Born and raised in Romania, Cezar Constantin first began to hone his skills in the restaurant industry when he worked part-time at a restaurant as a chef, dishwasher, waiter and bartender. His father was a pizza-dough and pasta artisan, and his mother worked at a resort hotel next to the Black Sea, as a front desk manager. By the time he graduated university, he had already gained valuable experience in customer services, and had developed a strong interest in cooking.
When Cezar visited Japan for the first time, he immediately fell in love with the culture and the people, deciding to stay in Osaka despite being unable to speak the language. As fortune had it, he soon was befriended by a Japanese bartending champion, who trained him in his art.
After the training, he moved to Tokyo for another bartending job, becoming the best in his trade at “Wall Street Bar” in just a few years, and rapidly being recognised as a highly in-demand bartender.
In 2002, he decided to open Japan’s first Romanian restaurant in Roppongi, but his busy schedule had begun to take its toll on him, and Cezar decided to move to his wife’s hometown—Chitose, Hokkaido—for a change of pace.
In 2007, having moved to Chitose, Cezar found himself employment at a delivery company. However, due to his language skills as the only English-speaking staff member, and their proximity to the airport, he was requested to take up a position there. As a side venture, he decided to invite his father to Japan to help him build a food-truck business.
After some time, he moved home once more and named his new business “Niseko Pizza”, establishing himself on Hirafu-Zaka using the very same food-truck that he ran in Chitose. Despite the restaurant being relocated 3 years later, he has already celebrated his 4th year in his current location, the J-Sekka building.
How do you source your ingredients?
We try our best to use ingredients sourced from Hokkaido and local farmers. In summer, all of the ingredients are produced in Hokkaido. We flash freeze seasonal vegetables like asparagus picked the very same morning, and cook freshly-dug potatoes to hoard, so we can make use of them all year round. Mozzarella cheese is prepared in Kuromatsunai town following our original recipe, and in winter, we use as many Hokkaido ingredients as possible. Fresh produce from Hokkaido, especially from the base of Mt. Yotei, is always safe and very tasty.
How about pasta and focaccia?
Pasta, focaccia, bacon… everything is homemade. I take some focaccia home for the kids—they love it.
Do you use any particular type of flour?
4 different types of flour, including semolina and graham, are mixed. All are grown in Hokkaido.
The pizza oven is massive!
This oven was custom built in Italy and installed here by a professional we invited from Italy. We cook pizza at around 400 degrees, but the exterior remains cool to the touch— It keeps the heat in the oven and is very energy-efficient. We use apple firewood only, ordered from Aomori.
We make every effort to maximize the space, and make the kitchen fully-functional. Little by little, we have been trying to refresh the bar and the overall interior every year, hoping for more efficient customer service.
What do you think about the customers in Niseko?
Many of them expect a high level of service and a finer dining experience. We learn from customer feedback and online reviews like TripAdvisor, and improve to meet customer expectations.
Is there anything in particular you keep in mind when you run your restaurant?
Service, quality, and quickness. We continue to make every effort to further enhance our services.
What do you usually do in the summertime?
Niseko Pizza is even busier in summer, so I work— I honestly enjoy running the restaurant.
You must be very busy during the summer months, but we’ve still seen Niseko Pizza serving in local seasonal festivals, such as Sapporo Autumn Fest, or hosting Niseko Beer Garden. How do you manage it?
I would like to respect the local area and nearby city, Sapporo, but it’s a challenge at the same time. We receive great feedback from Sapporo Autumn Festival every year, and we hope to expand Niseko Beer Garden to create another fun summer event for everyone to enjoy.
Do you like Niseko?
I love Niseko. I enjoy the beautiful nature around here. It’s well-balanced— a great place for raising a family. It will take a long time, but I’d like to continue on with patience, and further pursue my passion for the restaurant.