Italians are passionate about gastronomy. They have heated discussions on how meat should be cooked, the different types of pasta and their respective sauce accompaniments and all-important wine pairings.
Their ardent relationship with cuisine is world renowned. In fact, the Italian city of Parma was designated as the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2015. Their local specialities have made it onto the world map, including many ingredients that some of us can’t live without: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Culatello cured ham from Zibello, Felino salami, Borgotaro porcini mushrooms and prosciutto di Parma.
But an Italian meal is never really complete without the company of people. Big family meals are frequent, with hearty spreads and plenty of good, rustic vino. More importantly, the table is where special memories are created – new relationships are built, old ones are rekindled, announcements are made and laughter is shared. Lunch is their big meal of the day, often followed by a snooze.
So I was seriously bending some rules when I opted for a dinner tasting at EAT.it, with only the company of my husband.
Then again, this newly revamped – opened after 10 months of renovation – EAT.it isn’t a typical Italian restaurant to begin with. The casual eatery is made up of a number of food stations, designed to offer patrons a unique casual dining experience. You order at the cashier and then head to the various stations to collect your food. The kitchens are open, allowing diners to watch their meals being prepared but also providing them with the perception of eating at a bustling market. It was delightful to watch my pizza being tossed and my pasta being assembled.
The food and drink
We clinked to start our meal with a couple of pretty mocktails created by mixologist Andrea Minarelli. The Virgin Sea Breeze ($60) was made with ginger ale, grapefruit and chewy cranberries. It was light and zesty, and I loved how the bitter aftertaste helped to cleanse my cheese-laden palate throughout the heavy meal. The Forest Fruit ($60), however, differentiated itself quite strongly from its mocktail counterpart. It tasted of pure berry heaven, containing raspberries, orange juice and lime and elderflower syrup, a drink probably better suited for the beach or a lazy summer’s afternoon.
Andrea’s approach to creating his drinks is not only to make them look and taste fun but also to cater to Hong Kong’s busy workers. “Did you know that you can also take away cocktails here?” he asked, pointing to the takeaway cocktail, EAT.it Spritz ($68), on the menu. “Now, if you need to, you can have a quick drink at your desk too!” That sounded almost too fab to be true.
Then came the vibrant antipasto. The creamy burrata ($138, with prosciutto) was laid on a nest of rocket and basil, surrounded by bright tomatoes. We also paid tribute to the city of Parma and added an additional side of prosciutto. A gentle fork slice into the burrata revealed the oozy, soft stracciatella cheese hidden within. Each element separately tasted, well, exactly how it looked. But when we heaped our fork with a little bit of everything, the flavours complemented each other and exploded in our mouth. The saltiness of the prosciutto, creaminess of the cheese, slight bitterness of the rocket and tang of the tomatoes made the dish beautifully delicate and decadent at the same time. It was almost as if it had been created to celebrate the start of the meal.
I was excited for the chicken Milanese ($168) that came next. Fried chicken has always been one of my go-to comfort foods. It seems simple, but there is a lot of thought needed to prepare this dish such as using the right amount of flour for the perfect coating and achieving the right temperature of the oil for the optimal shade of golden brown. I’m especially particular about the breading; I’m always pricking up my ears for the crackling sound when I cut into a chicken steak. Armed with knife and fork in hand, I eagerly cut into the chicken and smiled as I heard that familiar crunch. About 20 minutes into the meal, the chicken remained just as crunchy. It was served with a side of sweet pickled red onion and rocket salad and a mildly spicy, tangy tomato sauce, bringing life to the dish.
To contribute to the unique dining experience, EAT.it encourages patrons to design their own pasta dish. I learned that EAT.it uses only ingredients flown in from Italy. Along with fresh items such as tomatoes, the pasta is also flown in several times a week. For my customised pasta (from $118), I selected the strozzapreti in a mixed mushroom and chive cream sauce. It was a pleasant dish – the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the funghi was fragrant.
Pizza exemplifies the Italian spirit of sharing and gathering, and the staff at EAT.it recommended that I try the cinque formaggi pizza ($108). They added that the dough had been fermented for 48 hours to deepen the flavour of the crust. The pizza was nothing short of a cheese nirvana, made up of five Italian cheese favourites: ricotta, stracchino, Gorgonzola, fontina and mozaarella. It was salty and sharp, and each slice oozed generously.
To round off the meal, we tried EAT.it’s famed banoffee pie ($50), which is made fresh daily. I was puzzled – isn’t banoffee pie an English dessert? Italian or not, this was definitely the star of my meal. My first spoonful of banana, whipped cream, light toffee and biscuit was divine, and I loved how the chocolate shavings brought out the other flavours of the pie.
The service design of EAT.it is shaped by the way Hong Kongers live and eat. The dishes are tasty, rustic and wholesome and the prices are affordable. It may not have been a typical lively Italian dinner, but we still shared merry memories nonetheless.
G/F, 9 Kingston Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, 2489 8822
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.