Who doesn’t like good Italian food?
Yes, GOOD Italian food. Below are my go-to places in HK for different occasions.
1. Gia Trattoria (G/F Fleet Arcade, Fenwick pier, Wan Chai): Homey rustic place offering authentic Southern Italian food. They import real Italian produce from Italy and have their own Italian grocery market(Mercato) right below the restaurant. Truly Italian experience in a relaxed, spacious setting, which is not often the case for restaurants in HK. Their Scialatielli with mixed seafood and cherry tomatoes is the reason I keep coming back to this place. (Taste 5/ Ambience 4.5/ Service 4/ Price 4/Value 4.5)
2. Giando (9 Star Street Shop 1, G/F Tower 1, Starcrest, Wan Chai): Run by the same group with Gia Trattoria above, this restaurant located at Cul de Sac of Star Street boasts an ambience truly resembling seaside restaurants in Italy, with its sophisticated white decor dominating the scene. Patrons are right mix of expats, locals with many years’ of overseas experience and any adventurous people looking for a great taste. Sunday antipasto brunch buffet is the great value as with Gia Trattoria and you will find everything, especially the burrata from Puglia will simply melt in your mouth. (Taste 5/ Ambience 4.5/ Service 4.5/ Price 4.5/Value 4.5)
3. Gradini Ristorante (Lobby level, The Pottinger HK, 74 Queens Road Central): Situated in a busy central district, but tucked away in this quiet boutique hotel “The pottinger”, Gradini is good for romantic dinner at night-outs with your loved one or elegant group dining. Gradini offers refined Italian food in a hotel setting, but its intimate and cozy atmosphere refuse to give patrons typical hotel dining experience. “Oven baked whole Italian sea bass with fresh herbs in a salt crust” is the signature dish and its portion is good to share. Please don’t forget to finish the meal with their equally amazing dessert. (Taste 5/ Ambience 5/ Service 5/ Price 4.5/Value 4.5)
4. Sabatini Ristorante (3F, The Royal Garden, 69 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui) : Sabatini is not our everyday Italian restaurant, rather once a year or once in a blue moon. But the experience here is worthwhile to keep Sabatini in the list, despite the sheer value doesn’t keep up with the steep price. From the moment we set foot on Sabatini, I was treated as a real VIP and this sublime experience lasted until the end of the meal. The food is nothing outstanding compared to above-mentioned three restaurants with exorbitant price, but the live music and attentive service throughout our meal elevated the mood and this is truly a good place for people-watching. At least, it’s worthwhile to try once! (Taste 3.5/ Ambience 5/ Service 5/ Price 5/Value 3.5)
5. 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana (Shop 202, 2F, Alexanders House, 16-20 Chater Road, Central): My experience is at Galaxy Macau but heard one in HK is as great or better than one in Macau so I included this one in my list. Sophistication beats any of the restaurants mentioned so far and the sheer level of expectation about next dish was so high that the actual meal didn’t really matter. Ambience is truly a top-notch and food is divine. However, due to eye-popping price, I don’t think I can go back in the near future. (Taste 5/ Ambience 5/ Service 5/ Price 5/Value 4)
6. Pirata (29-30F, 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai): Since its opening over a year ago, this Wan Chai fixture has become foodie’s favorite, with its setting semi-cozy(somewhat crowded) and semi-rustic(with its unique wooden furniture and vintage lighting). Try their weekday/weekend brunch that come with a couple of appetizers/ main dish(family style)/sumptuous dessert and the portion is very generous combined with their antipasto buffet choice. Tagliatelle with black truffle and butcher’s cut steak are their signature, but my personal favorites go to spring chicken and eggplant parmigiana, drenched in homemade tomato sauce. As this place is always a full house, I strongly recommend you make a reservation in advance. (Taste 4/ Ambience 4/ Service 4/ Price 4/Value 4)
7. Italian at my home: As I can’t go to these places everyday, I cook Italian food by myself. Although the taste is hard to match those mentioned above, I like to have it in my comfortable home with nice bottle of wine. (Taste 3/ Ambience 4: Super comfy/ Service 1:Self-service/ Price 2 /Value 5)
We tried lunch most of the time, as lunch menu is sometimes more extensive with its antipasto buffet offering and way less expensive than dinner (about three times), thus truly bang for the buck! The very definition of Italian food seems to vary among difference countries. While Western countries consider Italian food as family-style comfort food, we Easterners immediately associate Italian food with luxury and sophistication, thus Italian restauranteurs here in HK found themselves having hard time meeting various customers’ expectation. But this is Hong Kong, so any style will find its own place. I didn’t include Grappa, another my favorite for casual dining, simply because I don’t have any available photos. There are more hidden-gem Italian places in HK, which I will post later.
Verdict : Gia Trattoria and Giando are my picks of Italian with their ingredient /recipe /ambience being true to the basics and Gradini is for little special occasions. Sabatini is good for one-time dining experience and I will eat at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana everyday if I am rolling in money.