For those of you who don't know, Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country thus the majority of restaurants have to adhere to Halal rules of cooking and food preparation. The main impact of this on a non-muslim like myself is whether or not the restaurant serves pork.
Without any offence or prejudice intended, I generally do prefer the non-Halal Italian restaurants in KL. Why? For a few reasons:
Number one would be that pork is a major player in Italian cooking. Think of Italian food and things like porchetta, salami, pepperoni, and Italian Sausage immediately spring to mind. My love for all things porky is combined with my dislike for the things the non-Halal restaurants use to replace pork. Beef pepperoni and beef bacon for instance, are by my definition - no longer pepperoni and bacon.
Number two would be that it takes a serious commitment to authentic Italian food to open a non-Halal restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. In going non-Halal, a restaurant is effectively depriving itself of 50% of its potential customers. Any restaurant that is willing to take that risk for the sake of authenticity deserves some credit in my opinion.
I'll just add an important clarification here; I've eaten in many Halal Italian restaurants in KL that serve excellent food, it's just a matter of personal preference, and wanting the type of Italian food I've been brought up on.
This over-long introduction was designed to clumsily segue into my review of Ciccio in Changkat Bukit Bintang. Ciccio has been a long-time server of Halal Italian food but has recently made the switch to non-Halal.
One thing I've always liked about Ciccio is it's decor and location. On one end of the Changkat strip, it's a good place to sit outside and admire chaotic scenes on the street. It also has some tidy views of the KL tower.
We were given some very floury bread to keep us busy. Too floury for Erin, not too floury for me, I'll let you form your own opinion..
We decided to go for two starters and to share a pizza. The first starter was the assorted deep fried cheeses RM15 (approx $5).
Unless I'm mistaken, the cheeses were actually not assorted, they were all the same Italian cheese, which neither us could accurately identify although certainly not mozzarella. These were more light-bites than a starter and were ok.
Overall - nothing special - 2 / 5
The other starter that we ordered was the porchetta crostini RM15 (approx $5).
This was a much better starter with the thinly sliced porchetta accompanied by a nice lemonly taste. The porchetta was also quite lean with only a small outer layer of fat.
Overall - general porky goodness 3.5. / 5
For our main course we ordered the Diavola pizza RM32 (approx $10), which is with pepperoni and chilli. I must have had about 20 different Diavola pizzas from different establishments around the world, leaving this one with plenty to line up against.
As I type this I'm trying to think of the best Diavola I've had and I can't come up with anything. Maybe this is a sign that I shouldn't really be ordering them. Why are they all so forgettable? Maybe I'm not getting old....
Anyway the pizza looked like this:
Here's my pizza checklist:
Is the base firm without being too crispy or burnt? check (kind of)
Are the toppings of good quality: check (although pepperoni was sliced too thick)
Is the crust thick and tasty enough to warrant being eaten rather than being left on the plate? check
Is the sauce to cheese ratio okay, and is the sauce actually good? Could have done with more tomato..
I wish I had a similar checklist for other foodstuffs.......
Overall - solid pizza but this one is another which I won't remember 3 / 5
It's interesting that I went into such length in an attempt to articulate my feelings about Halal vs non-Halal Italian restaurants, when the defection to the pork side hasn't really changed my opinion of Ciccio. Funny that.....
Overall, I think it's a decent pizzeria in a prime location, a good pre-drinking option perhaps but this is not going to blow anyone away anytime soon.