In a place such as Hong Kong where life basically revolves around food, restaurateurs do not do things by halves. Pirata Group, the owners of Pirata (obviously), The Optimist and, most recently TokyoLima, have just opened their fourth concept, Pici Pasta Bar, just one week after opening their third.
Whilst some might say that opening two consecutive restaurants in such a short timeframe is rather a bold move in such a competitive city, co-founders Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo know exactly how to create a successful concept.
Tucked away on St. Francis Yard, in the Star Street vicinity, Pici is a two-storey space that feels intimate and cosy. With exposed brick walls, high ceilings and marble counter tops, it fits right in to its chic neighbourhood.
The menu is very simple, with a selection of typical Italian starters and a list of pastas from different regions in Italy, each made by hand in the restaurant. We started with the vitello tonnato, a failsafe, classic Italian dish consisting of thin slices of cold roast veal, smothered in tuna mayonnaise. Pici’s version was excellent – quite possibly one of the best I have tasted.
The burrata cheese, served on a bed of rocket and cherry tomatoes, was also exceptional. The cheese was beautifully creamy and rich, drizzled in the finest extra virgin olive oil.
We love the meatballs at Pirata, so naturally we had to try Pici’s homemade meatballs. It’s a slightly different recipe to Pirata, but still made with pork and beef and still tasted divine.
If narrowing down the list of pastas to just one choice fills you with all sorts of food-envy-induced anxiety, you can try the Pasta Tasting Menu, which includes four tasting portions of pasta for $250 a head. We started with the namesake Pici all’Amatriciana. Made with pork cheek in a rich tomato sauce, this is one of my favourite pasta dishes, and this one did not disappoint. Pici is a thick, hand-rolled pasta that’s kind of like fat spaghetti. It had a beautiful al dente texture and the delicious sauce clung to it perfectly.
We then tried the Orecchiete with Italian sausage and spicy n’duja, which was much simpler yet still delicious.
I wouldn’t have ordered it myself, but the tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, butter and Parmesan, was amazing. The rich, buttery sauce was almost as intense as truffles, and just utterly heavenly. Again, the pasta had the perfect texture.
I think my favourite of the four pastas we tried was the ravioli with black truffle and asparagus. The pillows of pasta were packed full of minced asparagus and shallots, simply topped with Parmesan and shavings of delicious, nutty black truffle that brought it all together.
There really is only one way to round off an Italian feast: with tiramisù! Pici’s version was the perfect size for one – perhaps a little small for two – and had just the right balance of creaminess and lightness to satisfy that sweet craving.
This was of course all washed down with a couple of Aperol Spritzes and some very good Chianti. Much like the food menu, the wine list is very simple and concise, offering only four whites and four reds, served by the glass or the carafe.
Prices at Pici are as down to earth as the entire restaurant concept, with starters between $65 and $95, and pastas between $85 and $160. I was seriously impressed by Pici and have not stopped recommending it ever since. It has a cool vibe, attentive service and, most importantly, delicious food. As I said before, these guys know exactly how to create a winning concept and that is exactly what they have done with Pici.
16 St Francis Yard
Tel: +852 2755 5523
No reservations. Closed on Sundays