Apart from when I call him Pieman, ‘Papi’ is what I call my dad, so ever since hearing that there was an Italian restaurant called Papi, I knew I must try it to see if I could possibly love it as much as my Pieman. For fear of insulting him, I will say that this could never be possible…but it certainly did come close!
Papi is located in Civic Square, the lovely palm tree-lined alfresco dining area in Elements. The simple, brightly lit space, dotted with tins and jars of authentic Italian condiments, draws in families, friends and businessmen alike, as the menu is designed around the concept of family-style sharing plates under the fitting headings of ‘finger food’ and ‘fork food’, alongside larger plates of pizza, pasta or roasts.
We began our meal with a delicious fresh burrata cheese served with Italian cherry tomatoes, crisp rocket and a delicious basil dressing. I’ve recently developed a bit of an obsession with burrata (not helped by the incredible one at DiVino Patio!) and this wonderfully creamy serving of cheese definitely did not disappoint.
Whoever first thought of the combination of Parma ham and melon should be knighted. This is one of my all-time favourites, and Papi’s version, with only the absolute freshest ingredients, was spot on.
Papi’s homemade focaccia, served straight from the oven, had the perfect fluffy texture, yet it was slightly lacking in flavour. A sprinkle of rock salt over the top would have made it, although it also worked with the delicious rocket dip it came with.
The deep-fried mixed mushrooms, with a light tempura-style batter encasing gorgeous melt-in-the-mouth mushrooms, may have been the star of the show… or at least one of them. Also served with a lovely rocket dip, I simply could not get enough of these.
To follow, the homemade pork meatballs were also complete perfection. The pork was wonderfully tender, lean and full of flavour. A sprinkling of slightly bitter fennel seeds complemented the sweet tomato sauce it was bathed in, which also served as the perfect dip for the focaccia.
Garlic prawns is another of my favourite dishes. Unfortunately these seemed ever so slightly overcooked, causing the texture to be just a touch rubbery. However, the caramelised garlic chips were scrumptious and also worked amazingly with the focaccia.
Obviously we had to try some of the homemade pasta, so we opted for Papi’s Pici – handmade Tuscan pici in a spicy tomato sauce with garlic chips. With a lovely udon-like texture, this pasta was far too moreish; although I was already near bursting point, and with three courses still to go, I couldn’t resist serving myself a second and third helping. (A good thing to know about Papi is that gluten-free pasta is available upon request.)
Last but not least of the savouries, we tried the Pizza salsiccia, as it would have been an insult to the chef not to see how his pizzas fared. With a wonderfully thin, crispy base and an exciting mix of mushrooms and Italian sausage, there was little I could fault about this pizza. I even enjoyed it for breakfast the next day (slash three days later…oops.)
On to desserts, the panna cotta with fresh wild berries was deliciously creamy yet light, flavoured with real vanilla pods. The sharp fresh fruit cut through the sweetness of the panna cotta to create the perfect summer dessert.
Without beating round the bush, however, the best of the desserts was the Nonna chocolate cake. This amazing mousse-like cake came on a bed of crunchy hazelnuts, sprinkled with chocolate pop rocks and served with hazelnut ice cream. It was absolutely to die for.
Having initially thought that Papi might be the sort of place you only go to either if you work nearby or are shopping in Elements, I’ve realised that it is in fact worth the trip in its own right. The service is good, the prices are fair (‘finger food’ starts at $30, ‘fork food’ at $60, pastas at $98 and pizzas at $128) and the food is delicious. Get over the thought that TST is a million miles away and get over there, even if just for the Nonna cake!
Shop RO11, Civic Square
3/F Elements Mall
1 Austin Road
Tel: +852 2811 2681