by The Star "EATING OUT"
21 September, 2019
BY ABIRAMI DURAI
F&B entrepreneurs don’t often taste success immediately. For Leon Gee (owner of Naughty Babe Dirty Duck and Vantador in Kuala Lumpur), his first café – founded on the back of his college years – flopped after not more than two years.
But instead of licking his wounds and conceding defeat, Gee remained undeterred and went on to open a series of kiosks called Pizza Brava in food courts around the Klang Valley, selling wood-fired pizzas based on recipes he gleaned from a chef who had worked in one of KL’S best Italian restaurants.
“In 2003 we started with a kiosk in Desa Sri Hartamas, and we opened a few kiosks over the next few years until 2009 when we decided to open a full-fledged restaurant called Pizza Brava,” says Gee.
The restaurant was a success but Gee realised that because of its name, many people simply assumed there was nothing more on the menu besides pizza (when in reality, they served a range of meals from appetisers to main courses).
“When people walked in, they were like ‘Oh, you have everything here!’. We wanted to rebrand it, so we changed the name to Eatalia to make it clear it’s not a pizzeria,” he says.
A few months ago, Gee opened a brand new Eatalia outlet in Bangsar’s densely trafficked Telawi stretch, with the aim of capturing a wider audience.
“This lot was previously a Naughty Babe Dirty Duck outlet, which is non-halal. So we had a very small crowd of people to target so that’s why we thought of changing it to Eatalia which is pork-free, so more people can come and eat here,” he says.
The restaurant focuses on authentic Italian recipes, many of which were developed with the help of two Italian consultant chefs. As a result, the eatery makes its own wood-fired pizzas and even has a selection of handmade fresh pastas.
To begin your Italian odyssey here, start with an appetiser in the form of the Bresaola Con Rucola e Mozzarella (RM33) which is essentially Italian air-dried beef with rocket salad, shaved Parmigiano, buffalo mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil. This is a light opener that showcases the quality of the beef, which is tender with a good bite and is ably accentuated by the supple, silken mouthfeel of the buffalo mozzarella.
For a more substantial meal, opt for the Linguine Alla Brava (RM28) which features pasta tossed with seafood, garlic, capers, olives, anchovies, fresh tomatoes and basil in what proves to be a light, sunny affair underscored by well-cooked seafood and a winning tomato underbelly.
The Ravioli di Pesce (RM33) also hauls up the bounty of the sea in a combination that
includes squid ink ravioli with baby scallops, pink peppercorn and a saffron cream sauce. It’s an interesting betrothal of flavours but they are unfortunately drowned under the powerful hold of the cream sauce which is very, very rich and a little cloying.
From the pizzas on offer, choices are so plentiful, you’ll be saturated with possibilities. So maybe go easy and indulge in a vegetarian option like the Verdure (RM21 for a 10-inch version). Here, tomatoes, mozzarella and seasonal vegetables top the crust of the wood-fired pizza dough in what proves to be a light, tomato-laced affair that underscores the simple charms of vegetables on bread.
If you’re hankering after something meatier to sink your teeth into, you’ll appreciate the Stinco D’ Agnello (RM36). Here, a hunk of lamb shank has been braised in the woodfired oven to give it a smoky aftertaste. The lamb is meltingly tender and yielding in the mouth while the mashed potatoes served on the side add soft, squishy buttery notes.
The Petti di Pollo Alla Spinaci E Ricotta (RM28) features chicken breast stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese. Spinach and cheese have long proven to be amiable partners,
but the trio of spinach, cheese and chicken proves that sometimes three is better than two. In this iteration, the juicy chicken acts like a sponge, soaking in the flavours of the spinach and cheese. As a result, each mouthful yields juicy chicken underscored by the creamy spinach-cheese combo.
To end your meal here, definitely, definitely have the tiramisu (RM16). The classic Italian dessert is done extremely well at Eatalia – the soft, light concoction elicits coffee-laced flavours that delicately balance the potency of the liquor running through the veins of this sweet treat.
Ultimately, Eatalia provides a steady – if somewhat staid – addition to the long list of Italian eateries dotting the Klang Valley and an added bookmark for Kl-ites looking for another place to head to scratch their Italian itch.