In the heart of Lan Kwai Fong you’ll find a spacious, casual-chic (think marble tables, tufted banquettes, copper accents) Italian restaurant called Ciao Chow. Its convenient location on the ground floor of California Tower has made it a popular place, perhaps even more so now that they’ve introduced Happy Mondays when pizzas and beers go for 50 per cent off.
The pizzas at Ciao Chow are where it’s at. They’re the first restaurant in Hong Kong to be certified by Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN), which means they've agreed to use specific ingredients, techniques and even machinery in order to produce authentic Neapolitan pizza. It’s serious business, specifying the type of flour, water, salt and even dough mixers to be used. Of course, it's possible that a restaurant could adhere to these standards and still produce a subpar pie, but we were more than happy with our Verde pizza.
Verde ($189) is one of two pesto-based pizzas on Ciao Chow's February menu. Our eyes lit up when it came out – we’d guess it was a healthy American-sized medium. It had a thicker crust that worked well with the generous portion of toppings. There was plenty of smoked scamorza (similar to mozzarella), Parma ham and cherry tomatoes. And the Parmesan wasn’t a dried-out afterthought but added an extra layer of flavour to the pizza. Definitely a must eat.
Ciao Chow is more than a pizzeria, though, and we tucked into other Italian favourites too.
We built our own antipasti platter, choosing prosciutto cotto ($39), pancetta coppata ($39), burrata Pugliese ($99) and marinated olives ($39). All our choices were fresh and delicious, though we thought the portions were a bit small. If we were to reorder, we’d add another meat and cheese to our platter for two.
Because we couldn’t resist ordering something fried, we tried the calamari ($66). Ciao Chow’s version was light and crispy, with the squid sliced very thin. There was a good amount of nicely seasoned rings for the price, but if you're greedy like us, you'll be wishing you asked for one order per person.
We didn’t have a size issue with the funghi e barbabietole salad ($119) though. The massive bowl filled with rocket, meaty portobello slices, honey-roasted beetroot and goat cheese was plenty for two. Texturally, we thought this dish could have benefited from some nuts, but it was a tasty way to eat our greens.
At this point you could call us gluttons with North American–sized expectations and appetites, but we were a bit surprised when our ravioli con ricotta e pomodori secchi ($139) came out. We know pasta is usually a pre-main course in Italy, but we thought the portion would be more main sized for a restaurant with a hefty 12 pastas but just three main courses on the menu. That said, the ravioli were very good. The skin was thin, the ricotta and pine nut filling was delicate and the sun-dried tomatoes (also in the filling) added savouriness against the mild sweetness of the sage butter sauce.
Though getting full, we couldn’t resist dessert. The raviolo Nutella e banana ($69) was perhaps not the best recommendation after a carb-heavy meal, but we can see why it's popular. It looked like a puffy Pop-Tart and tasted like a crepe.
Tiramisu ($79) is one of those desserts you can always find room for in your second stomach. It was lovely, not too bitter, with a nearly even cream-to-cake ratio.
With its convenient location and casual-chic vibe, Ciao Chow’s an all-round good spot for something to eat pre-party or post-workout, for a weekday lunch or a weekend brunch. Just beware the portion sizes and order accordingly if you’re going with a big appetite. We’d definitely like to go back to try more of the pizzas and desserts.
And unsurprising for an LKF restaurant, we found the vibe loud and vivacious on a weekday evening. Though the music was blaring all night, we barely noticed it except when the fun twang of 70s American country rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 'Bad Moon Rising' came on (a restaurant after our own heart).
G/F, California Tower, 30–32 D'Aguilar Street, LKF, Central, 2344 0005