The Pizza Project: A Hearty New York Italian Joint in Soho

RESTAURANTS

The Pizza Project: A Hearty New York Italian Joint in Soho

The Pizza Project on Peel Street delivers a delicate import of Italy’s staple flavours with sharp cheeses, tangy tomatoes, and bouncy doughs. Boasting a sizeable space on Hong Kong’s favourite drinking strip, the diner occupies a distinct New York-inspired décor, reminiscent of Italy’s expatriate culinary adaptions.

Hong Kong’s taste for succulent tomato and cheese dishes was satiated with the welcome introduction of The Pizza Project in February 2020 in Soho’s buzzing 24-hour-munch scene.

The cosy pizza diner is executed by the Pirata Group, a restaurant consortium that promises culinary concepts with long-lasting memories. Spanish co-founder Manuel Palacio and his Italian counterpart Christian Talpo bring their 40 years of gastronomic experience to deliver the smells and tastes of a classic New York-Italian deli.




Venue

The Pizza Project effortlessly transports its customers and staff through a portal into the world of American-Italian dining, with a space that places emphasis on communal family-esque feasting.

The exposed red-brick floors, ornate smooth curving table and partitions, and brown polished furniture draw diners into the recreation of an Italian diner that is inviting, cosy, and raw. Soft-lit neoclassical lamps illuminate the glistening and oily pizzas ready to be consumed heartedly.

The Peel Street restaurant features two dining sections: high-table and bar seating for quick and easy lunch-time dining, and cushioned space for relaxed tastings of the classic cheese and tomato slices. Tables and chairs are huddled close together, creating a family meal with sounds and smells shared with every diner.

Food and drink

The Pizza Project’s one-page menu boasts of a digestible selection of handmade pizzas crisp to the touch and bite, but warm and fluffy when pressed deep. Their A4-sized food menu comprises of snappy “antipasti,” covering classic Italian hors d’eoeuveres, “gnocco fritto,” fried dough with dressings, “le pizza,” an offering of Italian expat favourites, and “dolci,” sweet desserts.

In traditional Italian dining style, we began our meal with the signature Beef Tartare (HK$110) antipasti, a plump dollop of diced beef tartare, mixed with olive oil, pepper, Stracciatella cheese, anchovies, capers, and served with two doughy bread slices.

The pink tartare pops when mixing the beef and creamy cheese in a melange of creaminess, umami, and earthiness, as the chefs recommend. The diced beef is slightly fruity and fresh to the taste, with the anchovies and capers adding a nice tangy kick. Use the bread slices to scoop up the tartare for a pleasant garlic aftertaste, in lieu of salt in this dish which would be a nice addition.

Diving straight in the following course, we tasted the Truffle (HK$75) gnocco fritto, Italy’s much-loved square-sized, leavened bread fried in lard, injected with a creamy truffle and ricotta paste, and topped with black truffle.

The black truffle, flaky and crisp to taste, makes for a beautiful presentation on top of the fritto. However, the centrepiece truffle and ricotta paste found, within the lard-covered bread, and its earthy flavour and grainy texture make for a distinct olfactory adventure, drawing diners to the rich herb taste. It is a perfect starting dish introducing the palate to the Italian truffle.

Leading to the highlight of The Pizza Project, we delved deep into the six-sliced Pesto pizza (HK$120), a velvety presentation of beautiful dollops of burrata cheese, cherry tomatoes, a rich green basil pesto mixture, topped on a woody pizza crust with a thin mozzarella layer.

Glistening under the soft orange light within the diner, the delicate reds, whites, and green colours shimmer below. The power of the dish is in the pesto, a garlicky, fruity, and basil paste that covers your mouth, giving off a nutty aftertaste that could convince any diner to book a one-way ticket to Rome tomorrow. It is an oily pizza, so be prepared to eat with a fork and knife.

In continuation of our cheesy exploratory journey, we next savoured the Tonno E Cipolle (HK$95), a packed cheese dish with tuna chunks, red onions, capers, tomato sauce, and platted with the signature Italian fior di latte cheese.

Boasting an earthy look, the classic tuna pizza brings out sweet, salty, gamey, and earthy flavours to deliver an affordable and balanced slice for a Pizza Project experience. The charred, smoky backside of the pizza – crisp from the traditional ovens – works well with the slightly sweet red onions. The salty tuna and sour capers introduce a nice kick to each bite that elevates the traditional recipe to a unique level.

Onto a final sweet note, we raised our spoons and delved deep into a delicate cup of Pici Tiramisu (HK$65), the classic coffee-flavoured Italian dessert with a Pirata flavour, an eggy and bouncy mascarpone cheese-sugar mix, topped with a thin sheet of Venetian cocoa.

Whilst rich in flavour with the cocoa powder that lines the upper mouth and the cheese that boasts of sharp and sugary notes, the tiramisu is a pleasant ending to an authentic tasting at The Pizza Project. This dessert is best shared as the sweetness can be overwhelming for the single diner.






Atmosphere

The Pizza Project is heavily influenced by the tenor and aura from the Italian America pizza diners of America’s East Coast, sharing the same recognisable flavours of expatriate Italy and the culture of sharing simple dishes with loved ones.

The chatter bouncing off the walls heralds a comforting environment as if the whole village is celebrating life over cheese and tomato pizzas. Paired with upbeat rock, jazz, and funk, the booming soundtrack elevates the space as a joyous and festive eatery to enjoy long dining and laughs.

As for service, the waiters dotted around the Soho restaurant carry great big smiles (behind their masks of course!) and recommendations for your every need. They are knowledgeable about the menu, ingredients used, and how much love is poured into each pizza (10 grams to be exact).

Verdict

The Pizza Project stays true to their culinary principle providing scrumptious pizza at a fair price and delivering the same love and flavours Italians have celebrated with dough, cheese, and tomato for centuries. The Soho restaurant teems with life and guarantees consistency and quality.

The Pirata-run restaurant places a central emphasis on pizza as a draw of childhood memories and experiences shared with Italian-food-loving companions. To sample the best of what The Pizza Project offers, we recommend sharing the Tuna Carpaccio (HK$95), Smoked Salmon Gnocco Fritto (HK$80), Carbonara (HK$140), Pesto (HK$120), and the Pici Tiramisu (HK$65).

This food review is based on a complimentary media tasting provided by The Pizza Project in exchange for a truthful review and no compensation. The opinions expressed within represent the views of the author.

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