Machong Town’s Italian Kitchen lies beside the river. Its green façade and red awning is nestled unassumingly amongst the other shop fronts. Inside black and white tiles run along the floor while the original brick walls have been retained. On the ceiling is a replica of that of the Sistine Chapel, albeit one with poorer resolution. The restaurant has a quaint and rustic feel, and would feel authentic if it was not for Always by Bon Jovi playing in the background.
I arrive early, and at first the waitresses are unsure if they are open or not. There is no drinks menu and I am handed a food menu in Chinese. What ensues is a mix of confusing charades, clumsy Chinese, unreliable translation apps and lots of pointing at photos. Just as it seems all hope is lost, the owner arrives. Henry, a friendly Taiwanese man who speaks English well, clears everything up straight away.
With a menu of risottos, pastas and pizzas, Italian Kitchen is more authentic than most. I opt for Vegetable Salad and Spaghetti Bolognese. It turns out there are no drinks available to buy, only complimentary tea.
The vegetable salad arrives quickly. The fresh ingredients had been drizzled with Japanese style salad dressing. While not particularly authentic, the dressing gave the salad a well needed kick.
The Spaghetti Bolognese arrived soon after the salad was finished. The meat sauce had been well seasoned with herbs, but the portion was a bit sparse compared to the spaghetti.
Italian Kitchen is not about to send the chefs of Dongguan’s top restaurants running to the hills, but few could claim to offer better value than the RMB 50 I paid for my entire meal.
What really sets Italian Kitchen apart is Henry. He may not be the Italian you may expect to own a restaurant like this, but he has that same warm and friendly personality. He is happy to go through the menu with you, has plenty of advice and anecdotes about the town, and makes you feel less of a stranger in a new place.
For anyone moving to Machong or just passing through, make Italian Kitchen your first stop.
Find Italian Kitchen here.