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The temptation to compare Gia and Giando, its predecessor, is inevitable. What was previously an impressive all-white décor is now transformed into a large country house’s family room. The space is a long strip of tables and chairs, evenly spaced apart, with an abundance of old paintings and memorabilia that brings an inviting and personal touch. Lined with windows on one side, the restaurant introduces natural light and brings energy to the space during the day and keeps it toned-down and intimate at night. A table by the window is often preferred, although those closer to the front of the restaurant tend to get better attention and service.
Gia is a family-style trattoria with a casual vibe. Antipasti are relatively standard. We recommend the stuffed courgette flowers with ricotta and anchovies, where the blossoms are plump pockets stuffed with creamy ricotta with just a silver of salted anchovies. Roman-styled beef tripe is stewed nice and slow with plenty of tomatoes, offering a good start to the courses ahead.
The rule of thumb on selecting pasta here is to choose the standards, which are executed well. The spaghetti carbonara is beautifully done, spaghetti done just al dente and creamy egg sauce clinging onto each strand of pasta, with chopped bits of guanciale, or cured pork jowl, mixed in. The aglio e olio, a basic Italian pasta dish of spaghetti with garlic oil and chilli, is an off-menu item but available on request. While the garlic is aromatic, the chillies throw enough punches to make the tongue burn.
There are plenty of pizzas to choose from – we opted for a white pizza, one without a tomato base. The trifole, with mascarpone, mozzarella and black truffle paste, comes highly recommended. The salad greens on top wilted on the hot pizza but the thin base holds the topping well. If you must have secondi, or main courses, choose the basics such as the veal scalloppine, where pieces of veal are flattened, pan-fried and topped with a mushroom sauce with a hint of Marsala. The rustic dish brings a generous portion and is good for sharing.
Desserts are of jolly good standard. The tiramisu is proper, coffee-soaked sponge with well-proportioned layers of mascarpone filling and just the right topping of cocoa powder. Amalfi lemon parfait is wonderfully tangy and sharp like an icy shot of limoncello in dessert form, although we were not a fan of the warm strawberries served alongside.
The wine list at Gia is impressive, as was previously at Giando as well. Bottles are categorised by regions, and within the ten options by the glass guests can expect some safe, all-rounded choices. We order the Alberto Longo, Primitivo from Puglia whose body could stand with meaty mains, but not deemed too heavy to enjoy throughout the meal. The Ca’ Rugate Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico from Veneto, however, is a crisp, aromatic white wine that enlivens the cheesy courses such as courgette blossoms and white pizzas.
A note on ordering wine by the glass: ask to have the wines served tableside. We were surprised when the server whisked our glasses away and reappeared with a poured glass, a faux pas we would not expect at a restaurant such as Gia.
The service at Gia is a hit or miss. The staff are sparsely spread out across the elongated dining space and at times catching them to following up orders and refilling become a difficult mission. Familiarity of the menu is an issue but only limited to wines. Guests may need to wait an extended period of time for mains to arrive, although in one instance we waited 45 minutes for our pasta course only to realize that the order was never placed. Chef Gianni Caprioli will stop by each table to chat up with the guests, a nice addition to service and staff are in general rather friendly.
A dinner for two including one glass of wine each amounts to HK$1,500. While the food quality is impressive, the operation including wine and service are in need of improving.