I definitely have an on-going love affair with Italian food. But for some reason in Hong Kong, where food is almost a religion, I haven’t yet found an Italian trattoria to truly satisfy my constant cravings.
But that all changed at my latest trip to Panevino. We were lucky enough to be invited to check out their new Tai Hang branch by general manager, Chantal Teodorovich, who describes the restaurant as one of the few family-run Western establishments in Hong Kong. The much-loved Panevino in the Mid-Levels has been around for fifteen years, and the latest Tai Hang location is a welcome addition to the food scene. Before she got involved with the business, Chantal was actually a loyal customer – and given her Italian roots, she knows her stuff! Simple and fresh is really what Italian home cooking is about, and Panevino will make you feel like a member of the famiglia!
The Tai Hang Panevino is right on the roadside, which can get quite loud when cars and lorries start honking, but otherwise the restaurant feels quite spacious (and we’re looking forward to the upcoming addition of a gorgeous al fresco area at the back too). With its open front, it’s also dog friendly – so if you ever happen to be exploring the Tai Hang area with doggies and want to stop for some munchies, this is a perfect place to plop down and relax.
What I loved about the menu (and the main point of difference between here and their Mid-Levels location) was the long list of starters that are all great for sharing. Rach and I shared a handful – starting first with the Pasta Fritta. Now I’ve never had fried pasta in my life, but ohmygod. Cheesy goodness oozes out the second you bite in, and the rustic marinara sauce was a fantastic mix of fresh basil, tangy tomatoes and a lotta garlic simmered into one helluva sauce. I wish they sold this in jars!
Next came the Calamari Marinati; I normally always order fried calamari (oh-so-healthy!), but it was a nice change to have fresh calamari infused with the subtle flavours of dill and lemon instead. The quintessential Italian appetiser, Proscuitto e Melone, was also simple and refreshing.
Onto some meaty starters! The Salsiccia Brasata, essentially an Italian sausage served in a tomato sauce, didn’t wow us… but that was probably because Rach and I were entirely obsessed with our final starter, the Polpettine di Vitello! These homemade veal meatballs were just incredible. They melted almost instantly in my mouth; the mix of veal, breadcrumbs and cheese was impossibly tender, and packed a punch of flavour from the fresh herbs and garlic. I also loved the addition of pine nuts to the tomato sauce – if they served this on a sub, I’d have this for lunch any day, every day!
Even though we both wolfed down those irresistible starters, the mains didn’t disappoint either. The Risotto Cremoso con Pollo e Pancetta was beautiful – the perfect marriage of rice and broth. This creamy risotto was intensely flavoursome, with a generous portion of chicken that hit the spot. This will no doubt be one of my fave comfort foods on a cold winter’s day.
And lastly, an all-time classic, Linguine alle Vongole. It’s probably one of the simplest Italian dishes – all it takes is three ingredients: linguine, clams and white wine… But to get it right is a whole other story! Chantal reckons that a decent Vongole is the true test of any self-respecting Italian resto, and the one at Panevino was a testament to this. The linguine soaked up all the briny juice of the clams, leaving me with a lovely but not overpowering taste of the sea.
Dessert was a no-brainer – tiramisu. I’ve had my fair share of tiramisu in Hong Kong, and it usually ends up being a soggy mess or a sad little dollop of something on a plate. But the homemade tiramisu at Panevino definitely left an impression. Each layer was done just right – the sweet fluffy filling embracing the soft spongy texture of cake with just a subtle hint of coffee and cocoa powder dusted on top.
I was totally impressed with Panevino – for some homemade Italian cooking, just like nonna would make it, there’s nowhere else I’d rather go! The portions were quite substantial (Rach and I both brought doggie bags of Italian goodness home!), and the quality of the food was excellent. Another plus – starters range from $20-70 each with mains averaging at around $140, so prices are extremely reasonable.
My one meal at Panevino has definitely turned me into a regular diner – so if you haven’t already, come and have a taste… I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Panevino, G/F, 36-40 Tung Lo Wan Road, Intelligent Court, Tai Hang, Hong Kong, 2881 5525; 30-32 Robinson Road, G/F Peace Tower, Mid-Levels, Central, Hong Kong, 2521 7366