Via Pre

Special thanks to Via Pre for extending this food review invitation.

Via Pre has moved from its original Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld) location to a new shop at Penang Street (Lebuh Penang). This is one of two restaurants that Via Pre currently has - the other being located in Kuala Lumpur, which I had the pleasure of visiting last month.
Via Pre is named after a busy street in downtown Genoa, Italy. In contrast to most Italian restaurants in Malaysia, Via Pre sets itself apart from others through authentic Italian cuisine. As evidence, the restaurant goes to great lengths to procure premium ingredients from Italy. This includes nearly everything from cured meat to cheese, wines to coffee.
The new Penang Street outlet features an open kitchen where customers can see its crew working tirelessly to fulfill orders. The Head Chef of this outlet is Chef Luca from Florence, whom I had the pleasure of meeting previously.
The upper floor of the restaurant provides additional dining space during busy hours. Every Saturday evening, there is live band performance to keep the ambience vibrant.
Our meal is preceded by an apéritif: Bellini (RM36.00). This refreshing drink is made from 2 parts of Prosecco sparkling wine and 1 part of peach purée. This classic cocktail originates from Venice and possesses refreshing sweet-tanginess that draws appetite.
Shortly after being seated, we are served with a basket of bread. Breads are complimentary with most food orders except for pizzas, bruschetta and panini. Bread types vary from day to day. Today, the bread basket comprises of focaccia, eight-grain bread, rustic bread and grissini.
Baked fresh every day, the breads carry irresistible aroma from the oven. In general, the breads are pleasantly crusty - with the sole exception of grissini which are too hard for me. Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil are provided too.
Prosciutto & Buffalo Mozzarella (RM25.00) is an antipasto (starter) platter served on a tagliere (wooden board). Prosciutto is a general term for any Italian dry-cured ham. There are regional variations of prosciutto, for instance Parma Ham from Emilia-Romagna as shown here.
As for cheese, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) from southern Italy has curd-like softness. It is milder in flavor compared to some other types of cheese. The platter also includes green olives, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes.

Spaghetti Ai Frutti Di Mare (RM56.00) is a seafood-based pasta dish. Pasta is cooked using garlic and extra virgin olive oil. The oil accentuates aroma and provides a sense of oiliness that is not too greasy. The phrase "frutti di mare" literally means "fruits of the sea", and symbolically refers to seafood. Seafood used in this dish includes squid, clams and mussels.
Seafood pasta goes well with white wine such as Ansonica Costa Argentario La Parrina 2013 (RM32.00). This dry wine is produced from the vineyards of Parrina, Tuscany. Served chilled, the glass of Ansonica is smooth and carries refreshing nutty aroma, making this wine friendly to casual drinkers.
Seafood connoisseurs should go for Misto Griglia Di Pesce (RM78.00), a combination platter of grilled seafood: salmon, grouper, shrimp and squid. For best enjoyment, seafood is marinated and grilled with rosemary and garlic-infused olive oil. Included on the side are diced tomato salad and silk-like sautéed spinach.
Salmon and shrimps are the main highlights of the assorted seafood platter. Thanks to their freshness, their juiciness is exquisite with every bite. On the other hand, squid and grouper are slightly drier; I personally prefer more tenderness. While it is pleasurable to enjoy grilled seafood on its own, it is also nice to dip it in a special sauce made from tarragon and shallots.
The 12-inch Vegetariana Pizza (RM25.00) may be too large for one person, but this is the standard serving size for a wholesome Italian meal. Like bread, pizza dough (schiacciata) is also made fresh in the kitchen. Tossed and stretched by hand, the dough serves as pizza crust. Its scrumptious crisp is attributed to the fact that the pizza is baked in a stone oven.
As for pizza toppings, fresh tomato paste is evenly spread over the crust. This is followed by vegetarian ingredients like black olives, green olives, artichokes, zucchini, eggplant (brinjals), bell pepper and onions. Toppings are held in place by molten mozzarella cheese. Finally, parsley and basil are used as garnish.
Progressing into desserts, La Crème Brulee' Di Via Pre (RM18.00) is the most interesting from the presentation perspective. Alcohol on custard's surface is ignited at the dining table, resulting in spectacular display of flame which lasts for over a minute. Flambéing icing sugar causes it caramelize, forming a brittle layer which keeps the custard insulated from heat.
Meanwhile, the vanilla-based custard is blessed with alluring lime aroma, teasing the palate with its lovely citrus essence. Included on the side is a piece of baci di dama, which loosely translates to "lady's kisses" - because it resembles a pair of lips. Baci di dama is made from crushed hazelnut while chocolate cream holds the halves together.
After a heavy meal, it is ideal to have a digestif to relieve any surfeiting feeling. A small glass of Limoncello Napioli IGP 27' (RM23.00) does the trick. Produced in Torreglia of northern Italy, this lemon liqueur is made by fermenting lemon zest and syrup. This digestif is delightfully sweet and has respectable alcohol overtones.
Via Pre also produces its own Limoncello which is drier and has higher alcohol content (39%) than the imported version. The liqueur takes 50 days to prepare, and is usually reserved for special events such as Christmas.

Hardcore drinkers may even want to get their hands on Limen Liquore. With alcohol content (42%) approaching that of whisky, this is not a common beverage to be trifled with. Its sweet-smelling lemon fragrance is pleasurable in small amounts, but the fumes can overwhelm the nasal cavity with ease. The liquor gives mild burning sensation as it trickles slowly down the throat.
Few people have coffee culture as developed as the Italians, who consume coffee at the conclusion of nearly every meal. At Via Pre, the beans are roasted by Buscaglione Caffè of Rome. Extracted espresso is used to prepare this cup of Cappuccino (RM11.00). The coffee is notable for its exquisite smoothness as well as its relaxing aroma.
Occasionally, customers are served with a type of sugar confectionery at the conclusion of their meals. Chocolate Praline serves this role today. The chocolates pieces are contain crushed pistachio nuts and are infused with some wine for the extra kick. Intense dark chocolate essence strikes a chord with my bitter-inclined palate.
Once again, the food quality at Via Pre continues to impress with flying colors. It is no wonder the restaurant is packed with customers during dinner service!

Name: Via Pre
Address: 20E, Lebuh Penang, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-262-0560
Business hours: 11:00am-11:00pm
Website: http://www.via-pre.com
Coordinates: 5.41933 N, 100.34136 E
Directions: Via Pre is located on Lebuh Penang (Penang Street) between the intersections with Union Street (Lebuh Union) and Bishop Street (Lebuh Bishop). It is at the other end of shops from The Chambers and Penang 3D Trick Art Museum. Street parking can be scarce on weekdays.

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