But not every pizza is made equal and over the years we’ve weathered the various disappointments of soggy bases, processed plasticky cheese and frankly horrifying toppings (Pizza Hut Hong Kong, I’m looking at you and your seafood, peach and thousand-island dressing monstrosity here).
Happily for pizza lovers, although perhaps not so much for dedicated clean eaters, New York pie-pushers Motorino landed in the ‘Kong a couple of years ago, bringing with them some of the best dough this side of Brooklyn. With a straightforward 10-pizza menu (plus a rolling seasonal special) that keeps things simple, you won’t find weird Franken-sauces or novelty “concepts” here, just big, crisp, chewy, doughy, cheesy, tomatoey goodness. Or badness, depending on your point of view.
We’ve visited both their original Shelley Street and the newer Wan Chai locations on a number of occasions now, both with and without kids, and have kept returning as both quality and prices are consistently good. So when we were recently invited along to test out the Soho branch with the kids, we were very glad to accept.
First up, and I’m sure the guys and girls at Motorino won’t be offended by my saying this, the Soho branch probably isn’t for you if you’re planning on pizza with a baby in tow. The escalator-side location takes a few narrow steps to get into and the restaurant is designed to make the most of the space available for seating, meaning that there’s nowhere to park a pram, and the teeny bathrooms definitely have no spare space for a changing table. That said, the street-level Wan Chai branch is far more spacious, with a combination of chairs and booths – we’ve visited with Baby T-T happily dozing in his pushchair a few times now and managed not to get in anyone’s way, so consider a trip to Ship Street if you’re bringing a wee bub.
We were a table of three this time, so no such worries for us. As Mr T-T opts for the exact same pizza every time (Soppressata Piccante – a spicy salami and chilli combo), Master T-T and I ignored him and got busy with our own order.
And this is where this Brooklyn hipster is revealed to have a secret soft spot – outside of busy times (and where it’s safe to do so), kids are welcome to pop into the open kitchen and make their own pizza. I know, how awesome is that? A make-your-own-pizza place that serves up something that parents would actually want to eat themselves. And I really do mean make-your-own; under the close supervision of Motorino’s very patient chef, Master T-T got to work kneading and patting his dough, tearing cheese and meatballs, carefully arranging sausage and sprinkling olives and tomatoes until he declared his masterpiece, christened the “Big A”, ready for the oven.
And what an oven. The gas-and-wood Ferrara beast is custom-made for each location and gets up to a staggering 500 degrees, resulting in pizzas that are table-ready within 30-90 seconds. Anyone who’s ever eaten out with an antsy, hungry child appreciates speedy service, so that custom-made stove is another tick in the kid-friendly box for Motorino, (albeit an inadvertent one!).
Master T-T was suitably impressed with both the speedy delivery and his own creation, declaring it to be “the best pizza ever. Better than yours, Mummy.”
Hmm, not so fast, little one. I’d gone for the current special, calzone packed with creamy goat cheese, rocket and some seriously punchy chilli that had me downing my Aperol spritz (mmm) rather faster than advisable. Steer clear of this one if you’re not a spice lover, but otherwise, dig in as it’s delicious.
While lovely, the tiramisu was probably a bit of a stretch after all that pizza, but the popsicle hit the spot, being fruity, refreshing and sweet but not sickly.
If you’re looking for a quick bite with kids, I’d recommend arriving early as Motorino gets pretty packed as the evening goes on, but also so that they can have a go at being their own pizza chef before dinner.
Opening hours: 12pm to 12am daily
Costs: Antipasti from $88 – $148; Pizzas from $98 – $198; Dessert from $38 – $98.
Motorino Soho, 14 Shelley Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong; 2801 6881
Please note that this meal was by invitation, but we’re regular diners here!