Romance in Houjie: Al Pozzo

0916_al-pozzo-restaurant

Six years ago, HERE! had a taste of a fledgling Italian eatery way out in Houjie. Deciding it was high time for a return visit to this now firmly established venue, we’re back at it again. Despite the region’s economic downturn, the restaurant is still going strong, giving some obvious validation to its quality and prestige. Plus, what better way to spend Chinese Valentine’s Day?

Given that there are a few Italian restaurants in the area, one might feel there should be a unique quality to separate one place from another. For Al Pozzo, this surely has to be its extensive cache of imported Italian wines. With a seemingly endless selection of reds, whites, liqueurs and, of course, grappa, this is simply a grape lover’s dream.

While attempting to be a red wine connoisseur, I have to admit that I was inundated by the available choices and boggled by the intimate knowledge provided for each bottle. After much deliberation, I finally settled on a dry Barbera d’Alba red from the Piedmont region in north-west Italy, which was reasonably priced at under 300 RMB.

The fantastic nose and full bodied flavor put me in the perfect state to then work my way through the delightful food menu. I selected the bruschetta and blended onion soup (45 RMB) that perfectly complimented my vino. For the main course, our waiter suggested I try their Chef’s Special, which was a ricotta and spinach cannelloni (108 RMB)—I was sold! An involuntarily “mmmm” escaped my mouth after the first bite and lasted until I too quickly finished the dish.

Not fully sated, I was enticed by the selection of seventeen unique pizzas on offer, but eventually set my sights on the wildly popular traditional lasagna (102 RMB). It stuck me a bit odd that there was only one type of lasagna available. The owner, Andrea, explained, “…with some dishes less is more; it is simple, but not basic.” To his credit, it was sumptuous in its simplicity.

Initially, I had my mind set on tiramisu for dessert, but I ruefully arrived a little late and by then, it had completely sold out. My next choice was a crepe filled with an authentic Italian strawberry ice cream and topped with a drizzled chocolate sauce (55 RMB), which was quite delicious.

We capped off the night with a glass of Andrea’s home-brewed limoncello (I wimped out when asked to try the chilicello), leaving me firmly in my girlfriend’s—and my stomach’s—good book.

Find the restaurant here.