14 Stanley Street
6222 5808 | pepenero.sg
The problem with always trying new restaurants is that you never establish a kinship with any. No one knows my name, no one remembers my face. But that’s to be expected when you rarely return to the same place in the same year.
So what does that say about PepeNero, where I dined twice in two days? The first experience was so stellar, that I returned 48 hours later to celebrate a special evening with my husband’s boss, who was in town for a weekend from Hong Kong.
Relatively new, PepeNero’s shophouse interior is upscale, yet warm – with service to match. But the restaurant’s greatest asset is undoubtedly the chef, Italian Marco Violano, who works both the back and front of the house with ease and charm. He approaches our table and asks, “Shall I just fix something up for you tonight?” By all means.
We kick off with Parma ham cannelloni filled with creamy burrata, wild rocket and vibrant cherry tomatoes ($18) – all from Italy. My companion says, “I have tasted burrata all over the world, and this has got to be one of the best I’ve ever had.” The next course – a millefoglie of organic eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce ($21) – is equally impressive. Crispy leeks add the only crunch to a roasted octopus and vegetable caponata ($22) dish, the octopus is so tender you can cut it with a fork.
Marco returns with a dish of red wine and instructs us to dip the cracker-like tarallini from the bread basket into the wine. As we pop morsels of softened bread into our mouths, he says, “We always eat these like this back home in Puglia.”
The homemade spaghetti ($19) served al dente with tomatoes and basil is as perfect as pasta can be. The grilled beef tenderloin with Ratte potatoes ($34) is also a winner, as are desserts of molten chocolate fondant ($16) and persimmon cream with banana ice cream ($9).