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Pici has an unmistakable front, with its light grey wooden shutters that occasionally open up for brunch and casual al fresco settings. The inviting ambience greets guests at the entrance, where an elevated open bar is located on one side and a wide staircase leading up to the second floor on the other.
The bookcase and light earth tones create a sense of comfort throughout. A window into the kitchen offers a glimpse of chefs kneading pasta dough and turning out different shapes and varieties throughout service. The upstairs dining room has a lower ceiling, and the dimmed lights give the space and intimate feeling.
After the successful launch of Tokyolima, Pici soft-opened with a rather subdued following. It quietly started operations during Chinese New Year; in the weeks since the casual pasta bar has grown in popularity, and is often packed during lunch and dinner services. Taking the helm of the kitchen is Italian chef Andrea Viglione who, together with the team, creates the selection of pasta dishes from gnocchi gratin to pici, the namesake pasta made entirely with flour and water.
We began our meal with burrata cheese with tomatoes, basil, and rocket. The crunchy rocket leaves add a musky crunch to the sweet tomatoes and the burrata, with a molten centre, that adds creaminess to the starter. The homemade meatballs are impressive—each of the three meatballs are loosely formed with beef and pork and breadcrumbs. Topped with a generous shaving of parmesan cheese, they are tender and just rich enough served with tomato sauce, an icon of Italian cuisine.
With nine varieties of pasta on the menu, two of them were pici. The pici cacio e pepe, is simple with a generous helping of Pecorino cheese on top. The simple pepper-and-cheese topping melts into the pasta, which is al dente and creamy in every bite, and comes in just the right amounts for sharing. The orecchiette with Italian sausage and spicy nduja sauce is perfect, with each ear-shaped pasta being thicker than most, but nice and chewy with just the right hint of heat from the soft pork sausage.
There are only two desserts on offer: the tiramisu and raspberry panna cotta, the latter creamy and mildly-set but the raspberry compote on the top was too sweet. We strongly suggest sharing another pasta course instead.
The wine selection at Pici is modest, with four each of whites and reds as well as two house cocktails, the Aperol Spritz and Negroni. It is important to note that wines come in by-the-glass option as well as by the 500ml carafe size instead of from a bottle. Among the selection, the Pounamu Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015 is a crisp white wine that works well with light starters, its herbaceous notes such as parsley and coriander working well with the burrata starter. The Masseria Pietrosa Primitivo 2014 is fruity throughout with an oaky finish, allowing the aromas to pair well with the pastas, especially those with meat sauces.
Service at Pici is quick and personal, with knowledgeable staff team that is familiar with food and wine pairing as well as describing pasta varieties and recommending options for guests. Portion control is important and the staff are adequately helping with it. Occasionally at peak hours, the staff needs reminders to fill up water glasses, but overall the service is thoughtful and attentive.
Dinner for two including one wine each amounts to just over HK$600. Pici offers casual and affordable Italian fare that is excellently executed—the pastas are of a consistent standard—but waiting times during peak dining hours are to be expected, considering its no reservation policy.