It doesn’t take much persuading to convince me to try a new restaurant, and even less so when it’s a new Italian restaurant that claims to serve “comfort food that every Italian grandmother would be proud of.” Pirata, up high on the 29th and 30th floors of a now foodie-centric building in Wan Chai (the same one that houses Zahrabel and Quest by Que), opened towards the end of last year, purporting to be an “honest Italian restaurant.”
If you enter from the 30th floor, you’ll first come across the Vermuteria, or Vermouth Bar, where you’ll find a wide selection of Italian, French, Spanish and New World vermouths, as well as cocktails from around the world. Every day between 5 and 7pm, you can also enjoy some complimentary snacks (aperitivi) with your drinks.
Head down the staircase and you will find the main dining area, an industrial yet rustic space with vintage chandeliers, timber tables and an altogether charming atmosphere.
Pirata’s menu is simple and homely, featuring many recipes inherited from Head Chef Stefano Rossi’s own family. Dishes are designed to be shared, family-style and there’s even a sense of familiarity and homeliness about the service.
Whilst sipping on a wonderfully refreshing vermouth cocktail, we began our meal with a simple yet delicious vitello tonnato, topped with ginormous Sicilian caper berries. There was nothing fancy or special about this dish; it was just a classic Italian dish executed to perfection.
The M.M.M. (or My Mamma’s Meatballs) were made of an incredibly smooth blend of pork and beef, topped with a comforting tomato sauce. Again, a simple dish, but nevertheless a good one.
You can’t really go wrong with a plate of burrata and Parma ham. Apparently the team at Pirata tried dozens of different burratas before finding the right one, but they definitely got there in the end. Having lived in Parma, I developed quite an obsession with Parma ham and piadine, and indeed, whenever I see a Parma ham piadina on the menu, I need to have it. The one at Pirata also comes with rocket and stracchino cheese and was as delicious as I remember, but I thought the serving size could have been a little more generous.
Pirata’s chefs proudly make all their pasta in-house and offer it in two sizes, allowing diners to sample a variety of flavours, without filling up too quickly. The pappardelle with duck ragu had a beautiful texture and a great flavour, but I found it a little too light on the duck.
The lasagna, however, fittingly listed under the ‘piatti grandi’ (large dishes) category, is one of the best I’ve tasted, packed full of bold flavours, without being too heavy on the béchamel sauce. I would probably have preferred my lasagna sheets a little more al dente, but the rich, meaty flavour of the beef ragu made up for it.
Both the Butcher’s cut and the fish of the day were absolutely delicious. The sliced flank steak, served simply with rocket and cherry tomatoes, was surprisingly tender for flank, whilst the Tuscan snapper, served whole, was utter perfection. I loved the Mediterranean flavours from the potatoes, olives, white wine and olive oil that penetrated into the fleshy white fish.
Just in case we hadn’t already had more than our share of delicious Italian comfort food, we were then served three (yes, three) desserts to share between the three of us. I’m never particularly fussed about panna cotta, and Pirata’s version with raspberry coulis was no exception. The tiramisu, though a little too creamy and lacking in Savoiardi biscuits, had a great flavour and kept me going back for more.
It was the crushed chocolate and nuts semifreddo, however that had caught our attention from early on in the meal, when we saw it being served at another table. This was just an assortment of nuts, Valrhona chocolate chips and chocolate fondue that admittedly wasn’t quite as good as it looked. I found it a little too heavy on the nuts and thought it could have done with more chocolate – but maybe that’s just my chocoholic side talking!
Prices are affordable, with smaller dishes around $100 and larger ones mostly between $100 and $350, maintaining the philosophy of being an honest Italian restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised by both the food and service at Pirata and feel that it is a welcome addition to the wide selection of Italian restaurants in HK.
29-30/F, 239 Hennessy Road
Tel: +852 2887 0270