Hong Kong has no shortage of places to eat out, but quite a few close only a short while after opening, the victims of high rents (inevitable in a city where space is extremely tight) and stiff competition. The Italian restaurants we have chosen have stood the test of time -- and taste buds. It's significant that many Italian chefs have left their native country to bring their culinary magic to Hong Kong, capitalizing on the city's delight in really top-notch food and enjoyment of cosmopolitan cuisines. Another great thing about eating Italian in Hong Kong -- it's easy to get around and many restaurants are reasonably close to each other. We share the places that get great buzz, like Va Bene, and we showcase the ones that have proven themselves over time, like Linguini Fini. Italian food was one of the first foreign cuisines that Hong Kong took to its heart when international restaurants started opening in the city. Perhaps it was the similarity of pasta and China's traditional noodles; or maybe the concept of large families or groups of friends sitting round a table enjoying a huge meal. Either way, Italian remains one of the most popular dine-out options in Hong Kong, as the plethora of restaurants large and small testifies.
Located in the heart of the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel, Cucina showcases signature authentic Italian cuisine. The restaurant boasts stunning waterfront view of the celebrated Victoria Harbour -- adding a touch of romance to the vibrant character of this exciting dining concept. With a bar that accommodates up to 100 guests for cocktails and a truly interactive dining area that seats up to 120 guests, Cucina is also the perfect venue for intimate dinners and private parties. Out of the extensive menu, the seafood casserole, with Boston lobster, vegetables and toasted garlic bread is one of the most frequent orders. (852-2113-0808)
8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA
It sounds incredible but it's true: the yummiest Italian food outside Italy is hidden at the south tip of China, according to the Michelin Guide. Located on Chater Road in Central, fine-dining restaurant 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA in Central was the first and only Italian kitchen to be given three stars away from the gourmet country. The sleek 430-square-meter establishment was founded by Bergamo-born chef Umberto Bombana, who has endeavored to build the Italian food scene in Hong Kong for two decades. Food come in a simple and concise three-page daily menu. The restaurant also operates a five-course degustation meal for haute cuisine lovers. It can be hard to get a dinner reservation but customers can also order food at the bar. (852-2537-8859)
This lively restaurant is located right in the middle of the popular and ever-expanding Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district. The décor - styled by award-winning New York designer Tony Chi - is crafty, yet sensible, with mustard and blue being the predominant colors. The artichoke appetizers are extremely popular, as are the veal dishes and the capellini al granchio. Two especially nice touches: the signature bread basket of home-baked grissini and herbed flatbread served with tomato and onion salad, olive oil and balsamico vinegar, and the home-made Italian biscotti served with freshly brewed Italian coffee. Reservations are strongly suggested. MTR: Central. (852-2845-5577)
This Northern Italian restaurant offers some excellent views of the Hong Kong skyline. The restaurant's stylish interior is noteworthy for its Murano glass collection and organza screens. The antipasti and main dishes like the seasoned lobster are popular, as are the ravioli with spinach, cheese and mushroom sauce. The potato gnocchi with melted Castelmagno cheese is especially good, while many diners come here simply to feast on the line-caught sea bass steak, cooked in a tomato olives and capers. The wine list is quite extensive, and the desserts -- especially NIcholini's signature soufflé with choices of sauce -- are difficult to resist. MTR: Admiralty. (852 2521 3838)
This casual yet charmingly decorated Italian restaurant is located in the basement of the harbor-side Grand Stanford Hotel. The interior of the restaurant is relaxed, with an almost market-like appearance. With signature dishes like orecchiette with Boston lobster, it's easy to see why Mistral is so popular with the locals. An excellent wine list complements a very fine menu. A buffet brunch is offered on Sunday, including antipasti, an oyster bar and limitless sparkling wine or soft drinks for HKD588. Reservations are recommended as this meal is very popular with families or large groups of friends. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui (852-2731-2870)
This sophisticated Italian restaurant is located at the Royal Garden Hotel, in the heart of the Tsim Sha Tsui East business district. Inside, you'll find a dining environment complete with a mix of traditional décor, music and service that seems to whisk you away to Rome. The antipasto buffet is beautifully arranged and nearly impossible to resist, and the entrées at Sabatini have a Roman lilt and feature interesting twists on traditional fish, shellfish and veal dishes. If you can, try and save room for their famous tiramisu. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui (852-2733-2000)
From the beautiful parquet floors and the marble columns to the views of the harbor and the impeccable service, Grissini's, which is located in the opulent Grand Hyatt, exudes style and class. The menu features a wide range of traditional Italian favorites, and Milanese cuisine is their specialty. Among the more popular dinner dishes are the filet of sea bass, osso bucco, and lobster ravioli -- each carefully prepared with the freshest ingredients. A business lunch is available from Monday to Friday, and a special brunch is available on Sunday. MTR: Wan Chai (852-2584-7722)
Pirata is committed to delivering Italian culinary treasures at prices that don't break the bank, Pirata honors authenticity with classic Italian fare and diners can expect a menu that applauds traditional family style dining alongside an equally familial style of service, with attendants carving up dishes table side and impressing customers with attentive assistance and show stopping flair.
Set over two floors with an internal staircase joining the restaurant to the upstairs bar, Pirata is industrial yet rustic all at once. Pirata's interior is a treasure trove of hand-picked design elements including vintage chandeliers, industrial metalwork and expertly sourced craftsmanship. This vision is also seen in the unique table and bar wear, sourced from around the world. The cityscape views showcase the buzz of Hong Kong whilst reinforcing Pirata's intimate yet charming atmosphere. (852-2887-0270)
Hong Kong is not lacking when it comes to restaurants with a view, so a place needs to be truly exceptional in some other way to distinguish itself from the pack. Isola's floor-to-ceiling windows and huge outdoor terrace do indeed offer stunning panoramas, and its tastefully monochromatic décor is stylish and clean. But its food is stellar from appetizer to dessert. Start with baked mozzarella in walnut bread with sweet cherry tomatoes, a layering of flavors and textures that is simply brilliant. Main course dishes are just as impressive -- grilled sirloin with red onion and anchovy sauce, and salt-crusted sea bass, in particular, stand out. The clientele here tends to be trendy and well-coiffed; reservations are strongly encouraged. (852-2383-8765)
Linguini Fini serves everyday Italian food for everyday people, with diners being treated to an authentic culinary experience - served with a generous portion of warm down home hospitality.
Produce is served in-season and hails from local organic farms supplied by Homegrown Organics. As established proponents of farm-to-table dining, Homegrown takes the concept one step further by introducing nose-to-tail cuisine.
Group Executive Chef Vinny Lauria creates a predominantly pork and pasta menu that utilizes every part of the animal from nose-to-tail; with nothing going to waste. Lauria also cures his own meats and homemade sausages. The result is one of the most original restaurants in Hong Kong. (852-2387-6838)
About Ed Peters
Ed Peters has been based in Asia for most of his adult life, and counts Hong Kong as his second home. While he lives in a farming village on one of the outlying islands, getting to the city center takes only half-an-hour by ferry. And it's only 30 minutes by taxi to Hong Kong's futuristic international airport. These are just two of Hong Kong's many attractions -- the blend of urban and rural, and the ease of getting around what must be one of the most exciting cities on the planet.
Read more about Ed Peters here.