Where to find the best cacio e pepe in Singapore: Bar Cicheti, Caffe Fernet, Basilico, and Pasta Bar
Do as the Romans do
If you haven't already realised, cacio e pepe has infiltrated our lives in a smart but subtle way. It is the trending pasta of today, in all of its cheesy glory, and is a crowd favourite in our city's best Italian joints.
The Roman pasta dish is decidedly straightforward — it fuses together black pepper, spaghetti, and cheese, usually grated pecorino romano. When done well, its flavours permeate your tongue like a warm hug; the perfect balance of comfort and class. However, as simple as it sounds, it's also easy to get it wrong. Below, we shortlist a list of places in Singapore for the best cacio e pepe. Believe us, you'll need one of these to get through that mid-week lull.
Chef Lim Yew Aun heads up the kitchen at Bar Cicheti's sleek dimly-lit brasserie, where flavours have been adapted to suit local palates. The cacio e pepe here is a beautifully elegant dish, presented with thick, hand-rolled strands of pici, spiced with Sarawak black pepper, fresh marjoram, and a squeeze of lemon. Chef Aun swaps out pecorino romano for parmigiana reggiano, as he believes the flavour sits better with Asian tastebuds. It comes available in two sizes, although who can resist the bigger portion?
The punchiest of the lot, Caffe Fernet's take on cacio e pepe is more spicy than usual, thanks to its generous sprinkling of four types of peppercorns — pink, green, black, and white. It has also made the bold move to use mafaldine, a chunky, ruffled pasta that is designed in a way that the person eating it gets more sauce with each bite. After the initial hit of spiciness wears off, you'll get a mix of both pecorino and parmigiana cheeses, making this dish ever so moreish.
Here's an insider secret: it may not be on the menu, but Basilico does a mean cacio e pepe. Renowned for its fresh and authentic fare, Chef Pierantonelli (of Rome, no less) whips up an excellent rendition, employing pecorino romano, 36-month aged parmigiana reggiano, a mix of sansho, long, and kampot peppers, and the surprising addition of red Mazara del Vallo prawn tartare. The three peppers bring a distinct flavour profile each, be it citrus with the sansho, and intense heat with kampot. House-made maccheroncini pasta is a helpful vehicle for the sauce — the latter's cheesy goodness hugs the pasta's rough texture and sits well in its tubular holes.
Chef Alessandro Giustetti, previously of Garibaldi, is known for his repertoire of lesser-known dishes from Southern Italy. The other thing you should know is that his cacio e pepe at Pasta Bar is completely well-balanced and on point — it contains a respectable amount of ground, coarse, and crushed peppers, which are dry toasted first for a delicate flavour and aroma. Pecorino and parmigiano cheeses cling on to tubes of rigatoni, and all is well in the world.