What a time to be a sports fan! Kobe passing on the torch to the Golden State Warriors; Leicester City upstaging the Premier League elite; Barca staggering like a wounded deer, pursued by the wolves of Madrid; the joyous blast of the West Indies sweeping all three of the World 20/20 titles; and the Rugby 7s having marched triumphantly in fancy-dress through town. I think sport and food goes together like tomato and mozzarella, so after a quick poll of my friends, we near-unanimously declared that pizza is the ultimate spectator fuel.
Why only near-unanimous? Well, one particularly fancy nancy complained that Pizza is oily and gets on her white Gucci Mary-Janes. So, the challenge was set, to find the most refined, the ultimate in high-dining pizza. We want to be able to share a slice but without feeling like a NYC presidential candidate having to force-smile through the grease. Thus was born FoodPanda’s Good Food Tour of haute-pizza. We were lucky enough to visit three premium pizza palaces, and, best of all, if you want to order a four-seasons while the seasons unfold, you can!
This evening, we started, like all good pizzas do, with the base(ment). We descended the stairs to the dungeon of swing and nostalgia which is Grappa’s. Behind the scene at Grappa’s Cellar are the creatives that made Mo Bros, so I knew I was in for a treat. The guests were already wearing their napkins and looked ready for the opening act of the pizza theatrical we had planned for them.
We soaked in the retro-ambience and old-school comfort of this renowned food station. As I reflected on its secluded charm, our cameraman came over and beamed; he realized the first date he ever had with his wife was when she took him here! The cellar is a comfortable and romantic place to chat, its generous space offering privacy and intimacy. As Benny Goodman swung, and crooned of eternal love, our pizzas arrived.
Executive chef Jeffrey Wo presented us with some of their best sellers, including Pizza Todi, Pizza Sardegna and Pizza Alla Salsiccia. Just looking at the pizzas, I already knew which one I wanted to try first. Pizza Alla Salsiccia! I love my deep-pan pizza because the base is thick enough to hold all the scrumptious toppings. The dough was fluffy and light, despite it being deep dish style, and the secret of its fluffiness is their Neapolitan recipe using 00 flour. The toppings were generous and balanced.
The tomato sauce had the tang of a fresh ripe tomatoes; the mozzarella cheese they use offered a slight sweetness and saltiness; their homemade sausages were spot on and brought a satisfying rusticity to the pizza. They weren’t shy about the sausages either. Sprinkled liberally across the top, like benedictions from the Godfather, the homemade sausage was crispy, savory and fragrant with rosemary.
Next I got to try to Pizza Todi, which is a fresh spin on a pizza, literally and for those who are worried about carbs and calories. The base was thin and crispy (think poppadom thin), and topped with mesclun leaves, arugula, parma ham, salami, capers, anchovies and parmesan cheese. They call it the Umbrian delight, but I would consider it as the ideal afternoon delight! This would make a great lunch to share among with your friends from the office, consider it a summery salad on top of a thin crust!
The capers, parma ham and arugula is a classic take on a great Italian salad. What made me happier, was they added anchovies. Who can resist anchovies on a pizza? (Shut up you.)
Next, we turned on our pedometer and hiked up along the footbridge, took a little time-out on the escalator and landed at the King of Meatballs, Posto Pubblico. Famous for their fried pizza dough, I was ecstatic to finally try their meatball pizza.
As soon as the group was settled in Posto Pubblico’s intimate embrace, their stylish restaurant manager Tofiq entered with a flourish. Mouths dropped and eyes widened as he presented us with sizzling hot pizzas one by one. On top of this pizza, all covered with cheese, are meatballs! Reigning champions of the Hong Kong meatball challenge, Posto Pubblico have added them to a deep-dish pizza. My life is ruined. I will have to sell all my worldly belongings to feed my habit.
I was the one who was serving our hungry guests, and soon I cut the pizza, I knew life was about to get as feel-good and cheesy as a Hugh Grant movie. The cheese was so stringy that you could pull it all the way across the dining table and it still would not break. The meatballs were perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. The base was crispy and the thickness of the dough was the way I like it.
The meatball pizza had disappeared. We sat facing the empty dish with expressions like those of guilty cats who are trying to pretend they have not eaten your last sardine. Oh well. Life must go on. Next I tried the Funghi Tartufo with mixed mushrooms, alfredo cream sauce, pecorino, parsley and truffles.
How could it compare to the indulgence of the last dish? The first bite made me bounce on my chair. It was creamy, earthy and fresh all in one, kind of like a mashup of classical music mixed with hip hop. When you get the mix right, you know it will get your feet clapping. Tomato sauce is usually my go to and I have never had alfredo sauce on a pizza. Funghi Tartufo opened my eyes. It was smooth, milky, but subtle, foregrounding the rich truffles and mushrooms. The truffles add complexity to the dish and you will want to reach out for the next slice.
I had one more stop to make, though, so they dragged me out – my hand wavering in the air as if I were Adam on the Sistine Chapel and God were a pizza.
Our final stop, was not too far from Posto Pubblico, so my companions only had to drag me 100 yards before restraining me at Linguini Fini, the innovative mecca of food run by culinary contender Vincent Lauria.
General manager Jeff brought out our grand finale: The Bronx. If foodpanda’s mission was to show that pizza can be an elevated dish then here was further proof of their success. Linguini Fini’s take on pizza is to merge the classics of Italian-American pizza with the care and love that goes into preparing slow-cooked dishes. The Bronx, a place redolent with no-nonsense pride, toughness and cultural heterogeneity, matches this pizza. The solid, reliable base does what it does well, and then the rest of the dish is a vibrant blend of different tastes and cultures.
The gorgeous, unctuous brisket meatball reminds me of the Bronx’s Jewish or Chinese influences; the piquant pepperoni has a latin american kick to it; and the basil and parmesan links back to the dishes roots. The porchetta, made by braising pork-belly until it is ready to dissolve its flavors into the dish, adds tantalizing bursts of robust salty goodness. From the giddy excitement of Post Pubblico I am suddenly deadly serious, tasting and savoring each bite and flavor. Maybe I am on a mozzarella high, but it feels like I am on a walking food tour of the Bronx and without needing to take my bags through customs or getting jet lagged.
Back in Hong Kong, we had to wind down our wonderful feast. We headed out and pondered what delights the next tour would bring. With everyone humming the happy tunes of La Donna È Mobile, the notes ended our pizza tour perfectly.
If you want a night of sports and some of Hong Kong’s finest Italian-American cuisine then make sure you order from the featured restaurants. And just because Rugby 7s is over, doesn’t mean you can’t still dress for the occasion.
Address: Jardine House, 1 Connaught Pl, Central
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GrappasCellar
No time to make your way to Jardine House? No problem. Sample all of their pizzas a few clicks here.
Follow this link to find other pizza spots in Hong Kong.
- Christy Ma from lolleroll.com
- Mac Ling from www.mac-ling.com
- Kelvin Ho from www.hkepicurus.com
- Helena from supersupergirl-dining.blogspot.hk – also Openrice blogger
- CF Ng – Foodie Junior Digital Editor, @soarinturtle
- Hillary Leung from @morethanthree
- Mabel Liu from @mabel_lui
- Hannah Chung from www.afoodieworld.com