Via Pre

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

In view of the impressive dining experience during my previous visit to Via Pre, I have been anticipating my next visit to this lovely Italian restaurant at Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). Known for strict adherence to authentic Italian cuisine, Via Pre sources nearly all ingredients from Italy: from cheese to cured meats, and from wines to coffee.
On weekdays between 5:00pm and 7:00pm, customers may enjoy Via Pre's Aperitivo Italiano (Italian appetizer) offer. For every 2 glasses of drinks ordered, the third glass is on the house!
The Italian elixir against the recent hot spell is Spritz Veneziano (RM27.00), a wine-based cocktail popularized in northeast Italy. The drink is made from 3 parts of Prosecco sparkling wine, 2 parts of Aperol bitter liqueur, and 1 part of soda water.
This thirst-quenching concoction is garnished with a slice of orange, not only for aesthetic appeal, but also to provide refreshing citrus aroma. The overall alcohol content is quite low, my worry about drinking so early into the meal is misplaced.
In addition, the Aperitivo Italiano also grants customers unlimited access to the buffet spread of finger food. Spiedini (skewered meat) certainly goes well with wine.
For something meat-free, bruschetta is also quite enjoyable. This finger food is best enjoyed while it is still warm.
Italian bread is also available for customers' enjoyment. Salsa and pickles are provided to go with bread. Assorted crudités are also available.
From the antipasti menu, Uno is the first of several types of appetizers. Slices of mortadella sausage and provolone cheese are wrapped around grissini (breadsticks). This appetizer is intentionally salty as it is meant to serve as an appetizer.
The small serving of Uno (RM16.00) comes in two breadstick pieces. On the side are artichoke (carciofo) and sun-dried tomatoes (pomodori essiccati al sole).
Risotto Ai Funghi (RM52.00) is one of the delicacies in this evening's special menu. Although popularized throughout the Western world, risotto is actually a traditional dish in northern Italy. With several exceptions, risotto is customarily served as the promo (first course of a meal).
The rice grains of risotto are held together by a thick broth made from taleggio cheese, resulting in creamy texture and highly satisfying sensation on the palate. Not resting on its laurels, fresh porcini mushrooms enhance savoriness to this already-succulent dish. A piece of cheese crisp provides contrasting mouthfeel in opposition to the creamy risotto.
From the pasta section of the menu, meat-lovers should find the Tortiglioni Al Ragout Di Cinghiale (RM29.00) at the top of their wish list. The center stage of this dish is a special blend of minced pork ragù (sauce) made from wild boar (cinghiale). Wild mushrooms and sausages are also used for added flavor.
The ragù is rich with meaty savoriness. In order to avoid surfeiting sensation, some fatty portions of the pork has been removed such that the meat is leaner. Seasoned with a light pinch of sea salt, this pasta dish is enjoyable to the last mouth.
This pasta dish is meant to use tortiglioni, but customers can opt for gluten-free alternatives for additional RM5.00. Today's gluten-free pasta is made from parboiled rice in the shape of fusilli. The rice used to make this pasta is grown near Vercelli, a region reputed for its ideal climate for cultivating rice.
As a maritime nation surrounded by seas on three sides, Italy derives many ingredients from the marine kingdom. At Via Pre, the best way to sample different kinds of seafood is through the Misto Griglia Di Pesce (RM72.00), which literally means "Mixed Grilled Fish".
This ultimate seafood platter consists of a white fish and a pelagic fish: represented by grouper and Scottish salmon respectively. Via Pre insists on using fish caught from the wild as opposed to farmed ones. Once caught at sea, the fish is subjected to individual quick freezing (IQF) such that ice crystals form in smaller size. Finer ice crystals allow the fish to maintain its natural texture during transit to the kitchen.
Meanwhile, the supply of squid and shrimps are sourced closer to home. To secure the freshest seafood possible, the chef personally shops at the local wet market every morning. If the catch of the day is unsatisfactory, Via Pre would rather drop this dish from the menu instead of serving substandard food. Given the gratifying enjoyment of fresh squid and shrimps, I concur that this is a wise move.
After marinating, seafood is grilled in rosemary and olive oil. The amount of heat needs to be carefully controlled in order for seafood items to retain their natural juices. Condiments such as chili sauce and scallion sauce are prepared from scratch. Also included on the side are sautéed vegetables such as spinach and tomatoes.
The Misto Griglia Di Pesce is best enjoyed with a glass of Sauvignon Angoris 2014 IGT (RM26.00). This white wine is derived from grapes cultivated in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy. Thanks to the temperate and humid climate, this region is renowned for its prized white grapes.
The Ribolla Gialla Frizzante (RM36.00) is an Italian sparkling wine made from grapes of the same region. Taking advantage of the ideal weather near the Adriatic Sea, the sparkling wine produced here is notable for its fruity and floral aroma.
Also from the daily special menu is a delectable dish of Ravioli (RM48.00). Ravioli is notorious for being painstaking to make by hand. Perhaps not surprising by now, this is indeed how ravioli is prepared at Via Pre. The dough is a mixture of wheat flour and semolina flour, both sourced separately from local mills and mixed in-house.
Ravioli is usually prepared from two wide sheets of dough. Filling is added between the layers, then the dough is cut into bite size and sealed on the sides. Curd-like filling in each piece of ravioli comprises of ricotta cheese, truffle, garden sage cream, butter and asparagus. Cooking ravioli is a yardstick of an Italian chef's prowess because the level of heating needs to be controlled such that the fillings do not become overcooked.
As our wine glasses are emptying, it is time to try some red wine instead. Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso Friuli IGT Agoris (RM26.00) is made from dark-skin grapes grown in northeastern Italy. This exquisite wine is noteworthy for its fruity flavor reminiscent of plum.
Progressing to desserts, Chef Max's La Famiglia (RM36.00) is the result of the proprietor's very own creative expression. Aptly named "The Family" in Italian, the platter comprises of three pieces with wildly distinctive flavors.
The panna cotta is the most modest in terms of taste, but still enjoyable by any measure. The vanilla-flavored custard is topped with sweet blueberry sauce.
My personal favorite piece is the chocolate-flavored fiordilatte. The custard is infused with genuine cocoa goodness, tantalizing the taste buds upon contact and lingers for an appreciable duration.
Finally, almond coffee flan excites my taste buds with a strong dose of caffeine. The flan is accompanied by caramelized syrup made from orange, walnuts and pistachios.
To conclude the satisfying feast, the Amaro Montenegro (RM24.00) serves as the digestif (as opposed to an apéritif) of the meal this evening. This liquor from Bologna is made from different herbs such as saffron and vanilla. Served chilled in a shot glass with a slice of lemon, the drink carries bitter-sweet flavor which helps to alleviate any surfeiting sensation on the stomach.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When Italians consume coffee, the foremost choice is pure espresso - nothing more, nothing less. Today's single-shot Espresso (RM7.00) is brewed from coffee beans roasted by Buscaglione Caffè. Indeed, the adrenaline surge kicks in within mere minutes!
Although the pricing at Via Pre is hefty compared to other Italian restaurants in Penang, this is justified with the fact that food here is of uncompromising quality. From the supply of fresh ingredients to the steadfast adherence to healthy cooking, Via Pre leaves no morsels untouched in its pursuit for perfection.

Name: Via Pre
Address: 5, Pengkalan Weld, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-262-0560
Business hours: 11:00am-11:00pm
Coordinates: 5.41633 N, 100.34374 E
Directions: From the ferry terminal at George Town, turn right and drive along Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). Via Pre is located shortly on the left, at the same block as The Royale Bintang Penang and Made in Penang Interactive 3D Museum. Street parking is available along Weld Quay and Church Street Ghaut (Gat Lebuh Gereja).

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