Since it’s opening in 1997, Panevino has been a hidden gem of a restaurant in Mid-Levels, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Soho. Last year, it moved to its current location on Robinson Road, a stone’s throw away from its old spot, and though still remains a quiet, unassuming Italian trattoria, has upped its charm factor with brick archways, terracotta floors, wine bottles on display, and warm lighting - the kind of place you could stay for hours on end. There is also a lovely little alfresco area.
This is cooking straight out of an Italian mama’s kitchen but with just a light touch of elegance. The dishes are unpretentious and uncomplicated: just a few great ingredients, most of which are imported straight from Italy, thrown in together. You may be hard-pressed to consider an appetiser as you are immediately served complimentary freshly-baked breads, parmesan shavings and herb-infused olives to start off with but should you be in need of more, there is a buffet of homemade antipasti that is worth sampling. We also chose the mixed fresh seafood and shellfish that comes in a light, if slightly watery, tomato broth, served with a garlic crostini (HK$138), which boasted fresh and perfectly-simmered mussels and prawns. For the mains, we tried the vegetarian truffled pasta with forest mushrooms in a truffle cream sauce (HK$248) - which quickly shot into our list of favourite pastas. The sauce was the ideal texture, not too heavy as most cream-based pastas tend to be, and each bite a rich and savoury one, so even if it's meat-free, you'll be filled up in no time. There's no skimping on the truffle flavour or mushrooms - Panevino is generous with its ingredients. If you’re in the mood for something tomato based, go for the signature paccheri alla picchiapo (HK$198), specialty pasta with buffalo mozzarella, sausage and fresh tomato. And if it’s something lighter you want, try the fillet of sole stuffed with basil and parmesan and grilled with butter, lemon and capers (HK$218). The fish arrived still moist on the inside with a beautiful herb flavour and just the right touch of saltiness. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough room for another signature dish that caught our eye, the crispy roasted baby pig served with rosemary baked potatoes (HK$268), but that’s on the list for next time. We instead opted to end the meal with one of the homemade desserts (HK$88 each) that we saw when we entered, choosing instead to cleanse our palates with a lemon and almond tart with delightfully chunky crust.
A good by-the-glass selection allows for a taste of the wines from Italy’s various regions such as Chianti and Amarone, although the Monte Zovo Pinot Grigio we tried was a little flat. There is also a “wine tasting corner” where specialty wines can be sampled.
Cheerful, attentive and courteous and accommodating, it is definitely one of the highlights of dining at Panevino.
Dinner for two, with wine, will cost you around HK$800.