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Chic & easy - authentic Italian fare dishes up

(China Daily)

12:45, March 25, 2013

Among Papi's signature dishes is silky burrata cheese with juicy Italian cherry tomatoes(China Daily)

Papi dishes up authentic Italian fare in a smart and casual environment perfect for date night or family dinners. Rebecca Lo takes a taste of la dolce vita.

Small plates have become a trend in Hong Kong recently and it is easy to understand why: It is the same concept as dim sum, only for a later crowd. Sharing a casual meal with many different dishes to sample over a few glasses of wine is a fun way to spend an evening with friends or family. And for singles or couples who are watching their waistlines, the portions are perfect.

Jay To, Papi's assistant manager, explains that the concept came about after its owner, Hong Kong entrepreneur Benjamin Lung, established W52 in Central.

The mastermind behind Va Bene, Lung saw a need for a more laid-back outlet that offers Italian staples in a rustic environment.

The name Papi is an abbreviated portmanteau of pasta and pizza, two simple standards offered by the restaurant in abundance. W52's former chef Francesco Berardinelli consults on the menu, creating new plates to suit the bustling Civic Square mix of suits, tourists and neighborhood patrons.

I got there a little early, and was seated indoors near the bar where there's a good view of the action happening in the lively open kitchen.

Wooden trestle tables and white metal cafe chairs are set against black chalkboards with the daily specials hand- lettered in a rainbow of colors.

There is a good mix of large tables with wooden benches for groups of six to 10, intimate tables for those on date night, and high tables with barstools outdoors in the piazza for those wishing to dine under the stars.

Italian produce abounds, displayed along a feature wall of undulating horizontal wooden strips and from open shelves above the kitchen.

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