Of the many wrongdoings committed in Hong Kong, crimes against pasta ranks pretty high amongst them. In the league table of offenses, your typical spaghetti carbonara lies somewhere between flying balls of flem and renditioned booksellers.
When treated with a little love and affection, not much can beat a simple plate of pasta. But, Campbell’s chicken soup does not a carbonara make. Yet, how often do you see a large bowl of sloppy, beige spaghetti plonked awkwardly in the middle of a table of four (honestly, how the hell are you supposed to share a plate of spaghetti carbonara without it turning into a parmesan bukkake party?)
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to label the mistreatment of pasta as a form of gastronomic cultural appropriation. So, I took it as a good sign that the Wanchai pasta joint, Pici was not picketed by Southern Europeans holding aloft signs stating that “carbonara is the black face”, but negroni sipping Parisians.
Pici continues Star Street’s Sheng Wan’ification of Wan Chai. A self-styled neighbourhood restaurant, Pici managed to feel both reassuringly inviting and cosy at the same time. With its exposed brick, convivial atmosphere and a no booking policy, you could be in a Milanese back alley (or Hollywood Road for that matter)
So, with good friends, a good first impression and a fairly good glass of Chianti, my expectations of the food was… well, good.
Naturally, we started with a plate of ham, bread and burrata. (Word to the wise; if, like me, you’re tired of being overly polite when dividing up sharing plates, dine with pregnant friends as much as possible and eat good ham and unpasteurised cheese to your hearts content). They all ticked the right boxes.
As did the meatballs, which was next to arrive. We gobbled our way quickly through these as it was the pasta we came for.
We ordered three pasta dishes; Classic Lasagne, Liquid Parmesan Ravioli and a Pappardelle.
The lasagne was pretty lacklustre. The ubiquity of lasagne dictates that if it appears on the menu of a restaurant with aspirations beyond Pizza Express, it had better be bloody good. But, this one was simply ok.
Next, we tucked into the ravioli. If you can imagine the contents of a steamed custard bun without any flavour, doloped on thick pasta sheets, you can imagine the experience of eating this dish. (I’ve since learnt this dish has been removed from the menu).
The pappadelle was much better and just as it should be; meaty, messy and moreish
Overall, I describe the food as good home cooking. Not a ‘justa a lika mamma used to make’ home cooking, but a ‘crack open a jar of tomato bolognaise sauce’ type of home cooking. Pici does achieve it’s objective of being a great neighbourhood restaurant. As such, it’s not really worth making a trip for.