Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Piccolo Pizzeria & Bar

Wan Chai is choc-a-bloc with a variety of tasty eateries lately, from the swanky to the modest and cool.

Piccolo Pizzeria and Bar is one of the latter, and after successful branches in Kennedy Town and Tai Hang, a third restaurant has now opened at Tai Wong East Street. If you enjoy their Roman-style pizzas and satisfying pastas, but found Tai Hang and Kennedy Town just that little bit too far to get to, then the Wan Chai is nicely in the middle to sort out your needs.

Homey and family-friendly were the two things that sprung to mind when I stepped foot inside one Saturday evening. The premises are thankfully larger than their Tai Hang branch which, despite my best efforts, I could never get a seat at. The word ‘friendly’ persists, with happy, helpful staff who showed me to my table and were just on the right end of chatty to talk me through the menu and their specials.

Piccolo Pizzeria

Piccolo Pizzeria

I had a good view of the restaurant, gazing up at their muted tin lights with different shaped tungsten filaments lining the centre of the ceiling and their open bar. 70s and 80s music washed over me, and I had to stop myself from showing my age and busting out some karaoke warblings to The Police and Spandau Ballet.

The menu does not try too hard with too many dishes or anything overly fancy. The focus is on the freshly-made pizzas and pastas with the addition of a daily special.

I started off with a basic Beetroot and Rocket salad, which was nicely dressed but could have done with a slightly more generous helping of beetroot to what was a forest of rocket on my plate.

Beetroot and Rocket salad

Beetroot and Rocket salad

I tried a small portion of the special that day which was an Italian seafood soup called Cioppino, with Red Snapper, squid, shrimp, clams and lobster. The shrimp were sweet, the broth full of flavour and quite clearly the result of a good amount of reduction with half the sea in it.

Seafood Cioppino

Seafood Cioppino

The staff recommended I have the Nduja de Calabria pasta with live prawns tossed with chilli. This was by far, the most delicious pasta I have had for a long time. The Nduja, which is the Calabrian version of salami, is spicy and typically used as a spread on breads or served with cheese. In this pasta dish, the chorizo-like piquant sausage lovingly coated the pasta and the prawns were so fresh and sweet, that I clean forgot I had pizzas to look forward to and tucked into this dish with gusto.

Nduja de Calabria pasta

Nduja de Calabria pasta

I was able to sample two of their pizzas- the signature Pizza Pancetta with bacon, tomato sauce and a soft egg and the bestselling Prosciutto di Parma with Parma ham and rocket. Both were excellent though I especially loved the Pizza Pancetta. The pizza bases were crispy and thin and the cheeses melted and bubbled to perfection. I stopped at two slices from each and excitedly asked to have the leftovers to take-away, a brilliant decision on my part as my lunch at home the next day was amazing. The Pizza Pancetta was, I think, even tastier and I had it cold. Not that I would encourage this, but I am definitely ordering this pizza again and saving some for leftovers.

Pizza Pancetta

Pizza Pancetta

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

Although I was on the verge of bursting, no meal would be complete without some dessert. I had to try the Tiramisu which was lovely and light and child-friendly. The portion is just enough to satisfy anyone’s craving for a sweet ending without being too cloying. The Panna cotta was smooth and full of vanilla pods which I love and I was pleased to note that it was not overly rich or sweet and the fruits were a refreshing complement.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Panna cotta

Panna cotta

I can see exactly why Piccolo Pizzeria is able to open a third branch. With reasonable prices (around $120-180 for mains) for hearty, unpretentious but well-executed food, it is somewhere that I know I will be finding my way back to for a tasty meal with solid service and a friendly atmosphere.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5


$$$$$$$$$$

Piccolo Pizzeria & Bar – Wan Chai, 22 Tai Wong East Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Reservations: 2824 3002

Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday: 12pm to 10pm; Friday to Sunday & Public Holidays: 12pm to 10:30pm

 This review was done on behalf of Sassy HK and can be read here.

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208..not so great

Hype sometimes works in your favour, but for 208 Duocento Otto, it definitely has not.

Opened by Yenn Wong of JIA Boutique Hotels (one of which is by 208 on Hollywood Road), Chef Vinny Lauria promises New York style Italian food, specialising in Neopolitan-style pizzas.

D and I went lastnight and when the taxi pulled up in front, I saw a building that looks a bit like a solid bar of dark chocolate..so far, so intriguing. Walking past the the outdoor seating area and up the steps into the ground floor bar, you first get the impression that you’re entering a gentleman’s club from the Tudor/Renaissance period with all the dark browns encapsulating the interior: wooden panelling on the ceilings, dark wood flooring, seating, shelving behind the bar.

Then, I noticed the walls. Floor to ceiling, downstairs, upstairs and in the toilets, it seemed like the whole restaurant had been infected by bathroom tiling and I felt like I was sitting in a bowl.Tiling overdose aside, what matters is the service and the food. After being told on Monday that there were no tables available, and we would be wait listed, D was then told yesterday that a 7pm slot was free.

When we arrived, we were ushered upstairs, only to be greeted by the manager who demanded if we had a reservation (hmm obviously we had one otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten as far as upstairs) and then, we were told to go back downstairs as we were early (it was 7.01pm) and wait as they were still having their staff training! I understand staff training is important, but don’t open the restaurant at 7pm if you’re not going to be ready, and definitely don’t have your staff meeting AT 7!

As we waited at the bar, more people arrived and soon there was a cluster of “7pm people” waiting at the foot of the stairs. We perused the bar menu and I spied my favourite pizza- the Capricciosa, so D and I decided we would order that as one of our mains.

When we finally sat down upstairs (ambience was quite lovely, still had that bathroom feel to it!), we realised the restaurant was pretty empty, even with all the other diners. Tables all fully booked and suddenly one free at 7pm? Lies!!

Back to food; we had heard mixed reviews, especially about their pastas but their starters have gotten a big thumbs up from our friends. D and I decided to share the “Pomodori Uovo”- poached japanese egg, pecorino romano and garlic fett’unta (lightly greased sliced of bread) and ‘nduja (soft, spicy hot spreadable salami, mostly produced in Calabria). It was quite a hefty portion and the chef was a bit heavy handed with the tomatoes and salt, but overall, it was good. I loved the ‘nduja and the runny egg, and it was deeply satisfying heaping a spoonful onto my “fett’unta”.For mains, I tried to order the Capricciosa pizza, which wasn’t on the restaurant menu (the pizza selection on the main menu has fewer selections than the bar menu), but the manager informed me that they could only make it for those eating at the bar and they couldn’t make it for those eating in the restaurant. I thought this was ridiculous and completely illogical. If you can make it for downstairs, why can’t you make it for upstairs?! Slightly incensed by this, I ordered, with a huff, the Prosiutto e rucola pizza which, by mine and D’s calculations, had more ingredients and therefore, would be more worth our money. It was also the only pizza that had parma ham.The pizza base was chewy and cheesey and there was a generous topping of parma ham and half a forest of rocket. After consuming most of the crisp bread that came at the start and the fett’unta, I had gone into a carb coma and couldn’t eat the crust.We also ordered the Fazzoletti “Bolognese Blanco”, a braised rabbit, pancetta and mushroom pasta in a cream sauce with a horseradish gremolata (a chopped herb condiment consisting of garlic, parsley, and lemon zest). Despite friends saying that their pastas were drab, I must admit, this pasta was good, good creamy consistency, the rabbit was tender and the horseradish gremolata offset the saltiness of the pancetta well. We did, however, object to the pieces of celery that peppered the dish. While the purpose of the celery is to lighten the pasta and add a more refreshing taste, many people, D included, are not keen on seeing or eating visible slices of celery, so it would have been better to finely chop the celery and incorporate it into the sauce.A typical selection of Italian desserts awaited us and we opted for the vanilla panna cotta with peach “cobbler” and extra vecchio balsamico. This was very disappointing. The panna cotta itself was neither rich nor sweet enough and fell flat with no balance from the peach cobbler which did nothing except merely tickle the palate, rather than add a pleasant sour zing to the creaminess of the panna cotta. I also couldn’t taste the vanilla. The balsamic vinegar was an unnecessary and poor compliment to this pudding let-down.

Sad and unsatisfied, we ended with pots of fresh mint tea, but mine was more like mint water as I had a paltry 3 mint leaves to D’s 6 in hers.

Will I be returning? Not any time soon! You will see me instead at Pizza Express noshing on some dough balls.

Chopstixfix rating: 2/5

208 Duocento Otto, 208 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. Tel: 2549 0208.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$    Dinner was very expensive at $370 per person, for one main and one starter/dessert each, without any drinks except our mint tea at the end!