If there's one contemporary Neapolitan dish you should taste, it's this

Updated: Sep 14

It contains the distinct flavours of Italy, and more.

I know there’s more to Naples (and all of Italy, for that matter) than just pasta and pizza. I’ve watched enough cooking and travel shows to realise that. But even if I haven’t, there’s obviously more to the cuisine and food traditions of a place than just a few representative dishes.

Still, I have to admit that those were the first two meals that came to mind. 😬

Award-winning Napoli-born chef Antimo Maria Merone recognises this. However, he wants you to give Neapolitan cuisine a chance – as well as his own take on Neapolitan cuisine too, which he describes as “progressive” and “contemporary”.

Chef Antimo Merone
Chef Antimo has worked in Italy, Berlin, Hong Kong and Macau

You’ll have this opportunity when his first independent restaurant, Estro, opens in Hong Kong this September. He uses his childhood memories, Italy’s history and culinary traditions, different cooking techniques, and quality ingredients as inspiration to create a multi-course seasonal menu. (Estro is “inspiration” in Italian.)

If it’s a guest’s first time to try his cooking, though, what would be the one dish Chef Antimo would recommend they absolutely must have?

“If I have to pick one dish that represents my style, it would be ‘Buttons’ – liquid eggplant parmigiana, tomato jus and basil,” he says.

Estro Hong Kong
Not what you expected, huh?

“‘Buttons’ is evocative, elegant, essential, and includes all the flavours of a traditional Neapolitan dish – eggplant parmigiana – in a single bite.

“It is made with a liquid filling of eggplant and Parmigiano Reggiano, sheltered under a thin layer of homemade pasta, and formed into a button-shaped ravioli. It is boiled and then glazed in a fresh and concentrated tomato jus.”

What else makes it unique? “It is an ode to simplicity. It requires intensive craftsmanship where the technique is hidden below a very simple and minimal way,” he answers.

But you can’t just have that, and already be able to judge a restaurant, a chef, a cuisine, a cooking style, or a meal fairly. 😉

“We only do tasting menus at Estro because it is driven by my wish to let every guest experience not a single dish, but a series of dishes, to experience the difference between each other in terms of texture and flavour. They are like a puzzle; they need to be composed to see the final picture.”

And here are a few pictures to help you do just that. 😊

Red Prawn
"Red Prawn" – coral panna cotta, lemon and Kristal caviar

Hazelnut Rocher
"Hazelnut Rocher" – a sphere of hazelnut praline with caramelised hazelnut on the shell and liquid caramel in the centre, topped with cocoa tuille and cocoa powder

Pigeon Under Ashes, Estro Hong Kong
“Pigeon Under Ashes” – pigeon wrapped in burned artichoke buds and fig leaves, encased in clay, cooked in black ash, and served with an artichoke cooked in its own ashes and a sauce made with Piedirosso wine from Italy’s Campania region. Pigeon is known as a delicacy in ancient Rome; the use of ash is a tribute to Mount Vesuvius

Mafalde Gentile
"Mafalde 'Gentile'" – a Genovese Neapolitan Ragû of beef, stewed golden Montoro onions, and eliche pasta with roasted onion jus

Here’s a challenge

If you’re not in Hong Kong at the moment (hence you won’t be able to sample Estro), why not use Chef Antimo’s descriptions and ingredients for each dish to make your own version? It’ll be fun. I for one would like to start with “Buttons”. 👏

Find Estro at Level 2, 1 Duddell Street, Central, Hong Kong. Make a reservation here, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. For more on Chef Antimo, check out his Instagram.

Estro Hong Kong
Designed by Andre Fu Studio, Estro's interior feels like a salotto or sitting room in Napoli's old town