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Have you met Cicheti?

TO START AND TO SAVOUR

All the makings of a decent antipasto—salumi, pepperoncini, buffalo mozzarella and radicchio—are chopped up with iceberg lettuce, tossed in a bright oregano vinaigrette and dubbed the Cicheti Chopped Salad (S$16) – simple and straightforward with robust Italian flavours. For a heartier opener, the Zuppa di Cozze e N’duja ($24) is a Sicilian summertime treat where fresh Australian mussels are sautéed in a spicy tomato and white wine sauce, along with meaty bits of house-made spicy sausage offering a good bite with every mouthful.

Regulars will be pleased to find the appetisers that made them first fall in love with Cicheti—be it the luscious blob of Burratina (S$24) that cleverly trades in the usual suspects of basil, tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil for pesto, toasted pistachios and burnt onion marmalade; or the simple but addictive Sea Prawns (MP) as fresh as Tekka Market allows each day that’s grilled with its shell on over an open fire, finished with smoked herb butter churned using sofrito, paprika, garlic, cheese, parsley and a good hit of spice—remain diligently on the menu. 

The Melanzane (S$16), on the other hand, gets upgraded from its days of deep-fried yore to a new coat of char. Roasted in a wood-fired oven until soft, tender and at the brink of collapsing, the eggplant is halved and scored to reveal a delicate, smoky flesh that’s then suffused with Cicheti’s take on the bagna cauda—a warm anchovy and garlic dip originating from Piedmont—melted down with capers, butter, chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon. A handful of mint leaves and smattering of olive oil bread crumbs sends it on its merry way.

TO PRIME AND TO SLURP

While pasta still remains traditionally the precursor of an Italian meal here at this Cicheti, the new menu welcomes two new handmade pastas and a nifty upgrade to a beloved mainstay. Whole Wheat Stracci (S$28) sees thin “rags” of hand-torn pasta made using whole wheat flour—firmer texture with an assertive nutty flavour—tossed from Italian to Asian and back with prawns, house-made ‘nduja, garlic, scallions and a splash of red wine. Originating from Sicily, Casarecce (S$28) are short twists of pasta with curled edges and a groove down the middle that resemble little rolled up scrolls – the perfect vessels for a flavourful and feisty tomato-based sauce with guanciale bringing a bit of fat and a dash of heat from pickled peppers.

Fans of Cicheti’s Vongole—a dish that’s known to not fall short on flavour—will not be disappointed with the new rendition that sees Linguine (S$29) and its trademark, plump Hobinosugai clams with jalapeño, anchovies and onion purée bringing new depths to the dish.

TO FINISH OFF STRONG

At first glance, the pizza menu may look no different than before, with all but one of chef Aun’s famous wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas making the cut. Ask for the off-menu special – a Sicilian-inspired Napoletana circled with dollops of creamy stracciatella, each embedded with its own sliver of white anchovy marinated in chilli flakes and lemon zest – both elements blending effortlessly into each other. 

Above: The off-menu special.. a Sicilain-inspired Napoletana luxe

For those looking for a more substantial meal, Cicheti caves in and expands their Secondi selection—previously only comprising an Angus Manzo and an Iberico Pork option—with two seafood options. Red Snapper Livornese (S$36) brings to the menu a time-honoured recipe of enjoying the firm-fleshed fillet all the way from the Tuscan seaport town of Livorno where prevailing flavours of the Mediterranean like taggiasca olives, capers, lemon and a spicy tomato sauce date back to the Italian Renaissance. Zuppa de Pesce (S$46) is the ultimate Italian expression of ‘bounty of the sea’ that harkens to the days before refrigeration where fisherfolk from towns up and down the slender peninsula of Italy needed a convenient way to prepare all their unsold bits and pieces of the daily catch. Today, the minimal-waste philosophy is carried forward to Cicheti’s fragrant tomato-based stew brimming with “seafood of the day” collected from local markets and fisheries. In the same vein, the ‘nduja that appears throughout the menu is made in-house using trimmings from off-cuts of salumi that would’ve been otherwise been discarded; blitzed with chilli, paprika and garlic – a far (more palatable) cry from the traditional recipe that calls for fiery Calabrian chilli peppers with wild abandon. These are just some of a growing list of ways chefs at The Cicheti Group—a founding member of the recently formed F&B Sustainability Council—are encouraged to stretch the potential of each ingredient, ensuring as little as possible goes to waste.

Sweet dreams are still very much made for Crack Pie (S$12.50) addicts and coeliacs craving the butterscotch-spiked, “I-can’t-believe-it’s-gluten-free” Tiramisu (S$14) topped with icy coffee granita. Putting his best “fruits” forward are new sweet-savoury creations by chef Dylan – a Strawberry Parfait (S$14) served semifreddo in between layers of ricotta mousse, chopped pistachios and strawberry essence with a drizzle of honeyed balsamic reduction; and a “deconstructed” Lemon Tart (S$14) presented ina bowl piped with rosemary cream, together with candied lemon peel, almond crumbs and—surprise, surprise—capers scattered atop.

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bydanieleng
http://www.bydanieleng.com
Freelance publicist, copywriter and digital marketer with a weakness for an unreconciled origin story. I can sell a story as good as I can tell one.

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