Chef Justine Li and Kuo Chia-
Papa Mio stays sharp with
By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Erica Lin
24, CunZhong St, West District
Papa Mio Italian Restaurant's almost 17 years of existence should alone make customers sit up and take notice. It is clear that this longevity is the result of a near-constant evolution of its menu, led by founder/chef Justine Li, who constantly seeks inspiration on trips with kitchen staff to Italy. Representative of the loyal, long-serving chefs that Li cultivates is current Papa Mio Head Chef Kuo Chia-hua, who has worked here for 13 years.
At the start of summer, diners can anticipate savoring the restaurant's latest round of new entrees that includes both traditional items from the "mother country" to creative inventions by Li and Kuo. A small sampling includes the risotto-style Carnaroli alla Bisque di Gambero (NT$580), which must be ordered in two-person portions, or pasta dish Capellini Con Pomodoro Fresco e Botargo, which uses dried mullet roe (a shared Taiwanese/Italian delicacy), two kinds of tomatoes and angel hair pasta.
Agnolotti Del Plin (NT$290) is a handmade type of ravioli from the Piedmont region. Papa Mio's chefs stuff the little doughy squares--made with free-range eggs and imported flour and olive oil--with chicken, which can be replaced by pork, beef or rabbit in other seasons. It is topped with freshly-grated Grana Padano cheese.
Perfect for the warm season, Proscuitto Crudo is a refreshing salad made up of honeydew melon (sometimes replaced with watermelon), figs, ham and salad rocket (arugula).
Carbonara Pizza (NT$490 12-inch; NT$280 8-inch) is a recent Chef Li creation that, just like the pasta topping, includes cheese, bacon and a creamy egg that adds a very unique texture to this pizza.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina (NT$1,200) has been on Papa Mio's menu for some time, but is now served on an imported, Spanish-style pottery platter that stabilizes its temperature. This 18-ounce, juicy hunk of U.S. ribeye (36 oz. also available!) is best shared by two or three, although Chef Li says that hungry diners have been known to finish one on their own.
Complementary with main courses, Papa Mio's soft Focaccia bread is baked the way it is traditionally in Genoa to give it extra moisture, together with black olives, or other season items like tomatoes or lemons.
Left: Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Right: Agnolotti Del Plin (NT$290)