PMQ Corner #44

Reimagining Italianita

Gustaci Food Gallery

Written by Gloria Chung
Translated by Venus Purnama
Photos by Gustaci Food Gallery & PMQ

When it comes to Italian food, what do you have in mind? Parma ham? Buffalo mozzarella?Italians gulfing down pasta and pizza everyday?

Seems most people have little to fancy about Italian cuisine, even regarding it as out of reach, conformed by stereotypes of imported goods being "expensive" and foreign culture as "distant". As we reach the year of 2022, it is time to widen our horizons on italianita.

"Gustaci in Italian is to invite and welcome you to taste our food, as we want to set up a place where people can enjoy shopping high quality ingredients." said Gustaci Food Gallery co-founder Boroka Cimmino. She and husband Claudio started off with Gustaci Pizzalounge at PMQ last year, an authentic Neapolitan pizza joint that has quickly attracted a loyal following. This January, the Cimminos proudly present Gustaci Food Gallery, a block away from the pizzeria, as their new platform to promote and popularize Italian culture in Hong Kong, through the common language of food.

As I set foot in the spacious Gallery, the first thing in sight was a gigantic Easter egg, with heaps of dove-shaped Colomba bread, another Easter tradition for Italians, giving off a festive feeling. Gigantic Easter egg, with heaps of dove-shaped Colomba bread are commonly seen in their easter holiday.

Gigantic Easter egg, with heaps of dove-shaped Colomba bread

Half- dried bay laurel

On the left side was the mercato (market), filled with colorful and eye-opening vegetables from "the boot", such as lemons from Sicily, blood oranges from Napoli, eggplants and cauliflowers from Puglia...... wandering around the shop, I found myself dazzled by over 500 types of cheese, ham, bread, wine and more...... my eyes and brain were so occupied, almost every item sparked my curiosity to stop and take a look.

At the Gallery, you would find ingredients rarely seen in other Italian food stores. Half- dried bay laurel for example, its leaves are best for stewing meat, and could also be made as wreaths for graduates, a symbol of victory and wisdom in Italy, stemmed from Greek mythology. If you enjoy Easter egg hunts, local Italian treats are sprinkled here and there to surprise you, one of them being Tic Tac candies, literally originated from Italy, with flavors different from those seen in Hong Kong. Whether it be the retro-packaged baking powder, or biscuits that look and cost affordable, Gustaci would change your impression on Italian ingredients, from "unapproachable" to something that could be part of our daily staple.

"We have some fresh Buffalo mozzarella just in stock, the Mortadella with pistachio and olives tastes delicious too, care to try some?" Boroka and her staff recommended enthusiastically, as they shared their vast knowledge on Italian food: the best Buffalo mozzarella comes from Campania, while Straciatella is another type of soft cheese, so creamy that you could savour it like ice cream. If you're buying ham, try to pair it with Taralli, the donut-shaped biscuits are baked with white wine, the secret ingredient that made it crusty outside while fluffy inside...... a trip to Gustaci Food Gallery felt like a crash course on Italian culture.

"However, we never add pineapple on pizza, no spaghetti with chicken, and pasta is a main meal, not a side dish!" " she quipped. Now you might be asking: must we cook Italian ingredients the Italian way? "Of course not," Boroka replied. We should keep our minds open, she said, as everyone could have their own way in cooking Italian food; in fact, the principle of Italian cuisine does have something in common with Hong Kong food culture: that is to pick the freshest ingredients and cook them with the simplest method.

Address: Gustaci Food Gallery, Unit SG09-SG14, G/F, Block A, PMQ

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