Six of the best places in Hong Kong to eat pizza – margherita, of course – plus seven reader recommendations
A great margherita requires top quality ingredients and strict adherence to traditional cooking methods, but where in Hong Kong is up to the task? We recruit two local Italians to help us with our search
When debating Italy’s most globally embraced food export, pizza beats pasta by the thinnest and crispiest of margins. But how many times have you heard friends complain that they can’t find a good slice in Hong Kong?
Eager to prove them wrong, we recruited two Hong Kong-based Italians, Maria Teresa Brusco and Francesco Del Gaudio – the latter from Naples, where the modern pizza was invented (but who’s not afraid to admit that he also enjoys a deep-fried pizza).
Del Gaudio is passionate about pizza and says a true Neapolitan pizza – in our case, the margherita – can only be cooked in a wood-fired oven, with fresh basil and San Marzano tomatoes. The thin-and-pointy variety of plum tomatoes from the town of San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples, can only be used as stipulated by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (or True Neapolitan Pizza Association, better known as VPN). This global movement aims to protect the Pizza Napoletana name and the product by enforcing strict rules governing its preparation.
Other guidelines include that ovens must be at 485 degrees Celsius and flour must be grade “0” or “00”, indicating the fineness of milling (“00” is highly refined and has the consistency of baby powder).
But what really makes a good pizza? We asked 2014 world champion pizza maker and self-confessed margherita lover Johnny Di Francesco from Australia, whose family’s roots can be traced to Naples.
Di Francesco owns 400 Gradi in Melbourne (the name is the temperature their wood-fired oven is set at) and he spent some time in Naples learning the trade. His pizza advice is simple: less is more.
“Focus on quality over quantity. Don’t get caught in the trap of piling as many ingredients as possible onto your pizza. The best pizza in the world, in my humble opinion, is the margherita, and it only has three toppings.”
Di Francesco says that it’s also important to use only the best quality ingredients and make sure they are “super fresh”.
“The best pizzas today are those where the bases and dough have been made from scratch. It’s how they used to do it in the old days, so you can’t argue with that.”
Armed with his expert advice, we set off to sample some of Hong Kong’s contenders. We bypassed fast-food chains, opting for mid-range offerings and ordering margheritas for consistency. We obviously chose well because the six places we visited all got our red, white and green stamp of approval. Here they are in order of greatness.
208 Duecento Otto
Brusco and Del Gaudio admitted that it had been a couple of years since they last visited this Sheung Wan joint that’s been serving up rustic Italian cuisine for years. Both also agreed they couldn’t remember the pizzas tasting so good.
Handmade by a Neapolitan chef and baked in a custom-designed pizza oven shipped in from Italy, the margherita pizza here (HK$168) was our top pick from the places we tried. The crust was light and crunchy and the base thin, with just the right amount of “droop” – how far the tip of one’s pizza slice droops down (also known as the tip sag).
“The tomatoes used on this pizza have loads of flavour,” Brusco says. The restaurant says it uses only buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy and the freshest ingredients. It shows.
208 Hollywood Rd, tel: 2549 0208
The margherita – on the menu under the name Alvy’s Classic (HK$108) – at this new joint on Holland Street in Kennedy Town got the big Italian thumbs up. The place was crammed. “We have a lot of specials tonight for the July 4 celebrations and it’s pretty busy,” said the manager. We settled in a cosy booth, nice and snug near the red brick pizza oven aptly named The Big Red Bitch.
The pizza menu looked so good we ordered three: a spicy Ma-La-Di-Da and the sausage and mushroom, as well as Alvy’s Classic. No regrets: all had a crunchy crust and perfect base. With smiling faces happily stuffed, we all vowed to return.
8 Holland St, Kennedy Town, tel: 2312 2996
Smack bang in the pumping heart of Lan Kwai Fong, Ciao Chow is great for people watching. But we’re here for the margherita pizza (HK$129) and it was damn good.
The pizza had a nice basil flavour and just the right base thickness: “Almost like being back at home,” was heard. And the droop was perfect, according to Brusco and Del Gaudio.
California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar St, Central, tel: 2344 0005
Amalfitana Artisan Pizza Bar
Sun, surf, sand and … a storm, it turned out on this chilled Tuesday afternoon. Amalfitana, a popular weekend hangout in The Pulse shopping mall in Repulse Bay, offered a nice change to the crazy busy crowd. OK, it’s not the Amalfi Coast, but we could be in Italy thanks to the incredible pizza cooked in the awesome wood-fired oven. Its thin base and quality ingredients complemented the lovely setting.
Shop 105, The Pulse, 28 Beach Rd , Repulse Bay, tel: 2388 7787
With its roots in New York, this popular pizzeria landed in Hong Kong a few years ago (there’s also a branch in SoHo and some say there’s a big difference between pizzas served at the two).
There was something therapeutic about watching the pizza makers at work in an open kitchen as we settled in for our feast. Based on previous visits, Del Gaudio says he has found the dough hard to digest – “they probably have a very short leavening process”. But on this Wednesday night, the margherita pizza (HK$148) was excellent, he said, “although it could have done with a touch more seasoning”.
15 Ship St, Wan Chai, tel: 2520 0690
Mother of Pizzas
There’s no better marketing tool than having the tantalising smell of pizza waft down the street and up the nostrils of passers-by. Mother of Pizzas upped the cool factor on Causeway Bay’s bustling Leighton Road when it moved in late last year. It has a black industrial New York vibe with some funky tunes thrown in – nothing pretentious here, just huge slices of pizza (HK$30 each).
On this Thursday lunchtime, the place was packed. They had sold out of the margherita on display in the window, so we had to wait 15 minutes for one of the huge slices to land. Although lacking slightly on the basil and a bit too runny on top, the pizza was satisfying. But the huge number of pizza delivery boxes stacked high inside – and the huge size of the pizzas – hints that this joint is better for those wanting a huge delivery after a big night.
13-19 Leighton Rd, Causeway Bay, tel: 2891 2221
Obviously, we couldn’t try every pizza place in Hong Kong, but in our Facebook shout-out posted in May, the below venues also came highly recommended. Buon appetito.
Posto Pubblico (28 Elgin St, Central, tel: 2577 7160): Italian-style New York restaurant that’s generous with the cheese.
Linguini Fini (49 Elgin St, Central, tel: 2387 6338): Huge pizzas, hugely satisfying.
Gia Trattoria (1/F, Fleet Arcade, Fenwick Pier, 1 Lung King St, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 8081): Loyal fans return for the fresh ingredients.
Ciak (shop 327-333, 3/F Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2522 8869): This is your place for pizza with prime ingredients.
Mercato (8/F California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar St, Central, tel: 3706 8567): French chef knows how to do pizza.
Pizzeria Italia (43 High St, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2525 2519): Crisp and fresh pizzas, a carbohydrate high on High Street.
Capo (shop 4C-D, Tower 1, PL/F, China Hong Kong City, 33 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui): Small Italian eatery that’s big on flavour.