Harbour City Focus
Renowned worldwide for unpretentious home-style cooking, Italian chefs – and those inspired by the Italian style of cooking – rely heavily on intuition along with a hefty dose of tradition to create mouth-watering dishes… Just like mama used to make.
One chef famously inspired by all things Italian is Jamie Oliver; it’s clear when watching his wildly successful TV shows that the chef’s methods owe more to feeling and enthusiasm than precision. This type of cooking is unpretentious and accessible, with a focus on standout ingredients – something obviously reflected in the menu at the Harbour City branch of Oliver’s chain, Jamie’s Italian. “I think that with Italian food, the whole aim is to take the freshest, best ingredients, cook them simply and let the individual flavours sing,” says head chef Philip Neal. “Italian food really sets the standard with simple cooking.”
Chef Neal explains that most of the dishes selected for the final menu at Jamie’s have their roots in traditional Italian family meals in one form or another. “If you think of the cuisine as a whole, many of the most famous Italian dishes enjoyed around the world are still cooked in homes in Italy,”he explains – and what starts at home is an appreciation of, and respect for, good food.
Most Italian chefs learn the basics passed down from generation to generation, and La Locanda’s Head Chef Antonio Cacciapaglia is no exception. “Family values in Italian cuisine are very important and influence us a lot, since they are the basis of real Italian cuisine.” And the dishes that Chef Antonio considers the key creations that any self-respecting chef should learn at home? “Spaghetti al pomodoro and homemade pasta.”
But Italian cooking isn’t all about sticking rigidly to family recipes – there is room for experimentation and evolution within the cuisine. Andrea Delzanno, Chef de Cuisine at Cucina at the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel explains, “What I try to do is to bring in traditional ingredients and recipes and prepare them in a modern way.”
This often involves the use of contemporary technology to get the best from the ingredients. “The culinary scene is advancing so quickly and there are always new methods to prepare ingredients that help bring out a better flavour. One example is the slow cooked wagyu beef cheek we serve at Cucina; the ingredients are the same today as 50 years ago, the only thing that is different is the way we cook the meal. You’ll still recognise the dish, but the intensity of the flavour is something that technology has helped to improve.”
Chef Neal agrees that the exact composition of “traditional” dishes can be hard to pin down. “There tends to be a real grey area when you’re talking about “original” recipes. For example, the oldest recipe for a Bolognese sauce came from [Italian writer] Artusi and didn’t use tomatoes at all!”
It seems that it’s all a matter of interpretation, with Chef Delzanno bringing us to this sweet conclusion. “One classic dish that almost every chef will try to reinterpret is the tiramisu,” he says. “Whether it’s using foam canisters, jelly tiramisu, single-bite pieces with all the flavour components inside one mouthful, the opportunities to experiment are endless!”
So whether you crave solid classics made to age-old recipes or innnovative new interpretations, look to Italy for the perfect blend of tradition and contemporary cuisine.
Jamie’s Italian, Shop 412, 4/F, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 3758 3333
La Locanda, Shop 402, 4/F, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 2785 9600
Cucina, 6/F, Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 2113 0808