Adopting a nose-to-tail philosophy, Testina, under the discerning guidance of chef Marco Xodo, brings the lesser-known, typically unused cuts to center stage.
The mere mention of “Italian comforts” will likely conjure up images of some very familiar and, well, comforting cuisine staples: pizza margherita, a saucy swirl of meaty ragù and perhaps for more comprehensive diners, a peppery cacio e pepe or simple aglio olio. This is all to say that the city’s understanding of Italian cuisine is very unfortunately limited to a select carby, cheesy few.
ZS Hospitality Group — home to a brand new cohort of Michelin Star awardees — is hoping to execute the widely loved cuisine in brand new perspective with their latest opening, Testina. A modern trattoria tucked away on a third floor in Central imbued with the same homey, cosy allure of the original restaurant genre it’s inspired by, Testina is the collaborative effort with famous Milanese eatery, Trippa Milano, and follows a similar nose-to-tail philosophy that showcase lesser-known ingredients of offal and rare cuts.
At the new Lyndhurst Terrace location, the authentic menu is conceptualised and headed by Marco Xodo, a notable Bombana alum — and Seregno native — with a spanning, almost two decades long of fine-dining experience across Europe, Middle East and Asia.
Shifting a spotlight onto Lombardy cuisine of northern Italy, dishes at Testina adopt heavier, richer, more indulgent flavours, much like nearby neighbouring regions of Piedmont and Veneto. For a typical taste of the cuisine, Xodo recommends “Risotto alla Milanese with Pork Cheeks” from the menu, a creamy dish of slow-simmered rice, infused with saffron and butter.
“[Hong Kong] diners are very open-minded and adventurous about trying new things,” says Xodo on the introduction of the renewed approach to Italian dining. “And Lombardy cuisine is not commonly found in Hong Kong. I hope they will enjoy this new Italian dining experience at Testina.”
Consciously staying true to a typical Trippa experience, Testina flies in almost 90 percent of its ingredients from Italy, with a few exceptions including a tagliatelle ragù made with duck sourced from Beijing.
“Testina and Trippa are like brothers,” Xodo explains. “They share the same DNA but have their own personalities. The menu is based on Trippa’s, but also with a unique twist.” The Lingua Tonnata, understandably highlighted as a nostalgic favourite from Xodo’s childhood — he reluctantly adds, “It is very hard to pick the favourite among my own children” — is one such creation. Made with veal in the original version (“Vitello Tonnato”), the Testina take swaps in veal tongue, sliced in the usual thin carpaccio sheets and garnished with tuna mayo and Sicilian capers.
Other not-to-be-missed menu staples that Xodo points out include the slow-cooked “Testina” Pig’s Head, and “Trippa Fritta”. The latter is probably something you’ve seen tempting all over Instagram feeds, a signature dish of honeycomb beef tripe strips that’s deep-fried to golden yellow perfection. It’s already an established favourite at the Milanese outpost, and at Hong Kong’s Testina, is set to become an equally raved-about dish that aptly embraces the restaurant’s overarching concept of popularising rarer cuts.
“Trippa Fritta” is one of our signature dishes we share with Trippa Milano,” Xodo begins. “The honeycomb beef takes only 20 percent of the whole tripe and is rare part of the meat that’s often wasted in western cuisines.”
Interestingly, the typically unused, overlooked and discarded part proved to be the best ingredient in its creation because of the unique texture and structure. “We showcase a variety of ingredients such as chicken liver, veal tongue and codfish,” Xodo shares. “With the ideal way of cooking, [we can] highlight the flavour,” he finishes.
To get the distinctly crispy, perfectly light and airy bite of the Trippa Fritta which Xodo describes as being texturally similar to “Italian chips”, the tripe is carefully cut and trimmed into fitting bite-size pieces, then dropped into peanut oil for a brief six to eight minutes fry. It’s finished with a light seasoning of rosemary salt and pepper before serving. A fairly straight-forward dish, the most time-consuming process of the dish actually belongs to the overall logistics of transporting the ingredients fresh from Italy.
Consider this, then, fair warning before your make your next booking at Testina. It won’t be your usual Italian cuisine experience, but it’ll be so much better.
Testina is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12 to 3pm and 6 to 11pm; Sundays from 12 to 5pm. Reservations can be made here.