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Cantina brings taste of Italy to Hong Kong's Tai Kwun

From Sicily with love - inside new Italian restaurant, Cantina.

More moves for the Tai Kwun heritage complex in Hong Kong’s Central with the opening of Cantina this month.

Aqua Restaurant Group is behind the modern Italian restaurant which sits adjacent to sister restaurant, The Chinese Library.

The relaxed, sharing plate ethos of Cantina is a move away from the more formal British fare of Statement which was the former occupier of the space, with sunny, seasonally-inspired dishes from Italy.

Cantina means ‘canteen’ which is just what this space used to be when Tai Kwun served as Hong Kong’s Police Headquarters building. The colonial era police officers’ mess was located on the first floor and was a place for “casual lunches and sometime more rowdy merrymaking”, according to Aqua Group.

Cantina’s dishes focus on traditional cooking techniques using traditional recipes with a lot of taste and (natch) plenty of free-flow.

The dining space will also be hosting weekend brunches - and with the heady news that patrons can now sit eight to a table, it’s time to let the good times roll again.

Cantina’s interior has been designed to complement the one-hundred year old building as well as capturing an essence of southern Europe, with elegant fabrics alongside fragrant lemon trees. The well-proportioned room boasts high ceilings and full-length period windows.

Cantina is helmed by Sicilian native, chef Luca Schiavone, whose resume includes head chef at Cecconi’s in London’s Mayfair as well as head chef at London’s Michelin-starred Zafferano and Shoreditch House dining spots.

Schiavone landed in Hong Kong earlier this year and has created a menu developed alongside executive chef Andrea Mura of Aqua’s H Zentre dining room in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The dishes are designed for sharing in small or large formats and come laden with handmade pastas, risottos and signature thin-crust pizzas. Start with cicchetti, small plates of Venetian-inspired bites, and move on to stand out menu items such as Sicilian red prawn carpaccio, squid ink dough pizza, flamed salt-baked sea bass and cavatelli pasta - miniature pasta shells paired with pork ribs, beef flank and fennel sausage and slow-braised in a rich tomato sauce.

Sweet treats run to a classic, rich tiramisu which is assembled tableside, crispy cannolo Siciliano filled with chocolate pieces and pistachio, and basil panna cotta.

Cantina opens for dinner on May 6 and weekend brunch will be available from May 14. A weekday lunch service starts from May 16.

Cantina, Police Headquarters Block 01, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2848 300.

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