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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
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@evachen212 (Head of Fashion at Instagram) has mentioned several times on her Instagram Stories that her favourite pizza in New York is the Vodka Pizza from @rubirosa_nyc. So can you blame me for yearning to have a taste?
When we rolled up to Rubirosa on a Saturday night after a failed attempt at reserving a table, it was (surprise, surprise) packed. The hostess broke the news of a 3-hour wait for the next available one which would unfortunately, be pass their closing time. So I decided to get a small Vodka Pizza for takeaway instead.
About forty minutes later, it was in my clutches (swipe to see). Because I was too impatient coupled with the fact that thin crust pizzas ought to be eaten while it‘s hot, I perched my butt on the window sill of Rubirosa and wolfed down three slices without coming up for air.
On the crispy yet chewy base were only the sauce - a smooth concoction of tomatoes, vodka, cream and Italian herbs, and fresh mozzarella cheese. But they were enough. The result was balanced and terrifically tasty. I dare say it’s my favourite out of the three pizzas I ate on this trip to New York.
Thanks again for sharing, Eva.

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Simple but oh-so-good, the asparagus were served with creamy ricotta, ricotta salata and Bar Cicheti’s secret recipe butter. The vegetable itself was at the peak of perfection - every one was succulent and crunchy without any disruption from hard fibres.

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It seems that the cannoli here was created by co-owner and head chef Aun’s own wife. Well, she is certainly a talented lady because this piece of dessert is one of the loveliest cannolis I’ve eaten in recent memory (the other was at Idlewild Bar).
For me, it has an ideal ratio of pastry shell to filling. I also love how the housemade citrus peel added to it brightens the flavour profile so beautifully.

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As for the appetisers at Bar Cicheti, the one that hogs the podium for me is the Braised Beef Tongue crostini with the tuna salsa and onion marmalade ($18++). However, the Beef Brisket Meatballs shown above ($15++) is a close second.
The handmade balls are large and unbelievably soft, and come in a tangy, lusciously thick tomato sauce. Thoughtfully served alongside to mop up every bit of that are a few pieces of housemade focaccia spread with a lemon-scented gremolata. When the flavours unite in the mouth, it’s simply incredible.

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Rustled up spontaneously by co-owner and head chef Aun, this was one firecracker of a pasta that got all our approval. The al dente handmade strands were cooked with small lumps of spicy Nduja which is basically a type of salami. The glass of red co-owner and master sommelier Ronald poured for us, proved the perfect thing to wash it down with.

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My second visit to this restaurant, this time courtesy of an invitation by Mango PR, cements it as one of my new favourite pasta places in Singapore. What’s more, if you can’t say no to wine pairing (and trust me, you shouldn’t), you can be sure Co-owner and Master Sommelier Ronald Kamiyama will ply you with some very excellent choices. We were grinning like the Cheshire Cat over his discerning selection, especially the exceptional and rare natural orange wine from Japan he pulled out for our final and very umami pasta.
Speaking of pastas, of the five Co-owner and Executive Chef Aun cooked for us last night, one of my top picks would be the NEW Jalapeño Pesto ($28++). Not to say the rest weren’t tasty because they all were but this is a must-try if you can handle hot food. It’s a brilliant combo of spiciness with a sourish note offset by a pounded mix of pistachios and pine nuts and ricotta salata.

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It wasn’t just that our order of the Reginette Carbonara ($29) was cooked a little too soft but because of the way @iamjaynedoe and I were made to feel like we weren’t welcomed.
So what tainted our experience?
Well, the tone and manner of one particular person whenever she spoke to us, and sadly, it wasn’t just a one-off thing. The first time was when we were standing outside the restaurant waiting to see if we could get a seat. Jayne was asked, “are you coming in or staying out?” in an impatient tone. Then after we requested politely if we could have counter seats, we were condescendingly and brusquely told nope, because those seats are very popular and had been booked. As you can imagine, being talked down to was affecting our appetite somewhat. Whilst clearing our empty plate, this person also made a little bit of a mess (some sauce got splashed on Jayne), yet she steadfastly refused to acknowledge it, let alone apologise. Payment was a rushed affair with zero eye contact.
All of this would have still been acceptable because everyone has good and bad days but what irked us very much was hearing how she spoke to the non-Asian guests who arrived after us (mind you, they were just normal walk-in customers as well).
The silver lining in this whole incident was how our desperate need for a drink to wash away the bad taste in our mouths led to Jayne finally stepping into the fantastically stylish “Jigger & Pony”. And I got to sip on a most aptly-named and stunningly delightful “Silk Martini” cocktail.

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The snap and crackle of the spicy anchovy crumbs turned the low-key quiet of the coiled squid ink fusilli into a full-blown party-in-the-mouth. Credit for the intense flavours in this must also be shared with the lumps of crab meat and the uni that seemed to have melted to become one with the sauce.
If you are sharing the pastas here, and I recommend you do, ask for this Nero Fusilli to be served last as it has a stronger taste profile and you will want to properly savour the lighter tasting ones first.

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Most people would order this for the Burratina because I mean, who wouldn’t be turned on by the silky-smooth blob that gives way to lusciously thick creaminess. But allow me to draw your attention to the sludgy brown puddle it rests on. That is housemade burnt onion jam and it is what elevates this dish to must-try status. Not only is it sweet from the caramelisation but the way that onion marmalade has been seasoned, zaps it with complex tastiness. Make sure to schmear a lot of it on the warm, crunchy sourdough along with a generous glob of the sea salt-sprinkled cheese to pack all the flavours into a single mouthful.
Then take a big bite, roll eyes in ecstasy and repeat.

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Head Chef Jason assembled the delectable open-faced sandwich in front of us. On the ox tongue which is cooked using a two-step method, he spread caramelised onions and piped on a luscious load of Tonnato aioli - the classic concoction of mayo, extra virgin olive oil, tuna in olive oil and anchovies.
If you are like me and enjoy the taste of tongue, this is worth ordering.

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Bar Cicheti’s pastas come in two sizes which makes it a heck of a lot easier for the curious and the greedy (I’m both) to try more dishes.
The Sachetti, one of the two I split with my friend, featured a clutch of al dente beetroot-blushed parcels filled with silky-smooth sweet potato and pumpkin purée. The innate sweetness of these were held in check by the rounded tartness of the aged aceto balsamic vinegar floating on the puddle of olive oil.

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When an Italian lady who really appreciates food, raves about what a certain restaurant is serving, you better listen to her. It’s all thanks to Alessia who first messaged me on Instagram about “Luka” when it was barely a couple of days old that I found about this Italian restaurant helmed by Japanese Chef-owner Takashi. Since then, I have returned a few times, the most recent with the lovely lady herself.
We did not hold back when ordering. Our appetisers were a couple of fantastic starters of fried baby corn served with garlic aioli and crispy “cigars” filled with slow cooked pork trotter and the chopped up ears, tongue and cheeks of a pig. We then moved on to share a platter of Wagyu beef brisket “Spezzatino” with Pappardelle pasta and the most classic of all pizzas, the Margherita (pictured above).
Comforting and delicious, this Neapolitan-style pizza is thin in the middle but has a thick crust all around. The dough is baked only for a very short time so the result is a light chewiness with some scorched marks. It has the simplest toppings of a tangy-sweet tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. Every slice is heaven.

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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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