When one door closes, another opens. Such is the case of the never-ending carousel of restaurant openings and closings in Hong Kong, not to mention chefs cycling in and out of our city. The closing of one Italian restaurant has naturally been replaced with another, this time bearing the name of chef Enrico Bartolini, who holds the record for the youngest chef in Italy to receive two Michelin stars (he now runs five restaurants across Italy, with the most recent opening in Venice).
No one will be surprised that the esteemed chef is opening his first international venture here with the help of Dining Concepts, the ubiquitous — and now publicly listed — restaurant group responsible for introducing Hong Kong to the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Laurent Tourondel and master mixologist J. Boroski. With Spiga, Dining Concepts has completely transformed the space to a casual-fine dining Italian eatery, complete with the “Secret Garden” with hanging plants and dimmed lights strung on cables across the room; the central dining area draped in silk wallpaper, taking its cues from a vintage Italian circus; the open kitchen with terrazzo flooring to mimic an Italian metro station; and a spacious “Portico” alfresco terrace which will play host to guest DJs — bedecked with lush plants, long couches and a fully stocked bar.
Celebrated designer Joyce Wang has provided her golden touch yet again, with beautiful vintage Italy-inspired accents which meander through six separate dining spaces — an intricate collection of vintage music instruments, maps and antiques unraveling stories from 1950s Italy. Natural textures, warm-toned colours and ceramic tiles create an aura of comfort and familiarity, complementing an unpretentious menu that houses a collection of chef Bartolini’s signatures as well as a selection of pizzas and handmade pastas.
For the chef, the goal was to create an intimate and welcoming vibe where diners could enjoy authentic, healthy Italian dishes that focused on the freshness of Italy’s premium ingredients rather than dishes doused with butter and olive oil.
“I love clean, direct flavours,” said Bartolini, recently in town for the opening of Spiga. “Traditionally, when [Italians] prepare dishes we start with onions and lots of oil, roast that and then add the ingredients — a method that is very good but tends to cover the flavour. I love to extract the flavour from the ingredients without fat. So at the end of preparation a few drops of olive oil is all that’s really needed.”
Fans who have heard of or been to the chef’s other venues scattered around Milan, Bergamo and Castiglione della Pescaia will want to go straight for his signature original recipes he’s brought over to Spiga, including a rich and hearty osso buco, vitello tonnato, and the creatively made, bright red Sicilian prawns which are dangled over hot oil so the legs come out fried while the meat still boasts a near-translucent sheen.
Lunch is surprisingly affordable for a restaurant that boasts a Michelin-starred pedigree — priced at HK$188 for the salad buffet, hungry diners can choose to add on a pasta or pizza (plus HK$60) or main dish (plus HK$90), which includes beef sirloin tagliata with roasted potatoes, roasted chicken with mushrooms, and a lightly seared sea bass fillet accompanied by a side salad of tomatoes, fennel and olives.
A showcase of vibrant, fresh Italian produce, the antipasto buffet was more than enough to satisfy our cravings for a light and healthy lunch, with a selection of seasonal salads including tuna and green beans, pumpkin and duck, a DIY salad bar, hot tomato soup, roasted vegetables, pasta salad and mounds of shaved prosciutto, salami and mortadella. For a more substantial lunch, we’d recommend adding the funghi pizza, scattered with mixed mushrooms and scalding pockets of bubbly hot mozzarella (although we wish the crust had a bit more char), or the tagliolini al pomodoro with a vibrant tomato sauce folded amongst chewy strands of homemade egg pasta — an example that less is more when it comes to simple, classic Italian dishes done right.
The short, standard list of daytime offerings is smart for the power-lunchers that will be motoring through a meal at Spiga on the weekdays, while the dinner menu delves into some of chef Bartolini’s more creative offerings, including housemade tagliatelle with chicken ragout and Norcia black truffle; grilled black angus tenderloin with potatoes millefeuille and “Crudaiola” sauce; slow-cooked Atlantic cod with braised endive and crunchy quinoa; and a personal favourite of the chef’s, beetroot risotto with gorgonzola (available on the tasting menu only). With starters averaging around HK$100–$200 and mains from $250–$350, Spiga is likely to become one of the hottest new spots in Central for affordable Italian classics and comfort food.
Spiga is open for lunch from noon–3pm and dinner from 6–11pm.
Spiga, 3/F, LHT Tower, 31 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2871 0055, diningconcepts.com/Spiga