want to make good gnocchi by hand. Every time I need a batch, I need around two hours to mould it myself,” said Mr Zhou.

“You cannot be lazy if you want to make good gnocchi by hand.”


And while the pizzas do not require as much careful craftsmanship to make as the gnocchi, the sheer variety of options here is nothing to scoff at—we counted 19 different ‘zas on the menu, all of which are made-to-order. Options here include the Carbonara Pizza Bianca (from $10), BBQ Chicken Pizza (from $10), and Parma Ham Pizza (from $11).


There’s an even wider array of pasta dishes available to choose from here, ranging from classics such as Bolognese Pasta ($6.50) to fusion fare like Peri Peri Chicken Spaghetti ($9.50). Whatever the dish, Mr Zhou knows them all like the back of his hand.


Ultimately, Mr Zhou reckons that his decision to have such a diverse menu, despite all the effort that comes with it, pays off. “People from all over the country will come to my stall, because you won’t find what I offer elsewhere.”

For a story about a 14-year-old “coffee prodigy” who helps out at his mother’s drink stall, read our Coffee House Banh Mi feature. For a story about the legendary restaurant that invented fish head steamboat, read our Nan Hwa Chong feature.

Address: 78C Toa Payoh Central, Singapore 313078
Opening hours: Thurs-Tue 10am to 9pm
Tel: 9152 0571
Il Piccolo Pizzeria is not a halal-certified eatery.

Meet The 14-Year-Old “Coffee Prodigy” Who Helps Out At His Mother’s Drink Stall

Photos taken by Kia Ee Hor.
This was an independent feature by

Drop us your email so you won't miss the latest news.

You Might Also Like