The food and beverage industry is renowned worldwide as being perhaps the most unforgiving sector to open a business in. Tastes fluctuate, one minute a joint is hot, the next it’s not.
Perhaps this is why Linguini Fini places such a premium on its restaurants ability to adapt. The Italian restaurant chain has branches in Hong Kong, Manila and Hanoi, but anyone expecting a cookie-cutter experience at each location will be pleasantly surprised.
The original Linguini Fini opened in 2011 in Hong Kong, under the umbrella of Homegrown Foods, a company that advocates and sells locally grown, fresh and organic vegetables. The Hanoi location opened in the Autumn of 2015, with the same ethos of cooking Italian food with a New York twist with fresh, locally sourced produce.
Anyone who has been to both Hong Kong and Hanoi knows that aside from being large, bustling Asian cities, the two places don’t have a lot in common, with Hong Kong far more developed. This leads one to wonder how can a chain restaurant focused on using locally sourced and fresh ingredients operate in such vastly different places.
The answer, again, is adaptability. Instead of taking the same menu from Hong Kong to Hanoi, executive chef Vinny Lauria arrived in Vietnam and dove into Hanoi’s bustling market culture to find out what vegetables were available for his new menu.
Italian with a Vietnamese Twist
The result is food adapted to local circumstances while retaining Homegrown Foods’ core values of fresh, local produce, with the majority of the vegetables VietGAP certified. While some meats on the menu have to be imported, almost all of the vegetables are grown on local farms or in Da Lat in the south, which has a climate more suited to some popular European vegetables.
The menu is also suited to local tastes of Hanoi, you certainly won’t see morning glory infused pasta anywhere else but Linguini Fini, and Vietnam’s love affair with pork is also evident on the menu, with a whole suckling pig on offer if it’s ordered a few days before visiting the restaurant.
Cooking the local produce, Vietnamese chef Toan Phan heads up the kitchen with her more than 10 years’ experience cooking Western food, including a stint at celebrity chef Bobby Chinn’s now-closed restaurant in the city.
Of course, food is just half the battle for any successful restaurant, and Hong Kong and Hanoi differ in more than the difficulty of sourcing fresh ingredients, with Vietnam’s low standard of service notorious among expatriates and visitors alike, so hiring the right front of house team has been key to Linguini Fini’s success.
Rio Domingo, the manager, said that initially, the restaurant’s grand appearance seemed to be intimidating customers. However gradually she and her staff created a relaxed atmosphere, with the bar now a popular spot for a drink and the excellent food and service making Linguini Fini popular for large groups, particularly among Korean and Japanese tourists and expatriates.
They say no plan survives contact with the enemy, and while owning a restaurant isn’t exactly a war, the maxim holds true, Linguini Fini is certainly one restaurant that can roll with the punches.