The thing about Italian food in Hong Kong is that it’s abundant. So it’s not often you come across an Italian restaurant that really stands out. I mean we live in a city already saturated with good eateries, many of which serve Italian-ish dishes. So when it comes to the “best Italian food” I find it impossible to pick one out, but I definitely have a short list of favourites that I’d visit again and again.
Here are five Italian spots I’d definitely recommend:
Carbone – Hip vibes and a perfect lemon cheesecake
Carbone is my safest choice to recommend in most cases because it’s a restaurant that most people would find cool, comfortable and yum. The Black Sheep Restaurant group definitely knows what it takes to set up new spots with good vibes (like the Vietnamese Le Garcon Saigon). So Carbone would be my go-to for a social gathering, since it has a lively ambience and a good selection of drinks too.
The food: I love the fact that you’re always greeted with a basket of really delicious garlic bread, salami and parmesan cheese as soon as you’re seated here. The pasta dishes were generally delicious, especially the vodka sauce rigatoni. We also tried their pork belly which was perfectly made too. But the most unforgettable dish has got to be the lemon cheesecake, which I featured as part of the 8 Best Lemon Tarts in Hong Kong, even though it’s not a tart.
Must order: Vodka sauce rigatoni, lemon cheesecake
9/F LKF Tower
33 Wyndham Street
Phone: 2593 2593
Sabatini – The perfect pasta with fancy live music
It doesn’t get more classic than Sabatini, yet it’s different from most of my other recommendations as it’s much more upscale, in the fine dining category. Therefore, it’s also not cheap. A pasta dish probably costs about HK$300 but they are constructed so perfectly, I believe it’s worth it.
It’s definitely not a spot that would commonly be regarded as a good place to “hang out” with friends. It’s more suitable for long term partner dates or small families, rather than social groups. I loved their live music too, though not as much as I loved their food.
The food: It’s hard to recommend one dish, because all the pasta dishes I’ve tried here have been made so perfectly. The lobster bisque was also delicious. However, the desserts here were relatively disappointing and I’d suggest to just fill yourself up with starters and mains instead.
Must try: Any pasta dish
Royal Garden Hotel
69 Mody Road
Phone: 2733 2000
121bc – Boutique wines and a unique menu
121bc breaks away from the “boring pasta place” stereotype of Italian restaurants completely. Actually they only had two pasta dishes when I went. Their menu is short, fun and something slightly different. The ambience is lively too. The place was jam packed on a weekday. And although it’s not the most spacious seating arrangement in town, it’s definitely fun for a small casual group gathering and date nights as well.
The food: Their menu is not typical, so don’t expect to find your classic Italian dishes here – like spaghetti vongole or carbonara. I loved their stracciatella with apsaragus, anchovies and pine nuts; their ravioli was also generous in portion and delicious. And also their zucchini flower, which was lightly battered like tempura. Plus, they’re stocked up with many different wines from small vineyards – the one I had from Toscana was excellent!
Must order: Stracciatella with asparagus, anchovies and pine nuts, zucchini flower
44 Peel Street
Phone: 2395 0200
ciao chow – Your everyday pasta and good pizzas
Ciao chow is the closest to typical on this list – hey, maybe you’d like something normal, standard and safe, like for a casual business catch up lunch, right? The seating arrangement is pretty good for that. Or maybe you’re just craving a good pizza. It’s perfect because of its prime location: bang in the middle of Lan Kwai Fong or a 10 minute walk from most Central office buildings.
The food: Its prime location had me suspecting that they would serve mediocre overpriced food. But both preconceptions were busted. A regular dish would cost around HK$150 and I loved both the pastas and pizzas. The pizzas were a particular highlight though. You can see them rolling out the dough and cooking the pizza in a wood-fired oven right inside the restaurant. They also have a good coffee machine.
Must order: Carbonara pizza
G/F California Tower
30-32 D’Aguilar Street
Phone: 2344 0005
SEPA – Venetian affair and an epic tartare (Closed)
SEPA may have gone unnoticed to some. It’s a little far up the slopes above Soho, which means that most of us won’t really walk past it on a normal day. But with pleasantly casual vibes and a focus on Venetian food, it’s a great idea for group gatherings and dates alike. It’s not as bumping as Carbone or 121bc, but they do have some outstanding dishes worth going for.
The food: The thing about eating pasta dishes out is that they are often so normal that I can make something equally good at home. But the veal ravioli was a beaming highlight, and I haven’t had something similar elsewhere in Hong Kong. The ravioli was stuffed with strongly flavoursome veal meat and the skin was also very al dente. Their other ragu sauce pastas (signature of Venetian cuisine) were also equally delicious.
Must order: Veal ravioli, beef tartare
61 Caine Road
Phone: 2521 9800
Italian food for every occasion
There are a number of other Italian restaurants I have in mind that I really enjoyed too. But I suppose if I had to drill it down to a few recommendations, it would be the five I mentioned here. For something social, I’d definitely go for Carbone and 121bc. For a special occasion, I’d opt for the fine dining option at Sabatini.
Where are your favourite Italian spots?