Who doesn’t love pizza, pasta, antipasto and risotto? Yet with such an array of Italian restaurants in Singapore it’s hard to know exactly where to go to get authentic and quality cuisine. Luckily (for us and for you), we’ve tried and tested tons of dishes to bring you some of the best options on the island. So read on for loads of Italian restaurant reviews, recipes, wine picks and more.
Go for: The big serves: burgers so tall they defy gravity, and seemingly bottomless bowls of delicious linguine. Entering Jamie’s, you’re transported to what feels like an edgy yet comfortable home – almost like a converted warehouse in NYC, with funky lighting, rustic wooden floors and tables with mismatched chairs. It’s easy to relax and forget the busy shopping mall outside. The staff are very friendly and accommodating, and it’s a great place to go with friends or with children (the kids’ menu is good), especially before or after catching a movie at the cinema upstairs. The portions are all generous in size; the famed prawn linguine ($26) didn’t disappoint, with loads of prawns and a nice level of spice. The Italian burger ($28.50) was really tasty, the meat cooked to a juicy medium and accompanied by deliciously crunchy rosemary chips. For a starter, we shared a cured meats plank ($15.50 per person) with coleslaw and pickles; the quirky presentation of the plank stacked on tomato cans was fun, but we could have done with more of the flavoursome prosciutto! Italian wine enthusiasts can also find nice bottles here to match the menu, and the prices aren’t exorbitant.
Don’t leave without trying: Dessert. I wanted one of everything on the menu! Chocolate-lovers will appreciate the Epic Brownie ($12.50) with caramelised amaretti popcorn, or the divine molten chocolate praline pudding ($12.50). The creamy panna cotta ($10.50) was another winner, and there’s a great selection of gelati and sorbets ($11).
Tip: Try to grab a table outside on a Saturday evening to see the Universal Studios fireworks display across the water at Sentosa. – Amanda Broad
Go for: The setting – it’s in a beautiful old building in Chinatown (a good place to take visitors to see the old architecture). The central courtyard has the real wow factor, but there’s also a modern bar area and main dining room that are lovely as well. I’d say Senso is definitely an adult venue, especially in the evenings, as the courtyard has little tables for two for romantic dinners. For groups, there’s also a private dining room (where we had our Expat Living Christmas party), and the main dining room can hold larger groups as well – in fact, it’s where we held my daughter’s 21st birthday dinner.
The pastas are the real standouts here, and the chefs will make them vegetarian upon request; choose from dishes like homemade taglierini with Boston lobster, tomato, basil and chilli flakes ($34) and linguine with mixed seafood in a spicy Sardinian Vermentino white wine sauce ($30), among others. The girls said their pastas were absolutely delicious. My carpaccio di manzo (beef carpaccio with aged balsamic vinegar and shaved black truffle, $32) and filetto di merluzzo (roasted cod fillet with pumpkin puree, mushrooms, leeks and Chianti reduction, $38) were only average, but the desserts were good, and we finished everything off with some caffè corretto (coffee with a splash of Italian liqueur or grappa) – and sambuca!
Don’t leave without trying: The Tiramisu Senso ($14).
Tip: They have several free-flow options that include beer, spirits and wines that were really good value for money. There are also set menus if you want to simplify things with a group. – Rebecca Bisset
Go for: Date night.
It’s a casual setting with first-class service, and something outside of the box. What’s unique about Fratini La Trattoria is that there’s no menu – that’s right, none! What’s more, after finding out about any allergies or foods you don’t like, to ensure an enjoyable evening, the staff enter into their system each item you have eaten to ensure that the next time you dine you have another wonderful experience. The tasting menu for dinner ($90 per person) includes 12 items, some of the servings bite-sized and others rather generous; each dish is influenced by a different region of Italy. The stewed beef cheek, served with veal jus, roast potato and broccoli, was not something I would normally order, but it was exceptionally tasty and melted in my mouth. The truffle pasta– tomato, cream and crab pasta with burrata cheese – was another flavoursome dish that got the palate going. We ended with a nice selection of sweets: chocolate salami, pandan panna cotta and tiramisu – their tiramisu was quite different, containing a Kahlua jelly.
Don’t leave without trying: The beef cheek is definitely worth requesting when you make your reservation. Make sure to book well in advance if you’re planning a weekend date night. – Valmai Dhir
Go for: Simple yet sophisticated Italian fare. No flummery, frills or fads here; just quality produce, generous servings and a commitment to upholding Tuscan tradition. When your friends, your colleagues and your hairdresser recommend a dinner spot, you know you’re in for the win.
Going strong for three years and backed by the 30 years of experience under Chef Mario Balotelli’s belt, InITALY’s solid fan base is no surprise. A man of pride and candid charm, Mario’s presence is a pleasant constant in this shophouse setup. Guests are quickly drawn in by his story and knowledge. Trust us; you wont regret heeding his recommendations. To tease the taste buds, we started with The Real Raspadura ($14), freshly-shaven Lodigiano cheese flakes, and crudo di pesce ($38, pictured), a raw seafood platter featuring red tuna tartare, Boston lobster and more. Such a refreshing and light appetiser set us up nicely for the indulgence to follow: maialino da latte (starting from $70) – oven-baked suckling pig with crispy skin, served with balsamic-glazed shallots – and a pumpkin, Robiola di Roccaverano cheese and truffle risotto ($32) from the summer truffle menu. Don’t leave without trying: A glass of wine from Mario’s very own Eight Acres Vineyard in Brisbane’s Granite Belt. We recommend Girom, a moreish shiraz that pairs perfectly with the suckling pig.
Tip: Round up your girls for ladies’ night every Wednesday (6pm to 10pm) and enjoy prosecco, moscato or chardonnay at only $5 a glass! If burrata is your guilty pleasure, book dinner on a Thursday evening to enjoy that day’s fresh delivery. – Leanda Rathmell
Go for: Classy, sky-high Sicilian The lift in the super-slick Ocean Financial Centre whisks us up to the 43rd floor so quickly that it’s a surprise to suddenly be overlooking the sparkling Marina Bay Sands and see Singapore laid out before us. Whether seated indoors or out, the view from Zafferano (Italian for “saffron”) is a motivation to visit, as is the superb food of Italian head chef Marco Guccio, who moved to Singapore 10 years ago on the trail of the burgeoning restaurant scene. He earned his culinary credentials at the likes of Il Lido and Gattopardo before heading up Zafferano. There’s much to like on his menu of contemporary Italian dishes, so we go with the recommendations of the knowledgeable staff. The two starters –carpaccio of eight-hour marinated fjord trout ($28) with green asparagus and trout roe, and pan-seared Hokkaido scallops ($34) with green pea puree, beetroot and sun-dried tomatoes – are both served with the lightest of embellishments, because the flavoursome fresh ingredients are at their peak. The handmade pastas are a must-try. We devoured the spanner crab linguine ($40) served with fresh tomato sauce, which was clearly made with the same diligence as Marco’s Sicilian mother and grandmother who inspired his love of cooking. Wine recommendations come courtesy of the in-house sommelier, who suggests a light red from the 200-strong collection; it pairs nicely with the 12 hour slow-cooked beef short rib ($50), cooked in a rich veal reduction. Zafferano’s fine-dining ambience, attentive service and furnishings (did I mention the striking saffron inspired art installation above the bar?) are as fitting for a special occasion as they are for signing a business deal. Don’t forget to head outside, take in the view and toast the good life.
Don’t leave without trying: Hand crafted agnolotti ($28, pictured) filled with 12-hour marinated oxtail celeriac puree and sprinkled with Sicilian pistachios; this is a dish to savour and remember!
Tip: Check the daily business lunch specials, or – after work – sit back and savour a cocktail or Peroni on the large outdoor terrace. The private dining room is perfect for groups. – Katie Roberts
Go for: A genuine Italian feast, home-cooked the way Mamma would make it! Ever wondered what it would be like to have dinner with an Italian family? Wonder no more. Chef Carmine and the team welcome you to Vita Italiana like a long-lost relation, then proceed to feed you authentic cuisine. There are no menus; instead, tell the chef what you don’t eat, and they’ll tailor a regularly changing dinner of nine ($68) or 13 ($98) courses to your liking, or a three- or fivec ourse lunch ($28/$38). Our nine-course dinner offered food from all corners of Italy, the chef narrating to us the origins and carefully sourced ingredients of each dish. From cured meats with focaccia and olives, steamed king prawn with a rocket mousse and red pepper sauce, and melt-in-your-mouth beef shin with mash, to sublime sea bass, tortellini pasta with porcini mushrooms, and a trio of desserts, you won’t leave hungry! For $38, you can accompany your meal with wine and beer; we chose to start with the signature Collesi triple malt light beer, then continued with a selection of wines. This is truly a different dining experience, and one we highly recommend.
Don’t leave without trying: Pork neck with polenta and chickpeas. Not something I would usually order, but a surprise winner with us both.
Tip: It’s a small venue, so be sure to book ahead – and let themknow your dietary requirements in advance so they can tailor the menu accordingly. – Katie Peace
Go for: Family-friendly dining. Situated on the Singapore River, this indoor-outdoor Italian restaurant offers an exceptional range of authentic Italian pastas with wonderful view across the water.
First up, I sipped on alimoncellomojito($15) while I mulled over what to order – it’s a nice drop to kick things off. To start, we shared the insalata formaggi di capra con babarbietola ($17) – mixed spinach and arugula with roasted beetroot, fresh goat cheese crumble and candied walnuts. A wonderful combination of extremely fresh ingredients and gracefully presented, this salad was so scrumptious. The calamari fritti ($20) – deep-fried calamari with marinara sauce – was a generous portion cooked to perfection. The al dente linguine al gambero($33) – linguine with king prawns and scallops in a seafood-tomato sauce – was very flavoursome. If you’re gluten-intolerant, try the gluten free spaghetti or the porcini seafood risotto; and soon they’ll be introducing gluten-free gnocchi, along with a few other options. We ended the night with tiramisu ($10) that melted in our mouths.
Don’t leave without trying: The tiramisu was one of the best I’ve tried to date (and I’ve tried many over the years!). – Valmai Dhir
Go for: Hearty Tuscan cuisine with a modern flair. Upon entering the homey atmosphere of La Barca, we were warmly greeted by the friendly team and executive chef Michele Sorrentino, who hails from Calabria and has been working in the industry since 1979. Needless to say, we asked the Italian for his recommended dishes. After settling in with a glass of prosecco, we were served parmigiana di melanzane ($22), oven-baked eggplant in a rich mozzarella, parmesan and tomato sauce; and tartara di vitellina ($28, pictured), a flavourful combination of grass-fed veal tartare, dehydrated egg yolk, seasonal truffles and shaved parmesan. Next up was the risotto con asparagi, parmigiano a tartufo estivo ($32), an organic risotto served al dente with garden asparagus and seasonal truffles, and spaghetti con cicale di mare ($26), an interesting combination of pasta with Mediterranean slipper lobster, spicy anchovy sauce and ground prawns for a salty twist. Though we were now getting full, a dish of line caught steamed snapper fillet (il filetto di dentice a vapore, $35) was too good to overlook; and, in any case, it was light and healthy, served in a broth of dried porcini and oyster mushrooms, and Italian broccoli – a beautiful mix of fresh, earthy flavours. The cherry on the cake was the traditional tiramisu ($14). La Barca’s version is prepared without alcohol or cream, allowing the flavours of the coffee and mascarpone to develop better on the palate.
Don’t leave without trying: The risotto – perfectly cooked with well-balanced flavours.
Tip: It’s easier to reach Block C, where the restaurant is situated, by using the side entrance on Mountbatten Road, rather than the main entrance on GoodmanRoad. – Susannah Jaffer
This article first appear in the August 2016 issue of Expat Living Singapore