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Restaurant review: Great Italian restaurants in Singapore

Dolce Vita 

5 Raffles Avenue, Mandarin Oriental, 5th floor

6885 3551

www.mandarinoriental.com/singapore

Bypass the steak sandwiches at Morton’s bar and ascend one flight to Dolce Vita. You’ll be rewarded with innovative Italian prepared by one Michelin star Chef Marco Pedrelli and an outdoor area with a sensational view of the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and the CBD skyline.

As a fan of heeding the house’s suggestions – I’ve no known allergies, eat just about everything (barring shaved coconut) and trust the restaurant knows its strengths – I bite when the waiter assures me that “this dish is to die for”. We’re discussing the asparagi alla griglia ($26): a combination of grilled asparagus, aged Ibérico de Bellota ham, buffalo mozzarella and morel ragout. Death, thankfully not, but my positive response was enough to cause my husband to temporarily neglect his lobster bisque ($20) to beg for a bite.

Neither of us is keen on large amounts of pasta, so splitting the assorted tris di pasta ($36) was perfect; they plated it separately for us. A few bites of braised oxtail-foie gras cannelloni, wild forest mushroom tortellini and crab ravioli allows you to explore multiple tastes without needing to tug at your belt buckle at the end.  

Both the costolette di agnello ($46), roasted rack of Welsh lamb with potato gratin, vegetable ratatouille and herb jus; and the involtino di filetto ($48), beef tenderloin stuffed with braised short rib and foie gras, were tender. Portions were of a size that allowed for dessert – a glass of Muscat, tiramisu ($18) and a slow-baked apple torta with calvados ice cream and a spectacular Tahitian vanilla sauce ($18).        

Monica Pitrelli

Forlino

#02-06 One Fullerton

6877 6995

www.forlino.com

Rule Number One for travellers: Never eat at a restaurant called Mama’s. Rule Number Two: Be wary of restaurants with a great view, because they may rely too much on it and not try hard enough with the food – but Forlino’s, with its low-level outlook onto the Merlion, the illuminated ArtScience Museum, the Theatres on the Bay, the Double-helix Bridge and the Marina Bay Sands, is the exception that proves the rule.

Chef Patron Mario Caramella is not in the house tonight, but never mind: his spirit is surely here. Our bouches suitably amused by the foie gras mousse that accompanies a perfect little focaccia bread, and Prosecco glasses charged, we’re ready to sample some of the highlights of his new menu.

Tasmanian ocean trout tartare ($28) is complemented with the fresh flavours of white peach, yoghurt and mint. For me, what comes next is the highlight of the meal: spaghetti “alla chitarra” with lobster ($48). (The chitarra is a guitar-like pasta-maker; a frame strung with wire that cuts the dough into strands.) One of Forlino’s classics, the textures of this pasta dish are superb and the lobster sauce intensely flavourful.

Served in a heavy little pot, the milk-fed veal shank and forest mushroom ragout ($58) has that irresistible slow-cooked stickiness and strong, familiar Italian flavours. To round things off, we share the substantial ricotta cheese trifle ($18) with pistachio cream and coffee granita.

Verne Maree

La Villa

341 River Valley Road #01-03

6836 5286

www.lavilla.sg

At Sunday lunchtime, La Villa is bustling. Our table was in the middle of the action, with a good view of everything including the alfresco dining area, beyond which kids ran about in the playground outside, while their parents relaxed with glasses of wine.

For starters, we shared the La Villa salad ($18) and the calamari Pirata ($19). Crispy and sprinkled with paprika, the calamari rings were delicious dipped in the flavourful pizzaiola sauce: spicy, sweet and salty all in one bite. The portion was big enough for sharing, but I wouldn’t mind having it all to myself.

Our antipasti were excellent, especially the cappellini: angel hair pasta, done Sardinian-style, topped with a tasty, chunky lobster ragout. Delizioso! I suggest you order the large ($24) serving; we shared a small one ($22) and practically licked the plate clean.

My companion polished off four of the eight slices of classic Margherita pizza ($22), topped with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil, and took another three home with him. Now that says something!

You need to order the cioccolata dessert ($15) 15 minutes in advance. This dark chocolate lava cake comes with a scoop of delightfully creamy vanilla ice cream. Waiter, could you make that two scoops? Grazie!

Yusrina Yusoff

Michelangelo’s

Jalan Merah Saga

Chip Bee Gardens

6475 9069

www.michelangelos.com.sg

When your thriving business has a milestone achievement to celebrate, how do you reward your hard-working staff? With a slap-up meal, of course! For a big and diverse group like the Expat Living team, the Italian menu at Michelangelo’s is the perfect choice: there’s something for everyone. Sitting alfresco in the evening cool that follows torrential afternoon rain, we quaffed our Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, trying hard to obey the only rule: no office talk!

Having arrived just in time to snaffle the last delicious bruschetta from our shared antipasti platters; I swear I’ll never be late again. Lamb shank for the main course was the obvious choice for a now-ravenous lamb addict like me; perfectly done, unusually peppery and generally delicious.

Verne Maree

The risotto with porcini and champignon mushrooms with pork belly was divine, although quite rich and filling. Why can’t I get my own risotto to turn out like that?

Harriet Empey

Surrounded on all sides by lamb shank orders, I felt like something on the lighter side – it was a Tuesday, after all. My choice, the grilled butterfish, was the right one. Flaky, tender and topped with a mango salsa and mesclun mix for added texture and sweetness, the fine bits of fruit perfectly accentuated the natural brown sugar and Dijon mustard reduction. The others raved about the lamb, but they didn’t get to try the butterfish. What they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?
Monica Pitrelli

Unless it was Caesar who first carried the stuff across the Channel two thousand years ago, I’m pretty sure that sticky date pudding is 100 percent British. But I’m not going to quibble about authenticity when it comes to such an awesome dessert. The Michelangelo version is moist, dense and drizzled in butterscotchy goodness, the perfect accompaniment to whatever colour of wine I was drinking by that stage of our celebrations.
Shamus Sillar

Modesto’s

Orchard Parade Hotel

1 Tanglin Road #01-09/10

6235 7808

www.modestos.com.sg           

Where do you stop for a quiet lunch in Orchard that won’t break the bank if you’ve maxed out the credit card? The answer is Modesto’s; an Italian name that roughly translates as modest.

The low-lit, cool interior is a welcome respite from the humidity and traffic, so with bags dumped we settle into comfortable chairs. It’s easy to decide on the junior set menu ($12.90) for the children: a drink, a choice of pizza or pasta and a gelato. The lunch set menu ($12) is also great value for adults – a choice of soft drink, salad, and pizza or pasta. After ordering, the children get busy with complimentary crayons and colour in a pizza picture that will later be put up on the wall outside.

Arriving in record time, the children’s wood-fired Margherita pizza is crispy and thin, and the six-year-old declares it to be delicious. Its size defeats him, though, so his sister nabs a slice after finishing her large serving of spaghetti carbonara.

The adult set menu starts with a light and tasty insalata and a basket of foccacia bread to dip in olive oil. While I’m musing that pasta must surely be one of the best foods ever invented for children, my spaghetti puttanesca arrives. The tomato sauce base with anchovies, capers and zingy chilli is deliciously salty and tangy, and the homemade pasta shines through. Yes, pasta is just as satisfying for adults.

It should end there, but the tiramisu ($12) is calling. While the kids tuck into vanilla and chocolate gelato, I enjoy a gluttonously huge slice of this heavenly concoction of mascarpone cheese, liqueur, espresso and Savoiardi biscuits. Topped up with a cappuccino ($5), I’m rested and ready to hit the shops again.

With both indoor and outdoor seating, Modesto’s is perfect for an easy lunch with or without the children, or a relaxed dinner with friends; and modest or not, this restaurant deserves its good reputation.

Katie Roberts
 

Otto 

28 Maxwell Road , #01-02 Red Dot Traffic Building
6227 6819
www.ottoristorante.com.sg  

Otto is a sophisticated spot near the CBD, tucked away in the Red Dot Traffic building. Polished black glass and metal feature in the cool interiors, where we find a mix of diners from couples to post-work bankers and an impeccably dressed birthday group. In a small alfresco courtyard off the intimate bar, diners enjoy the balmy Singaporean evening.

An Italian maître d’ greets guests with a warm Buona sera as they arrive; and chef Michele Pavanello appears regularly to shave obscene amounts of (weighed) truffle onto plates. The friendly and attentive service puts diners at ease and softens the atmosphere, unlike some other upmarket restaurants that seem to encourage hushed tones and stuffiness.

Contemporary Italian fare is served in delicate portions, often with inventive touches; for example, assorted mushroom cappuccino soup with Parmesan biscuits ($15). For us, the standout dishes included more traditional concoctions, especially the Dutch veal ravioli with sage and truffle emulsion ($28), delightfully al dente ravioli with pockets of juicy veal in a rich and silky sauce.

With the amuse bouche of Parma ham-wrapped mozzarella, warm and slightly melted, still hovering on our taste buds – so simple, yet so delicious – the recommended black truffle scented pumpkin soufflé ($24) arrived, served with a dollop of mascarpone; an interesting combination, the light pumpkin soufflé given depth by the umami hint of truffle and Parmesan. We scrape the ramekin clean.

Mains include slow cooked lamb loin with rosemary and garlic ($40), well-seasoned, tender lamb served with a little spinach and a vegetable cutlet (the latter perhaps bringing the dish down a small peg). Desserts include the old favourites tiramisu ($14) and warm chocolate cake ($16), together with less usual items such as the crispy banana and almond parcel with warm chocolate soup ($14).

Otto continues to hold its own thanks to the classic combination of an elegant setting, easygoing Italian hospitality and good food.

Beate Baldry

Senso

21 Club Street
6224 3534 | www.senso.sg

A regular haunt of ours for the past five years, Senso completely revamped its restaurant and menu late last year to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The new décor is rather masculine and very sophisticated.

I nearly always order the same things: the homemade ravioli stuffed with braised veal shank served with porcini mushroom sauce, followed by the hot dark chocolate eruption – old favourites that have remained on the updated menu. This time, though, I opted for something different.

The bisque of shellfish Italian-style served with grissini all’aglio ($22) was delicious – much bolder and richer than the Provençal version. My hubby devoured the pan-seared scallops served with sautéed spinach, topped with candied Italian tomatoes ($28) so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to taste them. Obviously they were very good!

We opted for meat rather than pasta for our mains. My Australian grain-fed beef tenderloin on black truffle sauce and young vegetables with gnocchi alla Romana ($38) was really tender and juicy. Unlike regular gnocchi, this was made from semolina and eggs and was almost like a little cake. The premium New Zealand lamb rack coated in black olive crust served on Mediterranean vegetables ($40) was excellent, too. The ruby red, organic Sangiovese, a 2006 Morellino di Scansano Riserva, Terre di Talamo, Bacci ($112) was recommended by general manager Ivan Haller, who personally knows the winemaker; it went perfectly with our mains.

We both chose desserts made up of lots of little desserts. My strawberry indulgence ($18) comprised strawberry sherbet (definitely the best part of the dish), strawberry sabayon, a strawberry macaroon and fresh strawberries. Next time, I will definitely choose the tiramisu rivisto ($16). This is a new take on the traditional tiramisu, where all the components are served separately. The light coffee mousse, homemade savoiardi biscotto, coffee milkshake and mascarpone ice cream can all be eaten together or separately.

The service was friendly, informative and attentive as always. I’m looking forward to my next visit already, as there are so many new dishes to try.

Harriet Empey

 

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