Ciao Chow occupies the large dining area on the ground floor of Lan Kwai Fong’s California Tower. Italian cafeteria, coffee and drinks bar all in one clean, airy space, with huge windows and an industrial-style ceiling; the interior setting the tone for the food to come- Italian comfort cuisine. The front of the restaurant has high bar tables, seating patrons coming in for bar bites and drinks, with lower table seating towards the back, a prelude to the large copper and brick ovens from which hot crusty pizzas are being pulled out every few minutes.
We went in on a weekday (which also meant we kept the drinks on the virgin side) since the crowd and atmosphere is as vibrant then as a Friday night or a late Sunday dinner. The menu offers a variety of pizzas and pastas, as well as salads and a variety of antipasti (cured meats, cheeses, vegetables). We started with a platter of antipasti, comprising a salty, smoky Prosciutto Cotto ($32), Spianata Calabra ($32) a spicy earthy salami, and Bruschetta al Pomodoro ($48) a well-toasted bruschetta with tomatoes and olive oil. A lot of French and Italian restaurants do antipasti well, Ciao Chow is no different, their selection being comprehensive and well-presented.
What puts Ciao Chow above the notch, however, is their freshly baked pizzas. The only Hong Kong restaurant to have a VPN (“Verace Pizza Napoletana”) certification means that the pizzas are made with only certain types of ingredients and approved equipment in traditional pizza-making methods, resulting in some truly authentic and delicious bites. Not ones to go easy on the carbs we ordered two different pizzas: the first being Ananas ($118) a crispy base with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto cotto, and grilled pineapple. If you like the sweet and salty, fruity and cheesy combination, which let’s be honest all of us as children loved on our Pizza Hut slices, this was pretty good. Refined in its ingredients with a good balance of flavors. The star pizza, however, was definitely the Italian Butcher ($218), think tangy tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, calabrese spicy salami, and chili oil! The hot slices were crispy, spicy, meaty with just enough richness from the cheese and heat from the oil. Although, there are also a number of vegetarian pizza options on the menu, Ciao Chow gives you the choice to build your own, which is great if you are going with company that has particular tastes, is vegetarian, or genuinely likes the combination of pecorino cheese, Manila clams and house-pickled peppers on their pizzas. Point is- their selection of toppings for customized pizzas is impressive and suitable to most palettes.
Because you really can’t have enough carbs, we also decided to try out a bowl of pasta, opting for the Gnocchetti alla Salsiccia ($128), soft thick dough dumplings (somewhat similar to gnocchi) with Italian sausage. Ciao Chow offers both dry and daily house made pasta in an intriguing selection of choices on its menu. Our own Gnocchetti was good, but somewhere overshadowed by the pizzas.
We ended the evening with the Crema Catalana ($68), like crème brulee, a custard pudding with a burnt sugar top. This is a dessert found in many good European restaurants, and for good reason. If you like an alternative to chocolate, this was rich, creamy and satisfying.
The cost of dinner overall for two people can vary between $500 – $600 (not including drinks), which is why Ciao Chow would be a great place to go to in larger groups, to enjoy some after-work drinks and pizza slices, or with family on weekends. It’s solid, reliable Italian fare.
Ciao Chow | G/F, California Tower, Lan Kwai Fong | +8522344 0005