An authentic, honest-to-goodness Italian restaurant was exactly what Hong Kong was missing before Pirata opened its doors. This neighbourhood gem won its way into the hearts of locals with true Italian style cooking headed by Piedmont native, Stefano Rossi, who learned to cook from his grandmother. The menu – inspired by Stefano’s childhood – highlights seasonal ingredients sourced directly from Italy.
The first venture from Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo, Pirata is a product of determination and perseverance, spurred by a love of food and a heart for hospitality that’s shared between the two entrepreneurs. Manuel is an ex-musician turned food enthusiast with an innate warmth and affability; Christian is a veteran of the industry, previously Head of Operations for one of the largest restaurant groups in Hong Kong. They both have outstanding merits on their own, but together, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Nevertheless, they’ll be the first to tell you that it takes more than ingenuity and talent to build a restaurant from the ground up. As their first start-up venture and without much funding on the table, Manuel and Christian sourced every element of Pirata’s interiors themselves, from the wooden chairs to the vintage chandeliers and the rustic tableware. The result is an eclectic mix of materials and artwork, contributing to a cosy vibe and effortless ambience that’s free of any pretense.
Now with four restaurants under their umbrella, Manuel and Christian still manage to pop in most nights to man the floor, making sure that napkins are set properly, glasses are refilled, and guests are having a good time — not a difficult task given the sumptuous selection of food and drinks on offer.
Start with the fresh mussels steeped in garlic and white wine, the tender octopus salad lifted with lemon oil and parsley, and the crispy arancini, golden brown and tinted with saffron. Purple potato gnocchi swashed in gorgonzola cream is a deeply hearty and satisfying pasta dish, as is the spinach and ricotta cannelloni, layered with béchamel and tomato sauce. For a carb break, choose from roast duck, roast chicken or bistecca alla Fiorentina — the latter served simply with olive oil, thyme and rosemary to let the flavour of the meat shine.
A short but sweet selection of wine should please any vinophile, while cocktails play on classic recipes with a twist, such as the negroni made from orange marmalade-infused Bombay gin. There’s also an impressive library of vermouths; try the Contratto Bianco made with over 50 botanicals, a sip of pure Italian tradition with a recipe that dates back to 1890.
Those who know Manuel and Christian well won’t be surprised to know they scouted over 100 locations before deciding on the Wan Chai site — they’re the ambitious, hard-driven type that won’t stop until they’ve perfected their vision of the ideal restaurant. With Pirata, it’s that welcoming Italian spot in your neighbourhood that one dreams of, but rarely ever finds.