Food should reflect the culture from where it stems and Italian food does not come to play. Steeped in heritage and a close bond to family, Italian cuisine is so much more than just the delicious dishes and lashings of wine we enjoy before taking a nap on the sofa. Food is social and at 121BC, food is to be shared. Taking the very best of this heritage, 121BC creates its unique cuisine, with the chef delivering contemporary Italian dishes, by combining traditional Italian flavors with modern techniques. This friendly, neighborhood Italian restaurant is where to come when you want to feast with family and friends – and are looking for an at-home feel, but also an intimate dining experience. With only the best and freshest seasonal ingredients from around the world used, the menu here changes regularly, with some dishes changing on a weekly basis. 121BC also showcases the diversity of Italian cooking with its ‘Regional Week’ event that takes place one week of each month, and highlights a particular and sometimes peculiar region and its flavours. And not only does 121BC deliver when it comes to the food, but the restaurant also has more than 100 different labels of natural wine from across Italy; and the very knowledgeable sommelier will be sure to give you his friendly input to the best wine pairing for your dishes.
Must try: Spaghetti with Sea Urchin, Samphire and Salmon Roe; Buratta with Braised Fennel Puree, Porcini Mushroom and Pork Skin Crackling; Homemade Ricotta, Vanilla Cannoli with Candied Orange
Sassy perk: Until the end of August, 2018, Sassy readers who will present this article at 121BC will get a complimentary glass of seasonal wine when dining in.
121BC, 42-44 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong, www.121bc.com.hk, www.instagram.com/121bchongkong
If your idea of an Italian restaurant is dimly lit with carpets and terracotta walls then, a) you’ve obviously been eating at the same place since 1987 and they’ve never renovated, and b) you’re in need of a new perspective. That’s where Pirata Group’s Pici comes in. One of the coolest spots in HK, Pici (in both locations) offers diners a literal window into modern Italian cooking. Pici is full of fresh, full-bodied flavours and is built to attract a hip, young crowd, with trendy takes on traditional dishes and an ambience that’s perfect to show off on a date. The pasta is hand rolled daily and cooked to al dente perfection, and with ingredients like burrata cheese (already drooling), Italian sausage, slow cooked beef cheek and truffle, you know that this neighbourhood joint is a winner in our books!
Must try: Burrata Cheese (starter), Pici ‘cacio en pepe’ and Ravioli Carbonara
Pici Wan Chai, G/F, No. 16 St. Francis Yard, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Pici Central, G/F No. 24-26 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong, www.pici.hk
Read more: Pici: Serving Up Homemade Italian Fare in Wan Chai
There is an innate respect for the heritage of Italian food and ingredients at Giá Trattoria Italiana. Headed by esteemed chef, Gianni Caprioli, this established Hong Kong spot serves up regional Italian dishes in an atmosphere that is as welcoming as it is superior. Giá describes itself as a place where “food lovers and wine enthusiasts converge” and it’s not hard to see why, with a talented team and the freshest seasonal ingredients playing second fiddle only to its deep commitment to customer satisfaction. This is also a place that takes pride in treating its food properly, sourcing all ingredients sustainably (and mostly from Italy), and with a promise to guests that their dining experience is free of all the nasties and GMOs that can be found in lesser quality food. From the ‘Ham Counter’ (a customisable ham and cheese board offering), to the specialty dishes like the Vitello Tonnato or the signature pasta in traditional Ragu sauce, Giá Trattoria Italiana should be top of your list for your next Italian outing.
Must try: Linguine with Lobster and Fresh Tomato (suitable for sharing), Veal Ossobucco, and Seabass (chosen according to your personal taste)
Giá Trattoria Italiana, 1/F, Fleet Arcade, Fenwick Pier, 1 Lung King Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, www.giatrattoriaitaliana.com
Any restaurant that builds its concept around the idea of Italian food markets is a sure winner, and Mercato is one of those spectacularly executed ideas come to life. Serving up some of the most sensational Italian cuisine in the 852, Mercato should be a staple on anyone’s lists. You might know Mercato because of its incredible pizzas, and while you would be oh so right, it has so much more to offer than that. Mercato is a meeting point; a place where rustic and refined come together in dishes that are styled in the spirit of another world, a world where food is life and everyone is invited to share in it. Headed by three-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges-Vongerichten, Mercato invites you to revel in the glamour and passion of Italian dining within the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.
Must try: Porcini Crusted Salmon in Warm Leek Vinaigrette, Rigatoni and Meatballs in Smoked Chili Tomato Ragu, Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Chop with Glazed Mushrooms and Sage
Mercato by Jean-Georges, 8/F California Tower, No. 32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, www.mercato-international.com
Some days you’re eating steamed broccoli by the plate, and other days you realise that life is meant to be lived and lived well. And that requires eating well. Unfortunately in Hong Kong, you can’t always satisfy your spontaneous food cravings because the restaurant capable of doing so has either closed down without warning, or is too busy to enjoy without a reservation. Luckily, 208 Duecento Otto is both very much open for business and has a friendly neighbourhood approach that welcomes walk-ins. If what you’re after is delicious Italian feast at affordable prices in an inviting setting then this is the place for you. Serving up some of the city’s most delectable Italian food (complete with a killer brunch), 208 is a Sassy favourite that never disappoints. An extensive menu that is fresh and full of flavour, the food here is familiar comfort food.
Must try: (Apart from any of their wood-fire pizzas) Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and Radicchio and Hazlenut, Melanzane alla Parmigiana
208 Duecento Otto, 208 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, www.208.com.hk
Heading into fancier territory, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana is a pillar in Hong Kong’s Italian cuisine game and for good, good reason. Founded in 2010 and managed by Umberto Bombana, this three-starred-Michelin restaurant offers guests a refined palate of Italian flavours through Bombana’s distinctively sophisticated yet contemporary dishes. Dishes that serve as a love story to Italy. The famed and highly-decorated chef is extremely passionate about the dining experience his guests undertake when entering the palatial restaurant and has personally crafted the concept from every angle. Be prepared to savour every bite at 8 ½ with unique ingredients and unusually complimentary flavours enhanced only by the chef’s appetite for gourmet cuisine.
Must try: Homemade Cavatelli shellfish ragout and sea urchin, Tajima Short Rib and Beef Tenderloin in Red Wine and plum Sauce and Whipped Potato, Coffee Trio Desert
8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Shop 202, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong, www.ottoemezzobombana.com
In a city with so much culinary diversity and quality, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Osteria Marzia has done that, creating an Italian restaurant with a very specific approach to its cuisine – inspired by and honouring the rich flavours of the Italian seaside. A coastal Italian restaurant is not only unique but a welcome addition to the food scene here in the 852, especially when presented in the oh-so-chic and trendy newly refurbished Fleming Hotel in Wan Chai. Every bit seasonal (see what I did there?) as it is multi-faceted; the food at Osteria Marzia is superb and pays respect to the wealth of exotic influence found along Italian shores. It’s fresh and fun and something a little different – a must-do for anyone who loves seafood.
Must try: Fire Roasted Seafood Tower (to share), White Asparagus Lasagne, Swordfish Parlemo and any of the daily market fish dishes. And be sure to save room for dessert because hello Granitas!
Osteria Marzia G/F, The Fleming, 41 Fleming Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, www.osteriamarzia.com.hk
There is nothing casual about SPIGA. It’s not simple, it’s not laidback. But somehow it is still so incredibly warm and welcoming within its dramatic, cinematic setting and homage to vintage Italy. Headed by renowned Italian chef, Enrico Bartolini, SPIGA (his first restaurant outside his home country) is a tribute to Italian cuisine and does not take lightly the fame around its reputation. “Who doesn’t love Italian food?” seems to be the popular vote, and here that vote counts; in a space where innovation and technique are valued, and the food is exquisite because of it (seen most evidently in the chef’s personally selected tasting menu for the table, which includes wine pairings). SPIGA also offers an adjacent terrace – Portico – a fabulous concept in a city that is mostly summer. Come for the drama, stay for the delicacies. SPIGA is an unparalleled Italian gastronomic experience in the heart of Hong Kong!
Must try: La Carbonara al Carrello (Carbonara style spaghetti prepared tableside and serves two), Ossobucco con Risotto allo Zafferano (Braised veal shank with saffron risotto)
SPIGA, LHT Tower, 31 Queens Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, www.diningconcepts.com/restaurants/SPIGA
Read more: SPIGA: Authentic Italian Fare in Central
There is something beautifully Italian about siblings opening a restaurant together, and the Sabatini brothers’ first venture in Rome in 1954 embodies that authenticity. In the more than six decades that followed, this familial heritage has travelled to Hong Kong where tradition meets creativity at The Royal Garden location. A pillar of Italian fine dining, Sabatini boasts the finest seasonal ingredients and the most luxurious flavours but, despite the upscale nature of the menu, the live music and décor transports you to the rustic countryside of Italy and invites you in over and over again. Sabatini’s menu is extensive and expertly paired with its grand selection of wines.
Must try: Charcoal Grilled Lamb Chops with Thyme, Lemon and Polenta, Linguine with Scampi, Clams and Mussels, Mezze Maniche with Braised Oxtail and Pecorino
Sabatini Ristorante Italiano, 3/F, The Royal Garden, 69 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, www.rghk.com.hk/en/dining/sabatini
Carbone is like the cool older cousin everyone has that knows all the hottest people and gets into the best clubs without even trying because they just ooze sex appeal. Based on old school, New York-Italian elegance and sophistication; Carbone invites you in with its mix of glamour and comfort (and some of the coolest theme parties in the HK food scene). As one of the concepts from Black Sheep Restaurants, Carbone serves up the highest standard of food and drinks with a commitment to customer service. The menu showcases familiar dishes that take you back to the decadent heyday of Italian chic in New York, like the Lobster Ravioli, Chicken Scarpariello and Prime Porterhouse (fit for two to share).
Must try: Veal Parmesan, Lasagne Verde (order in advance), Granchio e Pepe (Macaroni with King Crab, Black Pepper and Wild Garlic), Mario’s Meatballs, Lemon Cheesecake
Carbone, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, www.carbone.com.hk
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on June 6, 2018 and was updated on 2 August, 2018.