Fico has all the trappings of an Italian farmhouse fantasy: silvery olive trees, terracotta tiles, and sun bleached walls against a blazing blue sky, as long as you ignore the cargo ships clogging the Singapore Straits outside.
The Italian restaurant is the latest endeavour by former Braci chef Mirko Febbrile, who has willed a piece of his native Puglia into existence at East Coast Park. Together with long-time collaborator The Lo & Behold Group, the 32-year-old has dreamt up a masseria, 14-seater communal table, and food destined to be fought over.
“I have fond memories growing up in the Puglian countryside, where we would frequently gather with friends and neighbours over food, wine, and conversation,” Febbrile said. “We built Fico in this very same spirit, not just to enjoy delicious food, but to celebrate the simple pleasures of life.”
Restaurant review: Fico at East Coast Park
Fico is heavy on seafood and vegetables, encapsulated by the signature focaccina. The focaccia-pizza hybrid is made from an 80/20 blend of semola and Pugliese tipo 1 flours, and comes in flavours like piennolo giallo tomatoes with briny anchovies, capers, and olives. The fluffy dough also benefits from the tang of goat’s milk blue cheese, fior di latte, fried sage, and sulla honey (a mono-varietal honey from Sicily) led by sweet Tropea onions.
Save the crust for a starter of charred red peppers, which are draped with Cantabrico anchovies and dripping with extra virgin olive oil. Do not skip over the tomino cheese either, which are wrapped in pancetta, baked until gooey, and represents the platonic ideal of ham and cheese.
Febbrile also has a deft touch with pasta, which recalls his time time running a pasta hawker stall pop up last year. Kneaded, flattened, and cut at the bar counter, the orecchiette balances the bitterness of turnip tops with salty anchovies, and denti del drago – named after ‘dragon’s teeth’ due to its jagged edges – has a lovely bite enhanced by a deeply savoury white ragu of beef, lamb, and pork.
Most portions are small, which run contrary to Fico’s idea of sharing, but the beef costata veers towards the other extreme end. Fit for up to five people, the one-kilogram grass-fed bone-in ribeye is fantastically caramelised yet still medium rare in the centre. If you must have sides with it, the acidity of cuore di bue (beefsteak) tomatoes helps to cut through the meat’s richness.
Dessert arrives on a trolley of cakes, tarts, ice cream, and other riotously colourful treats. Each order offers a choice of two, and the cannolo with ricotta and pistachio plus a fantastically creamy burrata gelato are the stars.
Febbrile calls this food cucina povera, literally “poor cuisine,” as a way of referring to his philosophy of not wasting anything. It could also mean how impoverished you will be after dining there. For two hungry people, the menu recommends sharing one focaccina, two small plates, one main, one pasta, and dessert, which add up to around S$150++ in total excluding the big-ticket items like the seafood platter and the beef.
A workaround, perhaps, is to order the Spaghetti Pomodoro, an umami cocktail that tastes bafflingly close to tomato pasta. Sip it outside with your eyes closed with the sea breeze in your face, and it could your cheapest ticket to Italy.
(Hero and featured images credit: Fico)