I recently met with Mattia Bruna, General Manager of 208 Duecento Otto, located on Hollywood Road in the Sheung Wan region of Hong Kong. We discussed the pan-Italian cuisine offered at 208 and their famous Napoletana Pizza, certified authentic by the Associazione Verace. He described to me the décor, reminiscent of the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, with a few Italian touches. We talked about the mostly local clientele and about some of the trends Mattia has noticed in how they order. Finally, we discussed the restaurant’s mostly Italian wine list and Mattia explained why the Sangiovese grape is so prevalent on it. When asked about his favorite signature dish to wine pairing, he recommended the Dry Rubbed Ribeye with the Poggio della Badia, Brunello di Montalcino, 2007.
Our interview follows:
I’m Mattia Bruna and I’ve been in Hong Kong for 2 years. In this city, I have worked in an Italian restaurant in Soho called Peccato and another Italian restaurant and bar called Barolo, on Hollywood Road. Before, I also worked in Italian restaurants in both Italy and one in London. Now I’m here at 208.
A bit about the concept behind the menu here at 208. What types of cuisine do you offer?
Classic Italian, rustic cuisine. We use mainly fresh ingredients – the vegetables come from Italy, the pasta we make ourselves. And, of course, we are very famous as well for the classic Pizza Napoletana, which follows the rules of the Associazione Verace. We have a home-made oven, built by an oven maker from Napoli, and all of the recipes for the pizzas come from our Executive Chef who is from Napoli as well.
Is there any one region within Italy that the cuisine is focused on or is it a mix of all Italian cuisines?
No, we don’t want to focus on only one region, so we have a mix of dishes from many regions in Italy.
And about the décor of 208, how would you describe it? It reminds me a bit of a restaurant typical to the Meatpacking District in Manhattan. Would you say this is accurate?
Yes, exactly. As we are situated here in Sheung Wan, an area that reminds us of the Meatpacking District of New York, we try to recreate the same atmosphere. The design is by a famous studio in Turkey called Autoban, which has won many awards. We try to also have an Italian touch, also, with the wooden floors and the decorations on the wall.
And about the composition of the wine list, is it made up of mostly Old or New World wines?
It’s around 70% Old World wines, from Italy and France especially, and 30% New World wines, so New Zealand, Australia, and some Chilean. But, mostly Italian.
And how would you say the wine list complements the cuisine?
Mostly we have different wines from Italy, but the grapes we use the most are the Sangiovese grapes. With Sangiovese, as you may know, you can have different types of wine from the same grape – something from the Chianti, to the Morellino di Scansano, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, and other varieties. But the grapes we sell the most is the Sangiovese grape and you can have these wines with almost any type of food, starting from the pizza to the pasta, as well as meat and fish.
And how is the wine list physically arranged, by region or variety?
We classify depending on the qualities of the wine – white and red, “strong wines,” “smooth and supple,” etc. This helps the customer in choosing something that goes well with their dish. Under these descriptions, we also have all the regions specifying where they come from, but we don’t arrange by region.
And about the clientele, are they mostly local, Mainland Chinese, tourists or expats?
As we are located here in Sheung Wan and there are fewer expats living here than in Central, I would say the clientele is mostly local from Hong Kong. But, of course, we also get many Westerners, as 208 is a very famous place. Maybe 70% local and 30% Westerners. Many tourists too. Sometimes we get customers from the U.S. who come in and show a magazine article they’ve read on 208 and that’s always very nice.
And have you noticed any trends in what regions clients tend to ask for the most?
Within the Italian wines, mostly from Tuscany, because those are the most famous Italian wines. After Tuscany, Piedmont, Barolo, or Gavi di Gavi for the white wine. But we sell very well Australian wine, mostly Sauvignon Blanc.
And varieties, is there a trend in what varieties customers order the most?
Yes, Sangiovese grapes, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
If you could pick one pairing of a dish to a wine, which would you pick?
Well, I would suggest the Dry Rubbed Ribeye with Crispy Prosecco Potatoes and Garlic Anchovy Aioli, which is one of our signature plates. The wine I would suggest is the Brunello di Montalcino, which is a wine that comes from Tuscany; Tuscany is a very famous region for food and wine.
Sounds delicious. Thank you for your time!
208 Duecento Otto
Address: 208 Hollywood Road, Hong Kong
Phone: 2549 0208
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 12:00 pm-12:00 am, Sun: 10:00 am-10:00 pm