When you think Italian, you think pizza and pasta. That’s obvious. But there’s a new spot in the heart of Wan Chai that’s whipping up homely family-style Italian dishes that go way beyond the stereotypical fare. Pirata, which means literally ‘pirate’ in Italian, has weighed anchor in Hennessy Road but don’t expect a cheesy buccaneer theme. True, the interiors, spread out across two sky-high floors, with an internal staircase to boot, boast an array of woods reminiscent of an old pirate ship but there’s also an industrial feel here to go alongside the rustic, with vintage chandeliers and metalwork designs. It’s lively and super relaxed, with just a few ship-shape twists like the cooled metal tankards that the Italian beers are served up in, as well as the hands-on-deck service that shows off the enthusiasm of the staff.
The dishes are built to share at Pirata, so we kick off with the pecorino cheese frittata ($80) and the arancini bucket ($75). The frittata is cooked to a fluffy tee and is full of pecorino cheese flavours alongside a helping of mint. And the deep-fried rice balls, which feature acquerello rice and a strong buffalo mozzarella that melts on the tongue and combines heavenly with the crispy exteriors, is a perfect sharing starter.
Anchovies crostini with grandmother’s green sauce
So, a great start but then come the true heroes of Pirata: the mains. We cram our choices on to the table: the anchovies crostini ($70), the butcher’s cut steak ($330) and the aubergine parmigiana ($240). Man, this is a feast fit for a pirate king. The crostini comes with a helping of prime anchovies and a ‘grandmother’s green sauce’, which is a pesto-like offering that teases out the fish’s salty flavours. We order the steak rare, of course, and it arrives tagliata-style, cooked to perfection and sliced into juicy morsels that just fall apart when cut. The parmigiana is also a treat. The aubergines, tomatoes and parmesan combine to provide a tangy flavour that’s neither too sloppy nor crumbly in texture.
Butcher’s cut steak
To finish, we dive into a quality tiramisu ($65), which brings with it an array of coffee flavours and a great helping of crumbled cookies, and a panna cotta ($65) that ends the meal on a fresh note with its delightfully tangy raspberry coulis and fresh berries. These desserts work well with some of the sweeter wines on the menu but, frankly, there are loads of bouquets here, as well as some expert cocktails from the venue’s specialist vermouth bar.
Expect a relaxed atmosphere and a menu that features outside-the-box Italian dishes at Pirata. Also expect great service and a price tag that won’t break the bank. It’s a treasure buried in the middle of Wan Chai, and it’s up to swashbucklers to follow their maps and dig out some gourmet gold. Matt Fleming
Pirata 29/F & 30/F, 239 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai, 2887 0270; pirata.hk. Dinner for two: $900.
29/F & 30/F, 239 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai