The food world was aflutter when news hit that the sleep-hating heads behind Pirata, The Optimist and newly opened TokyoLima would be opening a fresh pasta place in Wanchai. But as founder Manuel Palacio told us, when the stars align and the place and concept all come together at the same time, you gotta go with it. And go with it they did.
Hot on the heels of their funky Nikkei izakaya on Lyndhurst Terrace, this sweet little spot is back in the group's beloved Wanchai – on the tiny street off Queen's Road East and St Francis Street, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it St Francis Yard. It's a charming, open-fronted shop with a vibe similar to 22 Ships. You can sit up at the counter as we did and watch the chefs at work shredding the pasta into strands and kneading the dough, led by Chef Andrea Viglione, who hails from Turin, Italy.
The concept is just simple, fresh pasta. The prices are reasonable, the feeling is homey. A small menu is filled with pasta options and also offers four whites and four reds, served by the glass or the carafe.
We started our pasta path with an Aperol Spritz ($80) that was exceptional. This appetite igniter was exactly the right measure of Prosecco, soda and Aperol, with a bright orange tint and sweet-bitter spike that was the best way to end a Wednesday workday.
We had a few bites of the generous serving of cold cuts and big chunks of Parmesan and Taleggio ($130) to get us going before cutting into the giant slab of burrata ($95) showing off a springy exterior with an oozy centre of creamy cheese atop tomato, basil and rocket.
We usually prefer a bit more of a braised brown crust on the exterior of our meatballs ($85), but these were soft like butter, so the taste benefited with a full flavour and a good beef and pork mix that made the orbs tender and juicy yet flavourful and firm.
We really took our time savouring the orecchiette with Italian sausage and spicy n'duja ($110). This silky, smooth ear-shaped pasta is a good one if you're in for a slightly creamier sauce, and the pasta itself had a rich, eggy flavour with a shiny golden hue that made it as pretty as pasta can be.
We fought through a deliciously thick layer of mozzarella to get to the oven-baked gnocchi gratin ($90). Gnocchi is one of those funny dishes where the texture just gets ya every time when done right, and even though this one was baked, the individual potato balls were still soft and doughy. This is what you should order when seeking a big bowl of comfort.
The tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms ($140) was a simple, pleasing, mild-mannered dish with stretchy strands and buttery hits of mushroom.
Pici's classic lasagne ($120) is honestly not the most impressive looking or going to win the Hottest Pasta of the Year title anytime soon; it looks like a home-cooked meal served at Grandma's house (if you happen to have an Italian grandma who hand-makes her own lasagne sheets). It comes with a golden, bubbly, cheesy top and is a tasty dish. It's lasagne, after all – it's always gonna be good, and this one is just that.
Pici – for those of you who don't know your pappardelle from your agnolotti – is a long, thick, hand-rolled pasta; think of it as an Italian-version of udon. We tucked into the pici amatriciana ($85) with pork cheek. This is the one you want to order for that long, appreciative chew. It was pasta perfection, with flavour-filled strands and occasional big, meaty bits.
We personally prefer a hefty dose of gluten in our dough, but Pici does serve gluten-free pastas upon request, so don't let that pesky little wheat protein keep you from tucking into a good ol' dose of Italy's finest.
For the indecisive amongst us, the restaurant offers a thoughtful pasta tasting menu made up of smaller portions of four pasta dishes for $250. A three-course weekday lunch menu is priced at $148.
If you want a fuss-free dose of fresh pasta or a chilled place for an atmospheric tipple, Pici is fun, inexpensive and will fill you up.
16 St Francis Yard, Wanchai, 2755 5523