The success of Italian Cuisine in Hong and Asia wouldn´t have been possible without the work of women and men who put passion and competence in their profession. One of them is for sure Pino Piano, co-owner and Manager of Gaia Ristorante, in Grand Millennium Plaza on Queen’s Road Central and Director of the same group that owns and operates 6 Italian restaurants in Hong Kong and China. Pino Piano, who is today a well known personality on the local dining and social scene, has been involved in the restaurant business for as long as he can remember. His grandmother was a chef in Naples and he literally grew up in her kitchen, surrounded by her recipes and sound advice on how to run a good restaurant. It never occurred to him to pursue another career. So, he took a course in hotel management in Switzerland from where he headed for London (Terence Conran’s Neal Street restaurant and Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge). After a number of years he moved to New York and worked as a chef at the famous Rainbow Room. He arrived in Hong Kong to take up his role as Maitre d’hotel of the stylish Va Bene Italian restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong where he thought he would stay only for a few months: he worked there instead for over 8 years. Va Bene was possibly the first quality Italian restaurant in town that wasn´t in a luxury hotel. Besides his competence and professionalism, Pino became famous for his style: in the impeccably-cut designer suits he personally welcomed diners, guided them with consummate ease around the restaurant’s menu and exclusive Italian wine list.
Under Pino’s savvy direction, Va Bene became (and still is) one of Hong Kong’s most popular and successful restaurants, setting a new trend for top class independent establishments in a city, which had previously been dominated by hotel dining rooms. In 2000 he left Va Bene to pursue his own business. With Gaia Ristorante, Piano found himself one of the owners as well as the operator of Central’s first truly glamorous Italian. Pino was involved in the design and concept of the restaurant as well as the development of its menu (together with Executive Chef, Italian Paolo Monti) and wine cellar. Pino emphasizes that most of the ingredients used at Gaia are imported to ensure absolute authenticity and consistent quality.
Pino has also been involved the development of Isola bar + grill and Cafe Costa in the ifc mall, a spectacular two storey Italian restaurant and bar, by now a landmark in Hong Kong’s most stylish and sophisticated new shopping and lifestyle destination.
Isola bar + grill
The Gaia Group which also has restaurants in Shanghai and Hangzhou in China represents the interests of director and general manager, Pino Piano and a group of Hong Kong investors who share the same vision of creating top quality, distinctive dining experiences for discerning diners.
The Hong Kong based Gaia Group owns and operates the following restaurants in Hong Kong and China:
Va Bene Hong Kong – a Lan Kwai Fong institution Tel. (852) 2845-5577
Gaia – glamorous al fresco dining on Hong Kong’s own Italian piazza Tel. (852) 2167-8200
ISOLA bar + grill – spectacular harbourside dining at Hong Kong’s new Central waterfront
Tel. (852) 2383-8765
Cafe Costa – ultra chic cafe with indoor and outdoor dining at ifc mall Tel. 2118- 7600
Joia – contemporary Northern Italian dining at Kowloon’s newest destination mall, Elements
Tel: (852) 2382-2323
Va Bene Shanghai – voted Shanghai’s ‘Best Restaurant’ Tel. (86) 21-6311-2211
Va Bene Hangzhou – idyllic Italian dining on the famous West Lake Tel. (86) 571-8702-6333