The stylish Hanoi branch of this casual diner (with sister restaurants in Hong Kong and Manila) offers New York-style Italian cuisine in imposing, chic premises in Tay Ho.
Pizza is one of those dishes which inflames debate. New York or Neapolitan? Deep dish or thin crust? While some fight over whether pineapple is an acceptable topping, New Zealand PM Bill English was savaged by the usual suspects on social media for putting tinned spaghetti on top of his.
At Linguini Fini, however, a marriage of styles is key to success.
“The route is Italian, in that we use fresh ingredients and cook with heart,” explains restaurant manager Rio Roxanne Domingo. “But it’s also adapted to the New York style.”
In fact, group executive chef Vinny Lauria has even created dishes just for Hanoi.
“When he saw the morning glory, turmeric and dried shrimp here, he said we had to use them for infused pastas,” says Rio.
Despite originally finding fans with their gigantic 18” pizzas (12” now also available), the huge selection of fresh pastas make a strong case for a place in the spotlight.
All of the pasta is homemade, churned out daily for use in over 20 different varieties. We try one of the more American offerings; On Top of Spaghetti (VND198,000 / small) is a spaghetti and meatballs where the meatballs have joined forces to create a single, mega-ball.
Once the chef finishes grating a generous amount of fresh Parmigiano- Reggiano over the dish, we are left to succumb to an assault of rich, savoury tomato sauce, al dente spaghetti and a tender yet firm meatball packed with juicy meaty goodness.
Serving as side dishes to the pasta course, we order up two plates from the extensive list of antipasti. The homemade burrata (VND248,000), stuffed with ricotta and served with roasted peppers, basil and an aged balsamic dressing is among the biggest and creamiest you will find in Hanoi.
Platters and Pizzas
The second choice, the cold antipasti platter (VND398,000) is a selection of cold cuts, local organic vegetables and homemade giardiniera (pickles) surrounding a portion of fresh mozzarella.
The imported mortadella, similar to Vietnamese cha lua, overflows with flavour, while the chilled, creamy cheese balances out the salty spiciness of the Mugnano and Danois salamis.
Despite the overwhelming quality and quantity of pasta and antipasti, it still feels like they are just warm-ups for the main event; which says a lot for the reputation of Linguini Fini’s pizzas.
Opting for a vegetarian pizza, the lure of homemade pesto results in a nearly table-sized fresh tomato and pesto pizza (VND258,000/378,000 12”/18”) arriving to a collection of wide eyes and drooling mouths.
“The 18” size comes from the New York on-the-go tradition of buying pizza by the slice,” explains Rio.
There’s more fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano and a collection of complimentary condiments such as Tabasco sauce and homemade pickles on hand, and each slice is loaded with bubbling mozzarella, juicy baby tomatoes and thick trails of pesto.
The pizza is easily enough for three or four people, but owner Max Lambert’s homely, chilled-out restaurant means the two of us are happy to take our time to finish it off.
There’s a large selection of wines available by the glass, which ensure there’s no shortage of choice on how to wash down the meal.
With buy-one-get-one-free cocktails every Monday to Friday from 5pm until 9pm, consistently high-quality food and a welcoming, local neighbourhood restaurant atmosphere, it looks like another good two years ahead for Linguini Fini.
Linguini Fini is located at 36-38 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Open daily from 11.30am until 11pm (kitchen closes at 10.30pm). For more information, visit linguinifini.com or call (024) 3266 8968
PHOTOS BY JULIE VOLA