A matter of taste in this tale of two slices
New york Pizza
It seems Hongkongers can't get enough of pizza, whether it's big and doughy or thin, New York Italian style. Slice sellers are doing slick business, giving the appetite-rich and time-poor a speedy snack to take away.
New York brand Paisano's Pizzeria took no time to grow out of its Lyndhurst Terrace shop, and its spacious new venue on Hollywood Road is constantly busy. A few weeks ago the company behind Posto Pubblico opened Pizzeria Pubblico just up the hill in SoHo.
Walk into Hollywood Road's Paisano's Pizzeria, on a hot Hong Kong summer lunchtime, and you're greeted with a welcome blast of air conditioning carrying the mouthwatering aroma of pizza.
Laid out in front of you is a counter of humongous 24-inch pizzas (HK$190-HK$280 for the whole pies), and behind there's an army of orange, green and white-clad staff manning the ovens and tossing dough. At lunch rush hour, it's a bit chaotic, so pick up a flyer with the menu (which also lists Sicilian pizzas, calzones, pasta, subs and salads).
Paisano's has seven one-slice varieties, from the simple cheese (sauce and mozzarella cheese, HK$25 per slice, and three sizes of pie up to 24 inches for HK$190) to the signature Paisano's (Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, onions, sauce and cheese, HK$45 per slice, HK$280 for the 24-inch). You can also make your own with the three-way, four-way and all-the-way options. When your number's called, the pizza comes on a metal pan, which is a nice touch.
The crusts are huge and inflated although nicely crunchy, perfect for lining the stomach before, during or on the way home from a big night out. However, they are a little on the heavy side for lunch. The pie is deliciously thin and crispy with a pleasingly herby tomato sauce. The signature Paisano's looks the most tempting, sprinkled with generous amounts of cheese and toppings, and although there could be more pepperoni, it tastes juicy without being oily.
Good results for the pizza, but Paisano's isn't somewhere you'll be hanging around for the ambiance. Decorated in no-frills yellow, orange and Formica, it does get points for cleanliness, and if you can't get a table at the picture windows for people-watching over Hollywood Road, there's more space up a few stairs towards the back.
By contrast, the small outside terrace and interior of Pizzeria Pubblico is strikingly charming with chunky wooden tables and a black-and-white checkerboard floor, tempting snackers to take their time and hang out with a slice and a beer or glass of wine. The tables on the terrace are great with views of chef Vinny Lauria throwing circles of dough, but could do with being cooled by fans in the heat of the day.
A blackboard in your line of sight as you walk in lists the options, as well as salads and subs (including a veal meatball sub, HK$100), while the counter on the right showcases the 18-inch pies, from the plain ($HK30 per slice, HK$200 per pie, but you may add toppings only to a whole pie) to the Pubblico (mozzarella, ricotta, chilli, tomato sauce and basil, HK$45 per slice, HK$260 per pie) and the Brooklyn Special (fried eggplant, mozzarella, roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, sauce and basil, HK$45 per slice, HK$260 per pie).
Place your order, and listen for your number to collect it. Smaller and with thinner crusts, they appeal to those seeking a New York Italian experience who would like to try two at a sitting.
The sausage slice is tasty and well covered, while the Brooklyn Special gets points for being different, but is, comparatively, a bit too subtle in flavour. However, the three islands of homemade mozzarella elevate the cheese from a basic to a heroic topping in its own right.
And although some slices have a rather uneven sprinkling of eggplant and not enough of the wonderful roasted red pepper, this can be amended by adding the pickled chilli pieces that accompany every slice, or a sprinkle of the herbs, chilli flakes, parmesan, garlic and olive oil from the shaker.
The verdict: for quantity, Paisano's nails it, but for authenticity and a great place to hang out, it's got to be Pizzeria Pubblico. So it's not about winners or losers, but rather the experience you're after.
23 Hollywood Road, Central Tel: 2544 4445. Open Sun-Thur 11am- 11pm; Fri-Sat 11am-5am. Branches in Sai Kung, Discovery Bay, Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. paisanos.com.hk
G/F, Tsun Wing Lane, SoHo, Central. Tel: 2530 2779. Open daily noon to midnight