Think you know your Italian restaurants in Singapore? Italian food in Singapore goes far beyond your simple pastas and pizzas. Did you know it was possible to eat your way around the regions of Italy? We delve into eight distinctive regions for Italian food at restaurants found right here on our tiny island.
Location: Campania, where the foot meets the shin.
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: Insalata Caprese – the layered tomato, mozzarella and basil salad so popular you’ll find it on the menu at many non-Italian restaurants
We found the cuisine of Campania at: The Lighthouse, which cooks up a mean plate of paccheri pasta di Gragnano ($32) – the large, unridged noodles made famous in Naples, here paired with a tomato beef ragu braised for seven hours and topped with another Campanian favourite, ricotta cheese. Or dive into a plate of authentic scialatiello pasta ($28) with Piennolo tomatoes and basil, all flown in from Campania. Both pastas are made in Gragnano, a town of 30,000 known for mixing secret traditions and durum wheat semolina to produce the nutty, chewy pasta that put its name on the map. Lastly, the Lighthouse gives the ubiquitous Naples baba cake (often soaked in limoncello) a modern zing by adding Zibibbo sabayon and marinated strawberries ($22).
The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 6877 8933 | fullertonhotel.com
La Barca Ristorante & Wine Bar
Location: Tuscany, upper shin, just below the knee
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a Florentine-style porterhouse steak traditionally from Chiana beef
We found the cuisine of Tuscany at: La Barca. Executive chef Michele Sorrentino has helmed award-winning restaurants in Tuscany, before joining La Barca in June 2011. Typically Tuscan dishes served at the restaurant are the traditional Fiorentina served with roasted potatoes, and cannellini beans with sage and fresh chilli ($13 to $20 per 100g). The steak is often prepared simply by grilling it with a little salt and pepper and served medium-rare. The restaurant serves this prime cut in three different ways: traditional, or with truffle or black pepper sauce. Salted cod salad with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and oregano ($32) is another staple. The combination of two Tuscan favourites, the salted cod and chickpeas, is simple and typically Tuscan. Pici, made from flour and water, is an ancient Tuscan pasta, and represented in La Barca’s homemade Tuscan pici with chef’s pork- rib ragu ($28). La Barca’s dish is a recipe from Chef Michele’s family, passed down through many generations.
90 Goodman Road, Block C, Goodman Arts Centre, 6346 5813 | labarca-sg.com
Location: Calabria – the toes – all five of them
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: Cured meats ’Nduja, a spicy-hot, salami-like mix of pork meat mixed with local pepperoncini (small peppers) that is left to cure for an entire year
We found the cuisine of Calabria at: Pasta Fresca, which offers a spicy Calabrian sausage in two dishes: the salsiccia alla griglia ($24.90), sausages with mixed salad, potato wedges and mushroom sauce; and the ai funghi e salsiccia ($18.20), a mix of sliced sausages, sautéed white button mushrooms, garlic, cherry tomatoes, light cream and Parmesan cheese. Pasta Fresca hand-makes each and every sausage – using following a recipe small family farms in Calabria use to prepare this meat in the winter – by first marinating the minced pork for 24 hours in red and white wines, fennel seeds, chilli powder and rosemary before encasing it in sausage skin and chilling it for 24 hours.
Boat Quay, Bukit Timah, Rochester Mall and Siglap, pastafresca.com
Etna Italian Restaurant
Location: Sicily – Italy’s football, the island off of the boot’s big toe
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: The Godfather’s preferred sweet treat – cannoli, fried pastry tubes stuffed with ricotta
We found a few examples at: Etna, which does fresh and delicately flavoured Sicilian anchovies in two ways: for starters, marinated in lemon and white wine and served on a soft mound of stracciatella di buffala cheese with roasted vine tomatoes; next, replacing the sardines in a typically Sicilian pasta with of sardines, and raisins, pine-nuts, lemon zest, fresh dill and mild red chilli (both are specials, price varies). Partner-chef Anna serves tonno scottato (seared tuna, $38) with crushed fennel seed and caponatao sauce along with light-as-air cannoli ($12) and tiramisu ($14), the latter given a Sicilian boost by being toppeding it, as it is the custom with desserts, with finely crushed pistachios.
Don’t miss: It may not be from Sicily, but Etna’s schiacciata, pizza crust decadently stuffed with mozzarella, pecorino chunks and shaved black truffle ($24), is a must-try.
110 Upper East Coast Road; 50 Duxton Road, 6444 9530; 6220 5513 | etnaitalianrestaurant.com
Da Laura Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
Location: Piedmont, knee-cap territory, bordering France and Switzerland
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: Vitello Tonnato, a classic summer dish – served cold or at room temperature – of sliced roasted veal covered with a thick, creamy sauce flavoured with tuna, capers and anchovies
We found a few examples at: Da Laura, which – speaking of vitello tonnato – is the place to try this dish ($22). Chef Laura Forlino is from Piedmont; she prefers to serve it cold and paired with a Langhe chardonnay, also made in the region. If veal isn’t your thing, try the brasato di manzo al nebbiolo ($28), an elegant beef stew prepared using rosemary, cloves and a hearty red wine which is absorbed by the meat to lend a velvety, complex and rich taste.
47 Neil Road, 6224 8251 | da-laura.com
Location: Lombardy, the inner knee region, that part that hurts when it rains
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: Risotto alla Milanese, a rice-based dish cooked with saffron
We found a few examples at: Prego. Chef Antonio’s version, the risotto alla Milanese con rane in guazzetto ($38++) mixes in saffron, fennel and sautéed frog’s legs. Ponds are abundant in the region, and traditionally peasants used to catch frogs to eat. Cheese- lovers will love the deep flavours of the garganelli roasted artichokes and hazelnuts in light gorgonzola cream ($34++), yet another traditional dish created due to the overwhelming number of cows in the area near Gorgonzola city. Cheese was made in batches in order to conserve milk, and then gradually made its way into pasta dishes.
Level 1, Fairmont Singapore, 80 Bras Basah Road, 6431 6156 | prego.com.sg
Location: Lazio, where a proper mid-calf boot ends
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: Penne arrabbiata, a pasta dish with sauce made from garlic, tomatoes, chilli peppers and olive oil. The sauce’s name, arrabbiata, which literally means “angry” in Italian, comes from the heat of the spicy peppers.
We found a few examples at: Jamie’s Italian, the popular eatery from well-known chef and TV personality, Jamie Oliver. Though its extensive menu covers all regions of Italy, Jamie’s has several Roman-style specialties on offer, including traditional turbo penne arrabbiata ($12.50/19), and favourites like penne carbonara ($13/22) – a traditional pasta dish made here with eggs, cheese, bacon and black pepper – and Jamie’s Italian signature porchetta ($35), slow-cooked pork belly filled with herbs and garlic. The Lazio region’s famed pecorino can also be seen throughout the menu, in everything from pastas and antipasti to plain old cheese platters.
1 HarbourFront Walk, VivoCity #1-165/167, 6733 5500 | jamieoliver.com/italian/singapore
Location: Puglia, the entire boot heel (and then some)
You’ve eaten it if you’ve had: Orecchiette, those chewy little ear-shaped thumbprints of pasta that are commonly served with broccoli rabe
We found a few examples at: Il Lido, like its almost-too-pretty-to-eat plate of burrata and spring vegetables ($26); this fresh artisanal cheese with a silky outer shell and soft creamy centre is from Puglia. Seafood is a way of life for many Apulians, as is a long-standing tradition to cover fish in coarse salt before baking it. Il Lido takes this up a notch by wrapping its salt-crusted seabass ($45) in a herb- and- spice-filled salt dough before baking to seal in the freshness and flavours of the fish. And though you won’t find it on the menu, those that know ask for the homemade spaghetti with sea urchin ($48), a recipe inspired by chef Beppe De Vito’s childhood memories of diving in Bari’s shallow waters for sea urchins, small crabs, octopus and black mussels. He would eat them raw right on the beach; once full, he’d take the rest home to cook with spaghetti.
Sentosa Golf Club, 27 Bukit Manis Road, 6866 1977 | il-lido.com