Over the past couple of years, Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914) has transformed from a haven for artist-types to a hot spot frequented by young hipsters and designer wannabes. An art fair takes over the venue every weekend and restaurants and boutiques have sprung up, including Al Cicchetto, a design-conscious establishment where patrons can sample Italian food while picking up a few interior design pointers.
The restaurant’s iron furnishings, vintage look and mottled cement walls fit in with the style of the former brewery. Among the most eye-catching fixtures and fittings are streamline Jielde lamps, which lend the space a rusty patina. The use of old Tolix dining chairs in various colors adds a dash of fun and contrasts the color palette of earthy brown, orange, blue, yellow and green, and the balmy lighting and wooden bar and tables add warmth to what could otherwise be a cold environment.
However, the restaurant is a bit cramped. The seating is tight and appears tailored to groups of four or more. On a recent visit, my dining partner and I were squeezed into a small table for two and had no trouble following the conversation at the table next to us.
As far as the food is concerned, I had doubts when I learned that the bistro is the latest addition to Casa Della Pasta (義麵坊), a chain restaurant with a reputation for supplying prosaic food tweaked for the local appetite. But a couple of visits soon dispelled any skepticism.
As its name suggests, the establishment focuses on cicchetti, an Italian relative of the Spanish tapas, and excels with its smallish but solid selection of morsels and appetizers. Accompanied by sweet cherry tomatoes and greens, the grilled calamari’s (NT$160) simple seasoning of olive oil, salt and pepper, is applied with finesse. For the pickled octopus (NT$120), just the right amount of salt and vinegar is used to make the boiled tidbits zingy without veering off into sour territory. The fried ravioli Bolognese (NT$95), however, was a disappointment as the dish consists only of several sad-looking ravioli in a small bowl.
Address: 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)
Telephone: (02) 2395-7117?Open: Weekdays from 11am to 11pm, weekends from 11am to 12am
Average meal: NT$1,000 including drinks
Details: Chinese and English menu, credit cards accepted
On the Net: www.capasta.com.tw
Another popular cicchetto on the menu is crostini (NT$135 for three pieces), which are available in a variety of toppings, including smoked salmon mousse, herb beef mousse and roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic oil. There are a few cicchetto combos to choose from (NT$300 to NT$500), but all the items can be ordered a la carte.
Besides the snack food, a selection of main courses and pasta dishes is available from 6pm to 9pm. The spaghetti with prosciutto and dried chili (NT$260) wasn’t remarkable. Other choices include firenze meatballs (NT$360), herb lamb chop (NT$380) and chicken spaghetti with lemon and thyme (NT$260).
The bistro’s drink list is more extensive than its food menu. Diners can get tipsy on everything from cocktails (NT$200 to NT$360) to a NT$5,200 bottle of Italian red wine. The restaurant serves brunch from 11am to 2pm, lunch from 12pm to 2pm and afternoon tea from 2:30pm to 5pm.