Opening its doors just about a year ago, Ramato is JIA Group’s laid-back Italian eatery in Sheung Wan, taking the place of another Italian restaurant by JIA, 208. Ramato’s menus have been developed by Chef Antimo Maria Merone of award-winning Italian fine diner Estro, together with Head Chef Matteo Caripoli.
The fresh, rustic flavours of southern Italy are the focus at Ramato. In particular, the pasta dishes shine here. The seemingly humble spaghetti Ramato (HK$148) ranks at the tippity top of our list – a simple tomato sauce that bursts with the natural sweetness of ripe, juicy Ramato tomatoes, a variety from Puglia for which the restaurant is named. A desert-island dish!
An off-menu pasta dish that impressed us is the lasagne (HK$218) – a tomato-free version of this classic Italian number featuring just one layer of crispy homemade pasta sheets topped with béchamel (heavy on the nutmeg) and traditional ragù alla Bolognese. As a child, what Chef Caripoli loved most about lasagne was the crunchy, saucy top layer, and we agree that this take is a comfort-food triumph.
Of the newly unveiled pastas on the à-la-carte menu, we highly recommend the spaghetti Nerano (HK$188), a meat-free wonder originating in the Italian village of Nerano that pairs fried zucchini with provolone del Monaco cheese and mint.
A meaty pasta newcomer is the eliche alla Genovese (HK$198), a pasta similar to fusilli coated in a rich slow-cooked beef sauce complemented by caramelised Montoro onion, which is intensely aromatic and sweet.
To pair with these pasta dishes, Chef Caripoli has introduced several new starters and mains. Of the starters, the winner for us is the insalata di pulpo (HK$198), a warm octopus salad showcasing tender-with-a-bite octopus paired with the bright flavours of tomato, celery, red onion, fennel and olive.
In the main category, the showstopping branzino al forno (HK$588) consists of a baked whole sea bass. The flavours of this delicate, flaky fish are accentuated with potatoes, olives, cherry tomatoes and loads of aromatics. This dish is excellent value for money when taking the quality and size of the fish into consideration (it generously serves 4–6 diners).
The aubergine caponata (HK$88) is a delicious side choice and something a bit different from the Italian norm. Its flavour is akin to Chinese sweet-and-sour sauce, this time with the Sicilian additions of pine nuts and olives.
There’s only one way to end at meal at Ramato, and that’s with a big bowl of the restaurant’s signature tiramisu (HK$108). What we like about Chef Caripoli’s version of this traditional Italian dessert is that it’s not overly sweet and creamy. The artistic presentation is a plus.
We’re fans of both Ramato’s chilled, buzzy vibe and Chef Caripoli’s authentic southern Italian dishes, especially the pastas, which we think rank amongst the best in town (that tomato sauce!). The prices are extremely affordable, making it ideal for groups of friends and families dining together. We’ll be back to try the chef signature menu (HK$780/person), which features a selection of Ramato’s greatest hits as well as seasonal specials. This is a neighbourhood spot we’ll keep coming back to…
Where: 208 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
For reservations: phone 2549 0208 or book online
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.