Amalfi, Positano, Cinque Terre — of all the places in the world, few can match the beauty and allure of the Italian coastline. It’s home to stunning cliffside towns, golden beaches populated with attractive sunbathers, breathtaking views of deep-blue waters and, of course, delicious food that’s dominated by ultra-fresh seafood. Whether you’ve visited this picturesque region yourself or only marvelled at its wonders via Instagram, we’re happy to report that you can now experience la dolce vita right here in Wan Chai, courtesy of Black Sheep Restaurants’ Osteria Marzia, set to open next week.
Last month we announced the opening of this new Italian spot, and now we’re giving you an exclusive first look inside the beautifully designed restaurant before it welcomes its first guests. Like all of Black Sheep Restaurants’ venues, Osteria Marzia is a portal to another place, possibly even another time period. With this new opening, BSR co-founders Christopher Mark and Syed Asim Hussain are inviting you on a romantic escape to seaside Italy, complete with dapper gentlemen and hand-painted ceramic dishes from Positano.
Located in the ground floor of boutique hotel The Fleming (set to reopen following renovations soon), the space evokes both a stylish boat and the waters of the Mediterranean, with light wood and sea-blue tiles amongst the primary elements in the design. (The interiors were done by design firm Substance.) Though it only seats about 40 guests, the restaurant is unbelievably airy, with a double-height ceiling — a rarity in Hong Kong — that gives the room a bit of majesty. The lighting design is also impressive, with circular lanterns hanging over the tables, suspended on curving wooden arms; and a large moon-like orb for the centrepiece, hanging high above the dining room, wrapped up in a fisherman’s net. We visited during the day, but we can already tell that, come nighttime, the restaurant will be filled with the beautiful kind of golden light that makes you want to linger at the table just a little while longer.
It might be the attractive lighting that draws in passers-by, but inside it’s all about the semicircular bar which showcases the day’s fresh seafood in an enticing display — the idea being that diners will handpick their fish and shellfish. More about that bar: The cocktail program is overseen by Luca Sergi, a native of Sardinia and the man who’s responsible for all those tasty concoctions at Buenos Aires Polo Club. The drinks have yet to be finalised, but you can expect tipples made with Italian spirits and liqueurs like limoncello and amaro, which will make you feel like you’re dining with your feet in the sand on a Sicilian spiaggia.
Running the show at Osteria Marzia is a handsome staff outfitted in nautical-inspired threads — striped shirts, navy linen blazers, boat shoes — that make them look like a fashionable crew of sailors operating a vessel you’d like to be on. Their attire marries perfectly with the soundtrack, a charmingly retro mix of artists like Fred Buscaglione and Loredana Berte, though classic rock, rhythmic pop, ‘90 hip hop, and rap will also feature in the rotation. According to BSR co-founder Hussain, “The music at Osteria Marzia is a mix of Italian artists, mostly upbeat, combined with a touch of nostalgia to give a relaxed, vacation-like vibe at any time of day.”
But what about the food? This is a restaurant, after all. Overseeing the kitchen is Italian chef Luca Marinelli, a veteran of Buenos Aires Polo Club who is putting his culinary heritage and affinity for high-quality seafood to good use at Osteria Marzia. Raw crudo, salads, pastas, grilled mains comprise the menu, which itself has a graphic design that looks like something found in a Wes Anderson film. The Italian coastline spans many, many kilometres, so the culinary influences and ingredients used in, say Sorrento, will differ considerably to what you’d find in the Sicilian capital of Palermo. With this restaurant, Marinelli pays tribute to the diverse culinary heritage of seaside Italy, tapping into traditional recipes found from north to south.
We were lucky enough to have an advance taste of a few of these dishes during our sneak peek. We started off with an appetiser of raw hamachi simply served with cherry tomatoes, olives and basil, the purity and sweetness of the tomato immediately transporting our palettes to Italy. Next we tried the spaghetti ricci, a simple preparation of toothsome pasta cooked with oil, garlic and red chilli, made rich with the addition of sea urchin. Whereas Hong Kong restaurants tend to serve uni from Japan, Marinelli imports his from Italy; while Japanese varieties tend to have a creamy taste and mouthfeel, Italian sea urchin is recognisable by its distinctively briny flavour. As a result, the pasta had a light, bright freshness that tasted, remarkably and wonderfully, of the ocean.
Dishes such as these have us looking forward to a more in-depth exploration of the full menu, which will include an impressive fire-roasted seafood tower, the remnants of which will be transformed into a complimentary seafood pasta for the table. We’re also looking forward to the restaurant’s wine selection, which will include lesser-known wines from various regions of Italy, including typically underrated Sicily, so get ready to expand your wine knowledge here with the help of the sommelier.
Hong Kong has no shortage of Italian restaurants, but Osteria Marzia stands out from the crowd with its coastal cuisine, eye-catching design, and chilled-out vacation vibes. The next time you need an Italian escape without booking a plane ticket, look no farther than Fleming Road.
Osteria Marzia, G/F, The Fleming, 41 Fleming Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 3607 2253