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

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!


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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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.



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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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.



The Tuna Belly Carpaccio with Autumn truffle and the famous hazelnuts of Piemonte floored me. Never would I imagine the oily richness of Japanese tuna to couple so well with toasted crunchy nuts but it does. That combination alone was so radically tasty I hardly paid attention to the truffle.

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There is, quite literally, new “Art” at the National Gallery of Singapore.

How apt that Chef-owner Beppe De Vito has relocated and relaunched his @artrestaurant.sg in one of the most iconic heritage buildings in our country, and home to over 8,000 works of art. His medium of choice is one I happen to appreciate very much and thus, was most excited to attend a showing thanks to the invitation of Janet, P.R. Director of the Il Lido Group.

The man is a maestro. Drawing from memories and using choicest ingredients from Italy, he drew gasps from both Denyse Yeo of @oishiisg magazine and myself with his style of delectability. Across canvasses of various sizes, he demonstrated a flair for colour and elegant form, pulled together by his exquisite taste. Different produce, all beautiful by nature, were rendered, several with oil (olive, from Chef Beppe’s own farm, to be specific), into interpretations that left a deep impression. Below are those from the meal which resonated most strongly with me:

1. The complimentary potato focaccia - so fluffy and fragrant with pesto, pink garlic and Chef Beppe’s own olive oil.

2. The entire collection of snacks - thoughtful and incredibly detailed small bites bursting with deliciousness.

3. The tuna belly carpaccio with Piemonte hazelnuts and truffle - I was swooning over this course.

4. The Italian seabass - only those 2.5kg and above make the cut because the flesh is firmer and has more flavour. It’s served with an emulsion of Colatura di Cetara sauce, fresh apple juice, apple vinegar and his own olive oil.

6. The tiramisu - a finely wrought, decadent sculpture concocted from gianduja chocolate, hazelnut gelato, espresso and marsala.

In case you are curious, the Degustation Menu at “Art” comes in different sizes of 3, 4 and 5 course options priced respectively at $78, $108 and $138 (before taxes).


Visited Bar Cicheti with relatives from overseas recently. And because I have always trusted Chef Jason’s judgement, it was a no-brainer to leave it to him to decide what to feed our group of eight.

The four pastas cooked by the team and him were excellent, each a star in the taste department. Two were from the existing menu: the chockfull-of-seafood “Tagliolini Nero” with its blow-your-socks-off “wok hei”, and the “Taglierini” in housemade tomato sauce pimped up with chilli padi and creamy stracciatella. The other two were brand new creations to be launched to the public in the coming weeks. One I’ve named the “Uni Pasta” because its sea urchin sauce commandeered attention from the first slurp. Upping the enjoyment factor were shallot crumbs and savoury bottarga. The fourth, a “Duck Ragout Garganelli” entranced us with very tender duck meat and a sauce bright with orange notes in which the tubular pasta was simmered.

Needless to add, our meal was bookended by various delicious appetisers and desserts. Making up the former were a ball of burratina cheese on onion marmalade, fabulous melt-in-the-mouth meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce, that day’s special of batter-and-fried zucchini flowers and Chef Jason’s version of foccacia (it’s paper-thin!) with cheese.

For dessert, not only did we plunge headlong into a decadent tiramisu but were also given a sneak preview of Chef Danny’s fig tart. Accompanied by vanilla gelato, it was a hit, lasting all of maybe five seconds after I took photos of it.



I must admit, because of @casanostrasg private dining, I am completely spoiled when it comes to pizzas. But in terms of restaurant offerings, Pizza Logic’s are decent and comparable to Japanese Chef-run establishments like “Trattoria L‘Operetta” and “Luka Italian” that have been championing Neapolitan-style pizzas in Singapore for years.
Churning them out at the first local outlet of “Pizza Logic” (they have 18 outlets in Japan) is Chef Jun Takeguchi, a protege of Chef Junichi Shoji who was the 2012 Winner of the Napoli World Pizza Championship and the man behind all the pizza recipes for this brand. The eight years of training Chef Jun had under Chef Junichi has equipped him to be a more-than-capable one-man-band in pizza-making. Customers get a choice of either tomato or white sauce as the base before the toppings go on. Our pick of “Bismarck Rosso” ($22++) had the former as well as mozzarella, prosciutto, an egg and fresh basil. After being baked for 90 seconds in the 500-degree-celsius heat of the wood-fired oven, the crust was nice and chewy. It was also properly salted which I think is important. Overall, the pizza was satisfying to us.
A dish I highly recommend is the Beef Tongue and Tomato Ajillo ($28++). Served sizzling hot with toast on the side, the tender and tasty meat was delicious. This appetiser, along with everything else besides pizzas, fall under the responsibility of Grand Chef Atsushi Terashima. Which means he also cooks the pasta dishes, such as the Spaghetti “Pescatore” ($21++) we had. There was quite a lot of octopus, squid, small prawns, clams plus a scallop mixed in with the thick strands of pasta. His version of the tomato with fresh cream sauce incorporates an octopus-heavy seafood stock, so the result is more “seafood-y” than “tomato-y” if you know what I mean.
Grand Chef Atsushi Terashima happens to specialise in desserts and the two we tucked into, the Almond and Ricotta Cake ($12++) and the Tiramisu ($10++) were proof of his expertise. Definitely leave tummy space for a few of them is my suggestion.

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Here’s a brand new creation by Chef de Cuisine Mirko, and it is an absolute winner in my book. Named “Autumn Harvest”, it showcases the vegetables of the season depending on what’s available on the day. The aromatic, luscious cream, composed of almond, quince and essentials oils, pairs very well with the inherent sweetness of the uber fresh produce.

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Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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