Lupa, Hong Kong
Mario Batali’s first Hong Kong restaurant is based on the chef restaurateurs frenetic NYC eatery of the same name. Like its older sister, which debuted back in 1999, it’s been an overnight success with the HK crowd. Situated within Central District’s newly built LHT Tower, the restaurant’s design is low-key yet effective with moody lighting, dark wood panelling and a huge terrace.
The competitively-priced lunch offering is centered around pizza and a huge buffet station stocked generously with cured meats, olives and freshly prepared antipasti dishes. A sense of generosity and conviviality is at the heart of everything the restaurant does, an approach that has paid huge dividends in a city where Western-style restaurants can be a bit stiff.
Dinner is à la carte but no less rustic. Starter size plates - broccoli rabe with straciatella, olive oil braised octopus with celery and chili - fuse local ingredients with first-rate produce sourced from Italy and the US. Gutsy Roman dishes feature heavily in the pasta section. Spaghetti alla carbonara and bucatini all’Amatriciana with liberal amounts of finely sliced guanciale (cured pigs cheek) are winning the restaurant a big following from those looking for something a bit more authentic than spaghetti with red sauce. Equally as true to the source is the restaurant’s comprehensive and beautifully curated regional Italian wine list.
The fiery red-haired chef’s entry into the city’s restaurant fraternity was typically flamboyant with a decadent opening party that was more rave than restaurant launch. While Lupa has calmed down a little, the buzz continues to reverberate across the wider Hong Kong scene.
Jo Jo, Bangkok, Thailand
The ground floor restaurant at Bangkok’s plush St Regis Hotel focuses on DOP ingredients from Italy’s legions of artisan producers. Rare cheeses, preserves and cured meats are allowed to shine in simple preparations that keep the city’s moneyed elite coming back for more. Lunch service is all about interactivity, pizzas are cooked in a central wood-fired oven and chefs make a show of creating delicate pasta dishes in the open kitchen. As the day ebbs away, Jo Jo transforms into one of Bangkok’s most fashionable hangouts. A-lister’s check each other out and wolf down modern Italian dishes before hitting one of the hotels equally swanky bars.
Tarantella da Luigi, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo may not be the first city that springs to mind when you think of pizza but the capital’s pizzaiolos can certainly hold their own against those of New York City and Chicago. One such pizza fanatic is Mr Teratoko (aka Luigi), who spent much of his youth apprenticing at some of Italy’s best pizza restaurants. He operates Tarantella da Luigi, a low-key but much lauded joint in Tokyo’s Shirokane district, which has been awarded the hallowed stamp of approval from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. Those in the know queue round the block for his fantastically authentic pizza made primarily with imported Italian ingredients and cooked in a top-of-the range wood burning pizza oven.