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A Passion For Italian

A Passion For Italian

Italy is number one in my heart amongst the European cuisines. However, Spain and France put up a hard fight for that position sometimes.
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

G I F T
The new bakes by Executive Pastry Chef Alex Chong at “Dolcetto by Basilico” are very, very good and definitely worth the calories!
For mocha lovers, the Cornetto Doppio Chocolate ($6) is sure to please as his rendition of the Italian equivalent of the French croissant is a delight of double chocolate with strong espresso.
Although seemingly basic next to the others, the Italian Croissant ($5) was a fragrant, crisp yet not overly flaky marvel as it’s made using Beppino Occelli butter (a traditionally dairy farmed butter), skimmed and fresh cream. I found it delicious on its own but spread with the accompanying whipped vanilla butter and housemade strawberry jam, managed to blossom further.
The Tortino in Sfoglia ($5) which means “thin leaf” in Italian, is the bake that resembles stacked leaves. Woven into a handy muffin shape, it’s filled with an espresso ganache and coated in Amalfi lemon-scented sugar. I enjoyed this uncommon flavour combination immensely too.

Highly recommend you give them all a try the first time round, so you can suss out your preferences. Do have a look at the link-in-bio at @regentsingapore’s Instagram account to order.

G I F T
“Tortino in Sfoglia” means “thin leaf” in Italian, a name earned from its resemblance to stacked leaves. Woven into a handy muffin shape, this bake is filled with an espresso ganache and coated in Amalfi lemon-scented sugar. I enjoyed this rather uncommon flavour combination immensely.

G I F T
For years I’ve been a fan of the wonderful fresh bakes by “Dolcetto by Basilico”, so I was thrilled when @maria_hannah emailed me to say she was sending over a box of their newest pastries. By the looks of it, Executive Pastry Chef @_alex_chong of the @regentsingapore has clearly been busy because there were four different items in all and each was truly impressive; more so when you take into consideration their affordable price points.
What completely blew my socks off was the La Sfogliata Al Caramello ($18). Three days is how long it takes to make this large, round creation with its 81 layers of buttery #pastry dough. A time-consuming task no doubt but that’s how its ethereal lightness is achieved. With a hidden heart and dollops of salted caramel milk chocolate ganache, plus a crown of toasted hazelnuts, this is an outrageously good bake you should not miss.

M E D I A D R O P
Dining in at @beppedevito’s One MICHELIN Starred @braci.sg restaurant last year had exposed me to the exacting exquisiteness of Head Chef @iammirkofebbrile’s style of progressive Italian cuisine which I love. So when @lylatheeatgirl contacted me about sending over the “Set Menu for 2” ($208) from their newly-launched Takeaway Menu, I was elated and a little curious at the same time as I was keen to see how their casual-luxe brand and cuisine would translate.
Clearly, the Braci team has thought of everything because there’s a ready-to-eat and a D.I.Y. option for most of their dishes. While the former spells convenience, the latter allows for the finishing of the food to be done in your own home so it is perfect if you prefer your food as freshly-cooked as possible.
I received the latter which I must admit, felt a little daunting initially for your truly who’s quite useless in the kitchen. But once I read through the instruction cards (they come with beautiful photos for visual cue and to inspire), I felt calm and am proud to announce that the heating up and plating process went very smoothly. And the effort I invested was MORE THAN WORTH IT.
I started with the easiest, and coincidentally, it was the appetiser I had selected - “Stracciatella with Root Vegetables, Tomato Vinaigrette and Toasted Nuts”. It was extremely delicious and I think my presentation looked pretty acceptable too (*she says it with some smugness* 😁😂).
Instead of beginning my meal with the “Altamura Bread” (it’s Italy’s oldest bread from Puglia) with the EVOO and garlic herb oil (these came in a gift box of mini glass bottles) which is the proper service flow in the restaurant, I decided to enjoy it with the Stracciatella, and discovered they were wonderful together too.
The two pasta courses of “Tagliolini with Grilled Mozambique Scampi” in an astoundingly umami uni sauce and the “Pappardelle with White Asparagus and Summer Truffle” were equally amazing in different ways. You can colour me highly impressed.
For the mains, I chose a seafood and a meat.
The “Cioppino” which starred a big piece of cod fish, and arrived with an entourage of young radish, peppers and a tube of fennel oil to be drizzled on, was superbly fresh and tasty.
As much as I loved every item from that menu, it was the “Wagyu Beef Short Rib” that shone brightest for me. Its texture was UNREAL and I say that with heartfelt awe. The accompaniments of romanesco, mushrooms and a swoon-worthy truffle potato mash cemented the dish’s status in my mind as truly outstanding. If you are fond of red meat, I highly recommend ordering this to try.
The signature Tiramisu (not shown) was my dessert that evening. Do note Braci’s style is firmer rather than “wet” and has a lot of dark chocolate to complement the coffee and alcohol elements.
All of the dishes I’ve mentioned above are available a la carte as well. Please tap on @braci.sg’s link-in-bio on Instagram to check out the entire menu and to place an order.

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T R E A T
Recently, the kind folks from The CICHETI Group, with the help of their PR @bydanieleng, arranged to have lunch sent to me from their latest-to-open establishment, Caffe Cicheti. As I had been there a few months ago for a hosted tasting, I was familiar with the menu and knew what I wanted to have again. Ranked at the top was the Brussels Sprouts coated in pomegranate molasses and tossed with candied pecans ($12). The moreish creation didn’t disappoint - remaining smoky, sweetish and crunchy after the journeying from the restaurant.
What surprised was the Marinated Iberico Pork Rack ($31.50) which I found to be even tastier than the last time. The subtly smoky, juicy meat hit the bullseye between tenderness and enjoyable chew. Served on the side, a refreshing Kale and Granny Smith Salad that helped with cut-through.
The Lasagne ($27) was a big and heavy block of pasta sheets layered with plenty of chunky beef cheek ragu, cheese, bechamel and tomato sauce. Naturally, it had cooled and hardened slightly by the time I took it out of the box. But that was nothing a couple of minutes in the oven couldn’t fix. Once heated up, the #Lasagne softened and became really tasty.
Owner-Sommelier @ronaldkamiyama had included a lovely bottle of 2015 Rioja for us to pair with the food too, complete with tasting notes since he couldn’t present the Spanish wine in person. Very smooth move, I must say.
The “Crack Pie” ($11) was the selected dessert and it pleased in terms of size and a none-too-sweet taste. Coming together were almond frangipane, a cookie base and cocoa crumble. Worth every calorie it was.
Just so you know CICHETI and @bydanieleng have made total dining pleasure their priority, they even have a @caffecicheti playlist as well, curated by the one and only @trustmrhas.

To place your food orders, please click on the link in @caffecicheti’s bio on Instagram.

Reformatted based on customers’ feedback, the new menu ($120 per pax) has the five pasta courses interspersed with non-carb items. Hence, as the evening progressed, we had an amazing tomato soup laced with olive oil and salt, a really enjoyable warm seafood salad (the prawns and big pieces of squid were fresh and sweet), a thick roll of meat smothered in gremolata (a popular Italian blend of pine nuts, garlic, parsley and lemon zest), and a fancily-dressed baby tomato salad also appear on the table.

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@benfatto_95 was the first non-Asian cuisine private dining kitchen I ever visited. Having been there a number of times since, I can tell Yum Hwa (Mr. BenFatto95) has evolved and become very clear and self-assured in how he defines himself as - a maker of pastas. No better way to reinforce this than with a fresh menu featuring four completely new pastas.

There’s an ear-shaped (or as T.H. noted, N95 mask lookalike) Orecchiette from Puglia served in a vegetable-forward sauce, as well as an XL beauty from Italy’s Ferrara Province, the Capellacci di Zucca filled with pumpkin and butternut squash that arrives wallowing in liquid butter. The third is hand-cut Tajarin from the Piedmont region which looks simple but is tossed in the richest sauce of all, a chicken liver and marsala wine concoction. Interestingly, the fourth new pasta is not made by hand. A machine is employed instead, and because of that, the dough is forced through the bronze extruder with great force, resulting in a firmer and bouncier bite for the Canestri (also known as Lumache or “little snail”). The short curved tubes are cooked in a spicy Amatriciana sauce with pieces of unabashedly fatty Guanciale (pork jowl bacon) to such mouthwatering deliciousness, I rank it a close second to my favourite, the Tortellini. Which happens to be the sole pasta retained from the previous menu because there is a special place in Yum Hwa’s heart for those exquisite parcels stuffed with Italian meats and cheese. He still presents them in the same clear beef broth too.

Naturally, a meal here always kicks off with appetisers. That night, we had housemade pickles and a burrata cheese from Puglia.

For the ending, Yum Hwa serves a pre-dessert and dessert. The former is a strawberry granita which doubles as a palate-cleanser while the latter is a complex little number of a chocolate pudding. I would say for sure, dinner here ends on a high note.

The price at @benfatto_95 is now $120 per pax and it seems bookings can only be made on a month-to-month basis. So I suggest sending a DM on Instagram for the details if you are keen to visit.

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I wouldn’t have known about the awesome promotion at Trattoria L’Operetta if not for my niece craving pizza recently. When I popped by the restaurant on Tanjong Katong Road, the staff happen to share with me the information below...

WHEN: Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

TAKEAWAY: Pay only $5 for your Second Pizza. Orders must be placed between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.

DINE-IN: Enjoy 1-for-1 Pizzas.

CALL: 6440 9322 to book a table or order your takeaway pizzas.

This is NOT a sponsored or hosted post. I’m just sharing because I have always liked the food at this Italian restaurant and use to visit them very often. Plus my niece and MIL (yes, she couldn’t resist it either) loved the Parigina Pizza ($24) I‘d bought for them. The Neapolitan-style crust was topped with mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, basil, Parmesan and instead of the usual tomato sauce, it had a cream one. To say I was surprised at how swiftly the two of them gobbled the entire pizza is an understatement!

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M E D I A P R E V I E W
The event sells out in a flash. Yes, even the third date that was added after the initial two were filled, had all its slots taken up faster than a strand of pasta can be slurped.

Is it surprising though? I think not.

This is after all, the first 4-hands by the home-grown, much-loved Cicheti group that comprises of @cichetirestaurant, @barcicheti @caffecicheti restaurants. And the other pair of hands getting in on the action belongs to none other than Chef Yum Hwa of @benfatto_95, the private dining chef who has an almost-unhealthy obsession (but I applaud him for it!) for traditional Italian pasta.

Their menu is collaborative in the truest form, with every one of Chef Yum Hwa’s fresh hand-made pastas cooked by Chef-owner @limyewaun and Team Bar Cicheti in a different lip-smacking sauce to accentuate the uniqueness of each. To top it off, the overarching theme of this pop-up is minimal waste which means they have pushed themselves to think out of the box in mining the possibilities from each ingredient. The truth is, I would not have noticed the theme if it weren’t for it being highlighted by PR extraordinaire @bydanieleng because I did not feel the dishes were in any way forced or “out there”. Nor was the tastiness compromised. On the contrary, I was intrigued by how incredibly delicious and new a couple of their ideas were. Most notably, the second pasta, the Tajarin - its hand-cut strands glistening in a sauce of butter and drippings from the ossobucco (due to appear in the fourth course), and the deconstructed Bread And Butter Pudding by new-ish Group Sous Chef @dylancheong_. This dessert is an almost-misnomer as the lemon, truffle milkshake and upcycled crunchy bits of potato in there were too much of a delightful distraction.
To complement the courses served in order from the lightest in flavour to the heaviest, co-owner and sommelier @ronaldkamiyama has curated a few extremely small batch wines. Therefore, due to the limited quantity, do note a couple of the wines at the media preview (and therefore, my video) are stand-ins.
Last but not least, can I just say the complimentary housemade bread by @barcicheti is TO DIE FOR?! Apparently, having a carb-laden meal could not stop me and my dining companions from emptying the bread basket twice.

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H O S T E D
24 floors is enough to make you forget you are in Singapore’a premium shopping district. That’s what I realised when I visited “il Cielo” (it means “the sky” in Italian) last week. This peaceful al fresco restaurant is hidden away on the rooftop of the Hilton Hotel and is a perfect spot for a date night or when you just want to have a quiet dinner with a friend. The recently renovated space which includes a private dining room, is situated right next to the pool that, thanks to clever lighting, is transformed into a glowing purplish-blue body of water that resembles installation art more than it does a recreational facility.
The kitchen is led by Japanese Chef de Cuisine Yohhei Sasaki who was born and raised in Tokyo. What differentiates him is his unique position of having made Italy his home for many years due to him working at a few Two and Three MICHELIN Starred restaurants over there (fun fact: he speaks Italian better than he does English). Little wonder he holiday-ed in Tuscany last year, and subsequently returned inspired to create special “Desgustazione Menus” (Tasting Menus) priced at $138++ per pax. However, partaking in his food is not limited to those because you can also choose from an a la carte menu or a Seasonal one (4 / 5 / 7-course: $138 / $158 / $188++).
When we dined there last week, the aim was to try a wider variety so we each got a different Tasting Menu to share. There’s one that uses Italian ingredients while the other focuses on ingredients from Japan. Here are my favourites from both menus:

1. Small bites: I adored the Bocconcini cheese with Parma ham and tomato puff, as well as the macaron with homemade foie gras terrine and 12 years balsamic vinegar.

2. Insalata alla Cacciatore: Constructed around a heart of a marinated butter lettuce are European organic chicken mousse, chicken jus sauce, dehydrated tomato powder, olive powder and mushroom mayo. This warm salad is the kind of creation that makes you stop and stare after your first bite because its deliciousness exceeds expectations.

3. Capellini Burro e Timo: Cooked in a rich buttery sauce with huge chunks of fresh lobster and finished with shaved truffle, it is an immensely enjoyable pasta. The fine al dente strands are made in classical Italian fashion on the premises.

4. Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare: Another astounding pasta but done Japanese style. For this, Chef Sasaki uses a Ramen-making machine to produce the eggless strands (it seems this technique accentuates the semolina element). Served warm with Hokkaido uni, bottarga and yuzu, it has a lighter taste profile than the Capellini but is extremely satisfying in its own way.

5. Costina di Manzo “Miyazaki Wagyu A4”: One of the choices for the meat course in the Tasting Menu using Japanese ingredients, this boasts a piece of beautifully caramelised short rib that yields easily to a fork as it has been braised for 36 hours. The richness is cleverly combated by sautéed saffron risotto, lemon gel and an Italian parsley sauce.

6. La Sfera: A signature of Chef Sasaki, this dessert from the Japanese Tasting Menu is a refreshing Yuzu Sphere magically filled with ricotta cheese espuma, lemon sorbet and acacia honey gel. Tap firmly to break it and make sure to scoop a bit of everything for the ideal experience.

As you can tell from the above, both Tasting Menus include some really strong courses. I would say though that the pastas are the most outstanding of them, and are must-tries. Good thing is they are available a la carte as well.

I recommend doing the wine pairing (total cost of that with the Tasting Menu is $188++), or at least, having a glass with your food because “il Cielo” stocks some very lovely Italian Wines. Thanks to restaurant manager Sarah, I had the pleasure of sipping on a superb Chianti Riserva 2013.

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H O S T E D

Kicking off a meal here are a wonderful selection of small bites - an auspicious number of them to be sure, and what I had that day were astonishing indeed.

Four were gems from the garden:

- a crisp radish heart with bottarga, amalfi lemon gel and shiso blossom.

- a pickled carrot with aged balsamic vinegar.

- a mint-infused baby zucchini with Giardiniera pesto made from pickled vegetable trimmings.

- a dramatic curl of Radicchio Tardivo with organic local honey and grilled Asiago cheese crumble.

The others were:

- a crisp rice tuille with a flurry of shaved 36-months Parmigiano Reggiano and burnt cream.

- a Sicilian Datterini tomato confit on black olive crostini.

- sunchoke skin with locally-made burrata using fresh milk from the Dolomites and crumbled pistachio.

- a carrot ring holding 24-months-aged Prosciutto di Parma with cantaloupe gel.

All were exquisite.

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H O S T E D

Chef-owner Beppe De Vito only serves seabass if it tips the scales at 2.5kg and above. The flesh is suppose to be firmer and more flavourful then. Appearance-wise, there is nothing fancy - just the seabass surrounded by some pretty vegetables and with a sauce poured over once it’s served, but good golly, does this taste splendid! The magic is in that emulsified liquid as it is made using Colatura di Cetara (a fish sauce of anchovies fermented with herbs and salt), fresh apple juice, apple vinegar and extra virgin olive oil from Chef Beppe's own olive grove in Italy.

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Follow me on Instagram (@veronicaphua) for much more content! 😊

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