With its history and depth, Italian food is like the Chinese cuisine of Europe. But just in case your idea of fine Italian dining is a bowl of spag-and-meatballs and a pizza at your usual Italian restaurant chains, I’m here to tell you otherwise. Having lived in Firenze (that’s Florence to you), the renaissance capital of the world, I became obsessed with the cuisine, eating my way all over Italy. Here are some of most authentic Italian joints I’ve found on our tiny island. Trattorias Grappas B/F, 1 Connaught Place, Central, 2521-2322 The most chain-like restaurant on this list, Grappas has been consistently serving up authentic cuisine for nearly 20 years now. From their humble origins in Pacific Place to my personal favorite, Grappas Cellar, their mix of bona fide dishes like delicious risottos (not too sticky, not too wet) and region-specific pizzas blend with homestyle cuisine like spaghetti al ragu and one of the best carbonara’s around. Recommended Italiano dish: Salsiccia luganega – their special homemade savory sausage covered in stewed peppers and tomatoes. Amazing. Cenacolo 53A Graham St., Central, 2525-2430 SoHo’s finest entry into Italian fare, Cenacolo comes to you from the owners of Al Dente. The low-key vibe gives off an air of practicality, while the Mediterranean finds like the diavolla (oysters covered in mozzarella, tomato and bacon) are superb. The steak isn't chargrilled in traditional Italian fashion, but the beef tenderloin is an immense hunk of melt-in-your-mouth meat, and probably the reason why “steak” is before “pasta” in their name. Recommended Italiano dish: Any of the pastas, particularly the cappelini san pietro - perfect al dente satisfaction. La Taverna 36-38 Ashley Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2376-1945 Ah, the classic Hong Kong trattoria and a favorite among those who know their Italian cuisine. La Taverna has kept its doors open for over 30 years now, mainly thanks to its friendly service and home-style cuisine – just like mia mamma used to make. The al dente pastas and cuttlefish risotto are rich and dependable, but go with one of the Milanese-style meats – who’d have thought deep frying could add such flavor? Recommended Italiano dish: Bisteca al pepe – a nice slab of peppered tenderloin, this juicy steak is the real deal when it comes to Italian grill-style and probably the only place you can get one. Ristorantes Nicholini’s Conrad Hotel, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, 2521-3838 Once known for its exorbitant prices and snooty sensibilities, Nicholini’s has evolved over the past few years. It now provides authenticity in a relaxed environment, mixing sophisticated cuisine with trattoria-like dishes. The place is an old standby for northern Italian fare (think Milan or Venice), and its prices aren’t cheap but you’d be hard pressed to find a better ossobucco or monkfish in champagne caviar sauce. And then there are the pastas and risottos, served in traditional Italian-style of primi piatti and secondo piatti (like having first and second main dishes). Recommended Italiano dish: Tuscan-style fish and seafood soup – how rare it is that you find any Tuscan dish in our city, let alone one of the region’s finest soups? Grissini's 2/F, Grand Hyatt Hotel, 1 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, 2588-1234 The only restaurant that could rival Nicholini’s northern Italy delights, Grissini’s sets up a similar scene: located in a renowned hotel; sophisticated and stylish with an array of exceptionally authentic dishes that don’t skimp on quality. But with the restaurant spread over two levels, slightly more reasonable prices and impressive (almost obsessive) wine cellar of 1,000 bottles inclines me towards this joint. You could stick with their steaks and seafood and be far from disappointed, but I’d recommend any of the creamy risottos or hefty bowls of pasta. Recommended Italiano dish: The house special antipasto misto – go to a thousand trattorias all over the boot, and we guarantee you’ll never find anything as unpredictable as this selection of terrines and pates. Cinecitta 9 Star St., Wan Chai, 2529-0199 Named after the famed film studios (amazing place, by the way), Cinecitta’s sleek, modern décor appeals to the few Euro-cinephiles in Hong Kong, screening Fellini films while serving up a classic Roman cuisine – a region very poorly represented at our Italian eateries. The service is known to leave one wanting, but once that big old plate of risotto is laid out in front of you, you’ll know this ain’t no quick-lunch pasta joint. Recommended Italiano dish: Anything with swordfish in it, or just the swordfish itself – popular all over Italian ports but almost unheard of in Hong Kong.