The One With Michele Senigaglia – Chef of Spasso Hong Kong

You might have noticed that I have been to Spasso Hong Kong quite a bit lately. First it was for their Sunday brunch, and then to try their Valentine’s Day menu. Both meals were rather stellar, so I thought why not get to know the man behind the food?

So I caught up with Chef Michele Senigaglia to find out the idea behind food at Spasso, his fiery passion for cooking, and his thoughts on Hong Kong (and its local food!).

Chef Michele of Spasso

What are the main essence of Italian cuisine at Spasso? How would you differentiate Spasso from others?

Spasso is an eatery. The food we serve is not fancy; what we want achieve is to deliver a dish that, with its aroma, the look and taste will give you the perception that you are eating in Italy. Many guests from Italy and overseas commented that sometime they eat better in Hong Kong that in Italy! This is a great compliment to us. We work very hard to select and import the best ingredients for our menu.

Guests noticed our passion and commitments to deliver a small piece of Italy to Hong Kong. We focus to use imported fresh ingredients served simply but with well executed preparations. The ambiance at Spasso is cozy and the service friendly and accommodating, making the dining experience even better.

If someone come to Spasso for the first time and only have time for ONE dish, what would you recommend?

The menu is very balanced but as Italian restaurant a right meter of judgment is to eat the pasta. We use premium brand such as Martelli or Mancini for the dry pasta and Acquarello rice to make our risotto. The fresh pasta is hand made, we use high quality flour and eggs and is made freshly every day.

The sauces and the way we prepare our food follow Italian tradition and authenticity. This can sometimes create some complains from customers, about the way we cook our pasta or the taste of some dishes. Many Chinese customers, for example, want to eat pasta that is well done.

Carbonara is not in the menu but it is a high-sell item. At times, we use the “guanciale” (pork cheek) and we tossed the pasta without any cream. However the eventual result may not be accepted by some customers. Same problem happens with our clams pasta which are imported from Italy, which must be served full of its briny flavour.

How does the current menu differs from the one at the old location at Harbour City?

When we open the Spasso in Harbour City, it was our first experience in Kowloon and we tried to please large numbers. The menu was very extensive but also very difficult to handle especially when everything you make is “a la minute”. Size of the kitchen and refrigerators space are always a big problem in Hong Kong.

In the new Spasso the menu are more direct and concise. We know what customers like and by having a small menu, the team are more comfortable and are given a lot of space for creativity. The chef has more freedom to play with many seasonal specialty from vegetables to seafood and crustaceans and so on. Hong Kong costumers are very demanding and look for continuous changes and innovations in their food.

Chef Michele of Spasso

You moved to Hong Kong in 2008. What inspired you to come to this part of the world?

I was trained in Italy. Then I moved to Belgium and France to improve my skill and experience. My mentor told me to move to Asia and my first stop was Singapore in 1997. I experienced the Asian culture in all aspects – Chinese, Malaysian, Indian – new ingredients and spices that really opened my mind! It was truly amazing. When I got the offer to came to Hong Kong, I did not hesitate even for a moment. It was a challenge to take on.

What was your fondest memories of Venice, food or otherwise?

I don’t want be a cliche, but it’s my mamma’s cooking. She educated me to eat well and appreciate all kind of food. She was a excellent cook at home; I got my passion for cooking from her.

Of course, there are always amazing cuisine that are always in my mind and are part of our “Venetian” culture; the bacari and hosteria, the “chicheti” (small bites) in the bar which is a way to interpret the lifestyle of a city and its people.

If there is a type of Hong Kong food you dislike, what would it be?

I like most Chinese food but there are few dishes that I really cannot eat – the smelly tofu and chicken feet .

EAT: Spasso Hong Kong | G5-8, 12-17, Empire Centre, 68 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon | Tel: +(852) 27308027

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