Va Bene is positioned to be a stylish recreation of a traditional Italain-style trattoria. For over 20 years it has provided guests the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Italian menu in a laid-back yet elegant environment, before immersing themselves in the bustling nightlife of LKF. Under high ceilings painted with the blue, sunny sky, one can enjoy Italian classics such as Beef Carpaccio or Veal Milanese, a pasta or risotto, pairing the dish with one of the over 200 Italian and French labels in the restaurant’s impressive wine cellar.
I met with Restaurant Manager Jack Gonsalves to learn more about the wine program at Va Bene. In addition to explaining the rather cheerful name of the establishment, the décor and the inspiration behind the cuisine, Jack described to me the composition of Va Bene’s mostly Italian wine list and the trends that he has noticed in which regions and appellations seem most popular among the restaurant’s mostly expat clientele. He recounted to me the story behind the wine list’s “Gaia Group Special Selection of Imported Wines” section and the special connection between the Gaia Group and Pietro Rinaldi’s wines, which are featured heavily in this section. When asked to recommend a signature dish and wine pairing, he chose the Scialatielli pasta with sea scallops and sea urchin, which he paired with the 2011 Ansitz Waldgries Sauvignon Blanc.
Our interview follows:
Hi. I’m Jack, the Manager of Va Bene, a fine-dining Italian restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong.
Please tell me a bit about the name of the restaurant. What does “Va Bene” mean and how does it resonate with the concept behind the restaurant?
“Va Bene” in Italian means “going well.” When the owner opened the restaurant 20 years ago he wanted to give it a name that would make guests feel warm and welcome, while also being enthusiastic and optimistic.
Please tell me about the cuisine here at Va Bene.
We serve 100% Italian food, trattoria style, at Va Bene. This includes some classic and traditional pastas and pizzas, as well as seasonal seafood and some farmhouse cheeses imported from Italy.
And the décor? What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create here?
The décor here is more of a Venetian style and was designed by award-winning New York architect Tony Chi. We have some authentic Venetian blinds and chandeliers. With these, we are trying to create a nice, friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Please tell me a bit about the composition of your wine list. Do you only have Italian wines here to go with you dishes or are other regions represented as well?
The wine list is a carefully chosen selection of regional Italian and French wines, champagnes and grappas. The majority of the list is from Italy, and we have an especially large selection from Piedmont and Tuscany, since those seem the most popular among our guests.
How is the wine list physically arranged?
The list is arranged by price, from least expensive to most expensive. We feel that many of our guests, here in the LKF area especially, order their wine mostly based on price. So arranging in this way helps them with their selection.
Please tell me a bit about the structure of your clientele. Is it made up of mostly locals, expats, Mainland Chinese or tourists?
We get mostly expats and tourists. We get almost no guests from Mainland China. Many are hotel guests from nearby hotels to whom Va Bene is recommended as a great place to have an Italian dinner in Hong Kong.
Have you noticed any trends in the food and wines that restaurant clients seem to order the most?
Nowadays more and more of our guests go for our starter cheeses – the burrata from Puglia, the mozzarella from Campania – or the cold cuts. With the cheeses they usually choose Pinot Grigio, which is a good wine to start a meal with. They usually choose a medium to heavy red to go with the meat, mostly Sangiovese from Tuscany.
I’ve seen that your wine list closes with a section entitled “Gaia Group Special Selection of Imported Wines ‘‘Pietro RinaIdi and La Pietra di Tommasone’’” Please tell me a bit about these wines. Why did you choose to feature them? Which dishes do you pair with these wines?
Pietro Rinaldi is a very old winery in Piedmont. Pietro closed the winery a few decades ago, but his daughter Monica Rinaldi took over and she tried to revive the company. The reason why we have it here is that we are the only group in Asia that has these wines. They are very special to us.
If you could pick one pairing of a dish with a wine that would best represent Va Bene, which would you pick and why?
I would go with the Scialatielli pasta with sea scallops and sea urchin. The sea urchin gives the pasta a nice, pungent saltiness which coats the mouth in a marine flavor. I would recommend with that a Sauvignon Blanc, which balances it perfectly. Even after you swallow the food, the bouquet of the wine remains in your mouth, leaving a wonderful aftertaste. Specifically, I would recommend the 2011 Ansitz Waldgries Sauvignon Blanc.
Address: 17-22 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: (+852) 2845 – 5577
Email: reservations@Va Beneristorante.com
Mon.-Thu.: 12:00-14:30 and 18:30-23:30;
Fri.-Sat.: 12:00-14:30 and 18:30-24:00;