• Jenni Lien

Restaurant review: Authentic Italian food at Ask for Alonzo in Happy Valley, Hong Kong

When my office moved from Central to Quarry Bay, I wondered if the dining options would be any good. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety. Yes there were the standard chains like Pret, Nood and Sift but there were also various specialty coffee roasters and mom and pop restaurants (Camper’s, I miss you). Even with going to the gym regularly, I put on at least five pounds while working there! Anyway. All this to say, Quarry Bay may not be atmospheric but there are great coffee shops and restaurants to be found. But, call me cautious, but often I still wait to hear if a new opening is any good before visiting.




Such was the case for Ask for Alonzo. When it opened in 2018, I’d heard through the food blogger grapevine that it was good. So maybe I should have had more faith but I’d been burned by one too many affordable Italian places that turned out to be way overpriced for the food quality. Then all of a sudden it was 2020 and news broke that Ask for Alonzo was opening its third location.


Third location? (The second is in Tai Hang.) Already? Maybe this place really was worth checking out after all.


The Good

The restaurant is located right by the Happy Valley Terminus so it’s easy to find. There’s a nice outdoor area, comfortable dining room, large open kitchen… even a back patio (slightly less nice than the other areas) with lemon trees and other foliage.


Bart, the owner, really knows his stuff so feel free to share your likes and dislikes and let him suggest dishes. During my visit I tried Breakfast in Tuscany (toasted white bread, Puttanesca mix, parma ham with scrambled eggs for $138) from the brunch menu and the Oven Baked Tomino Cheese (wrapped in parma ham and served with glazed shallots, green asparagus and balsamic syrup for $148), Rigatoni Amatriciana (with crispy Roman guanciale for $138), the signature Alonzo’s Carbonara (made with spaghetti, also with crispy Roman guanciale for $138) and the White Chocolate Panna Cotta ($58).



I really enjoy strong, vibrant, even pungent flavours so these dishes were right up my alley.



The Breakfast in Tuscany was loaded with pickled onions, capers, onions and olives which might be a bit much for some but great for those who like strong flavours.



The Tomino Cheese was a surprise win. I thought I’d save the bulk of my calories for the pasta but couldn’t help eating most of this. The cheese is mild and stringy, with a nice salty parma ham crust, and sat atop a bed of plump asparagus. This could be a great small main for those wanting something less carb heavy.



Now onto the pastas! If you’ve checked out the Instagram geotag, you’ll see plenty of photos of the Carbonara. There’s even a breakfast version which comes with a fried egg. Indeed it is rich and creamy, with lots of crispy guanciale (a cured meat made from pork cheeks) and hits of fragrant black pepper.



But I have to say I loved the Amatriciana even more. If you love strong flavours, this dish is for you! Tangy, fatty, spicy, garlicky, salty goodness covered noodles that were the perfect al dente. I’ve thought about this dish at least five times since having it. Sadly the restaurant doesn’t deliver to my place or I would have indulged.



I don’t really love chocolate but I make an exception for white chocolate. It’s been a favourite since I was a child. So I’ve had plenty of white chocolate desserts and find that most have a light hint of white chocolate flavour. Now I don’t know exactly how much white chocolate is poured into this Panna Cotta recipe but it seemed full of it. You can really tell in the taste and texture. White chocolate lovers, this is a must order.


Ask for Alonzo truly has great authentic casual Italian food. I didn’t have a chance to try the Italian subs, risotto, mains or cocktails so I can’t speak to those. But what I tried was great.


The Other

For those who want affordable fresh pasta, Pici is probably still your best bet. Ask for Alonzo doesn’t use fresh pasta but source top quality pasta and then focus on the sauces. This is fine for me for while I do really enjoy Pici, I’m not sure I’ve loved any of their pastas besides maybe the lasagna. The Amatriciana is my new favourite affordable pasta dish in town.


Oh and perhaps the Panna Cotta didn’t need the berry compote. Since the white chocolate was so intense, I thought the berry flavour was a bit distracting.


Verdict

If you haven’t checked out Ask for Alonzo yet, it’s worth a try. Good portions, prices and certainly taste. The Happy Valley location is by far the biggest so try this one for group meals (once restrictions have lifted) and meals with kids.


Shop 19, G/F Hang Fung Mansion, 17-19 Wong Nai Chung Rd, Happy Valley, 2891 2236

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