New York City Italian in HK multimedia-container

Updated: 2013-12-01 07:20

By Rebecca Lo(China Daily)

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One of my male friends likes to compare pizza with sex. You can sometimes get a really yummy pizza, but even a so-so pizza is worth finishing despite being cold and droopy the next morning. I don't think I agree with this hypothesis - being a girl and all - but I do admit that Motorino hit a home run on my first date there.

I love the location of Motorino: it's on the ground floor of a five-story walk-up smack dab in the heart of Soho. People heading home along the adjacent mid-level escalators can't miss it - which is the idea, as dining-in or taking-out pizza is somewhat de rigueur for busy mid-level executives with no time to cook.

The shop front can be completely opened to form a bar for those looking to eat and run. Inside, the long and skinny space boasts a rare terrace that takes up a corner of the restaurant's rear.

 New York City Italian in HK multimedia-container

Meatball pizza features big chunks of savory meatballs, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves fused together in a rich tomato sauce. Rebecca Lo / China Daily

The restaurant is styled after Motorino in Manhattan, and its gray-tiled floors, green-striped walls and light metal cafe chairs strike just the right vibe for a friendly local cafe.

A quick glance at the menu immediately draws the eyes to the pizza wine. Curious, I ordered one. It was served in a small glass without a stem, just like in those mafia movies where Ray Liotta sits at a red-checked clothed table eating pasta.

It was a Grangnano 2011 with 30 percent Piedirosso, 30 percent Sciascinoso and 40 percent Aglianico, and the sunny Campania varietals shone through in the full-bodied wine. It was aptly named, as its leaning toward sweetness complemented the robust flavors of the pizzas.

We ordered a few starters before the main attraction, and all of them were winners. I particularly enjoyed the octopus and potato salad, with its slightly charred edges and tart red onions. The dish was drenched in a high-quality olive oil and finished with a generous wedge of lemon for additional bite.

Equally delicious were the beetroot salad topped with half a soft-boiled egg, and chicken wings marinated in a variety of fresh herbs; both dishes sated our initial hunger pangs but left us wanting more.

More came soon enough with two house specialties: meatball pizza and white Brussels sprouts pizza. The doughy crust was flash-baked in an extremely hot pizza oven imported from Naples, and tasted just like the pies I remembered from a trip there. Big chunks of savory meatballs, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves were fused together in a rich tomato sauce.

New York City Italian in HK multimedia-container

By contrast, the Brussels sprouts pizza was not saucy at all. Similar to the white pizzas we had all over Campania, it contained no soft cheese. Instead, on a white base known as fior di latte, shredded Brussels sprouts, smoked pancetta, garlic and pecorino were scattered and then quickly baked at a high temperature to retain their freshness.

Being a fan of Brussels sprouts, this was my favorite dish. I loved the slight bitterness of the hearty vegetable and how it worked with the smoky saltiness of the bacon. Since we still had to work through a dessert of tiramisu, I took home the remnants of the pie in a doggy bag.

Even cold and droopy the next morning, I had to admit that it was still pretty delicious.

(China Daily 12/01/2013 page14)