Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia!

These Italian eateries are sure to satisfy even the most demanding mafia dons for authentic, appetizing Italian fare. And it will definitely satisfy you.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

The Fiery Crab Shrimp Aglio Olio has a pretty impressive title, and it actually lives up to the hype. Besides the half dozen bouncy, fabulously fresh shrimp that’ve been seared superbly, there’s a fair bit of shredded crab claw meat lurking within the lusciously lubricated linguine. Delivering on the ‘fiery’ part of the name is an abundance of dried chili flakes that’ll turn up the heat. You will be reaching for a cold drink to alleviate the heat, and it’s quite coincidental that Beer Basket just so happens to sell ice cold beers. Hmm. Really gets my noggin’ joggin’.

So, once Lockdown 2: Electric Boogaloo is over, you must head on down to Beer Basket and rob them with your accomplice, Burpple Beyond. Once more, thanks for the hospitality, @beerbasketkatong & @burpple!

@pitypartypasta is decidedly not new, but it is very definitely out of the way of most, as it’s a stall in @city_sprouts. The Squid Ink pasta will set you back by fourteen bucks nett, and it’s a shocking steal for freshly made pasta. The homemade squid ink tagliolini is tossed in a piquant potpourri of seafood broth & homemade coconut wine, and garnished with a smattering of seafood.⠀

The surprisingly creamy broth & coconut wine mixture tilted towards the sweet end of the spectrum, which is fine for a seafood pasta. The springy, amazingly al dente homemade tagliolini managed to get a fair bit of the sweet-ish sauce to cling to it, and every mouthful is a velvety, sweet, and utterly unctuous pasta experience.⠀

The seafood medley which comprised of clams, shrimps and squids were relatively fresh & cooked perfectly, comprehensively coated in the same sweet but palatable broth. While the pasta could’ve done with a touch more salt, it’s still a sumptuous seafood pasta that can and will give restaurants a decent run for their money. Ain’t nothin’ pitiful about this pasta, it’s all PARTAAYYY!!!

Pasta tends to be a simple dish, which leaves it entirely up to the quality of the ingredients & the chef to make or break it. Over at @gastronomickitchen, they got both aspects amply covered, which is why it’s become my go to spot for bargain pastas done right.⠀

While the white wine mussel pot ($8.90 nett) could benefit from stronger seasoning, the fresh mollusks themselves were flawless. Thoroughly cleaned, these sizeable shellfish were pleasantly perfumed with the fragrance of white wine & garlic & cooked to tender perfection. Delicious, and a side dish made for sharing. Pasta Loft serve these pleasantly piquant pastas on the (almost) daily, and they won’t break the bank too. What more can a broke man want?

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Pasta tends to be a simple dish, which leaves it entirely up to the quality of the ingredients & the chef to make or break it. Over at @gastronomickitchen, they got both aspects amply covered, which is why it’s become my go to spot for bargain pastas done right.⠀

The seafood tom yum pasta ($10.90 nett) sees your choice of pasta tossed in a tom yum sauce fortified by a fair bit of cream. The creamy tom yum is insanely incendiary which does overpower many of the other flavours on the plate, but the unmistakable essence of lemongrass is most definitely there. Get a drink or three to extinguish that fire so you can finish off the fresh, pleasantly portioned medley of seafood along with the heap of al dente pasta that’s thoroughly mixed in with the creamy, spicy sauce.⠀

Pasta Loft serve these pleasantly piquant pastas on the (almost) daily, and they won’t break the bank too. What more can a broke man want?

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@peperonipizzeria doesn’t just do perfect pizza pies, they craft a charming Calamari Fritti as well, for the relatively reasonable price for $14++. Fourteen bucks for an appetiser is about right, and the sumptuous squid certainly warrants that price tag & possibly a little more.⠀

The felicitously fresh, snappy squid is coated in a beautiful batter that forms a stunningly crispy shell, which forms a perfect yin/yang contrast with the tender yet compellingly chewy squid. It’s salted superbly, but the sharp lemon mayonnaise & the mildly spicy arrabbiata sauce exponentially elevates this otherwise simple appetiser. The lemon mayo adds a redolent richness to the entire affair that’s kept in check by a zing from the zest of the lemon, while the mildly spicy arrabbiata adds a subtle, savoury spiciness to the proceedings.⠀

In summary: get the calamari at Peperoni Pizzeria. Thank me later in the form of US legal tender hundred dollar bills later. What can I say except you’re welcome.

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@linorestaurant Lamb Ragu Garganelli (additional $3 to the $28++ 3 course set lunch) is a remarkably rich dish that’s a little more complex than its homely presentation would suggest. Besides the hearty tomato ragu that has chunks of fork tender lamb as its meat base, there’s an overwhelming abundance of garganelli pasta and some eggplant caviar somewhere in that pasta.⠀

The sauce base was a little more on the sour side, which may have been an attempt to mask the natural gaminess of the lamb. It worked, but Lino may have overdone it al little with the sourness. There’s still a bit of that powerful flavour lingering around to remind you that you’re still eating lamb, but the muskiness is muted. Still, if you’re really finicky about that, you might wanna give this a miss. One improvement that could be made is to portion more lamb into the pasta, so you don’t end up in a situation where you plough through nothing but pasta. It’s not a bad thing when the garganelli is cooked to perfection, but it can get pretty monotonous real quick.

I’m not sure what the eggplant caviar does for this dish, but it was lost on me. Still, there’s zero doubt that this plate of al dente (hopefully housemade) garganelli pasta was absolutely ambrosial with the redolent ragu. Its tubular, rigatoni like structure traps more sauce than any other pasta would, and that’s just plain genius. The lavish shaving of parmesan cheese on top adds a mildly milky & sexily stretchy segment to the rich pasta. Seriously, who doesn’t love cheese?⠀

Trust me fam, this plate of pasta doesn’t look or sound particularly appealing, but you gotta try this at least twice. Better yet, wash it down with a $10++ glass of housepour red wine. Yep, it’s $10++ at happy hour, which just so happens to be all day every day. Noice.

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If the week could start as pleasantly as every lunch does at @linorestaurant when you order the porchetta, ain’t nobody would be bitching about #mondayblues. Lino is the classier, more refined older brother of the casual & fun @linoppbar, but both have stunning steals for set lunches. I’ve covered @linoppbar ridiculously value for money $20 set lunch before, and @linorestaurant 3 course set lunch is only eight bucks more expensive.⠀

Yes, I know, this does NOT look like porchetta at all. That’s what I thought too when the waiter first placed it at my table. It looks a lot more like shaved ham, doesn’t it? Where are the crispy cracklings that everyone desires & expects from porchetta? Look, it might not be porchetta per se, but it is most definitely delicious. The shaved pork is smoky & scintillatingly salty, and is everything you’d ever want in a palatable pork dish. The surprise stunner here is actually the julienned apple that’s amply dressed in a very addictive apple & celeriac remoulade.⠀

The apple is sweet & crunchy, while the remoulade is creamy, slightly sour & a little peppery from the celeriac, which revolutionised the admittedly one dimensional salty porchetta. The competently compiled flavours & textures united to form an exquisitely executed appetiser. This is guaranteed to get your salivary glands going hard and you all fired up for the rest of your stellar set lunch.

For a puny café operating out of little more than a hole in the wall, @carraracafesg serves up some excellent entrées. I would like to present the material evidence in my case: their Signature Chili Crab Pasta ($17.90 nett). I’ll get this disclaimer right outta the way first: it’s definitely NOT the most memorably piquant pasta in Singapore, but it’s serviceably sumptuous.⠀

The crumbs on the top are honest to God crabmeat, and there’s an ample allotment of it in here. A medley of squid rings, clams & prawns complete the quartet, and they’re portioned quite generously too. The cast of The Little Mermaid are given a thorough toss along with the slightly over al dente spaghetti in the charmer of a chili crab gravy.⠀

Speaking about the sapid sauce, it’s got quite a bit of ra-ra when it comes to spice. It’s not as sweet as the usual chili crab sauce, instead veering into salty & spicy territory. The consistency is viscous, slowly sliding off the back of my spoon in big blorps (I invented that word 5 seconds ago, now shut up) instead of a runny flow. Said sauce is also extremely eggy, and you will find an abundance of egg bits in every spoonful.⠀

In conclusion, with stellar spaghettis like their Signature Chili Crab Pasta, Carrara is punching way above their weight class when it comes to their main courses. This tiny café has got some serious ra-ra, I tell ya.

@lamensa.sg ponderous plate of fried calamari only costs nine bucks, even with GST included. I’m pretty positive that the entire body of a mid sized squid was fried up and splashed onto my plate, and I certainly ain’t complaining about the unexpected generosity. A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.⠀

It was a touch too peppery & slightly undersalted for my tastes, but there’s no denying the brilliant batter cocooning the squid rings. It’s crunchy, crackling & seriously satisfying, and it possesses the perfect thickness that’s mostly uniform throughout. The grilled lemon on the side was an inspired idea, with the acidic & slightly sweet juices cut through the already well tempered grease levels to give this piquant pile of deep fried deliciousness a tinge of acidic vibrancy.⠀

The squid within was strikingly fresh, with a profoundly pleasurable chew & snap with each and every bite. As a matter of fact, the squid was so fresh that if you told me the squid was pulled out of the sea just minutes before getting deep fried, I’d believe you. Yes, La Mensa’s calamari are insanely fresh and deeply delightful. Really, what more can you ask from a deep fried cephalopod?

The initial intent behind my visit to @lamensa.sg was to partake of their pasta, but when I saw the newly added mushroom risotto ($12, GST included), I couldn’t say no to rice. Yes, it’s Italian arborio rice, but it’s still rice. No Asian can resist rice. According to the menu, the arborio rice is cooked in a creamy sauce which is a concoction of La Mensa’s housemade stock (probably vegetable stock), extra virgin olive oil, pecorino cheese & mushrooms.⠀

They might’ve understated the creamy part, as each spoonful of rich, redolent risotto is considerably creamy & is incredibly infused with the aroma of mushrooms that’ve been forever fused into the luscious liquid. Come to think of it, if you took out the rice, the creamy mushroom sauce could function flawlessly as a terrifically thick mushroom soup.⠀

Each grain of risotto is cooked to a slight past al dente, which produces soft, mildly chewy rice that’s all too easy to inhale in short order. Well, when the rice is luxuriating in such a scintillating sauce, that action just gets even easier. The sauce gets almost cloyingly creamy towards the end of the very deep dish, and I’d imagine that it would be a bit of a struggle to eat when cold.⠀

At just $12 for a prodigious plate of delectable risotto, La Mensa’s mushroom risotto is hot stuff, and should definitely be eaten while still smouldering with steam. Don’t be left out in the cold, get yourself some right now.

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The thing that differentiates Frutti di Mare from seafood marinara is the sauce. Frutti di Mare has an arrabbiata sauce base, while marinara’s base is, well, marinara. Arrabbiata sauce is a little spicy thanks to the inclusion of dried red chilies, while marinara is the milder sauce due to it not having chilies inside.⠀

@elevenstrands arrabbiata sauce is absolutely ambrosial and is one of the better tomato sauces round town. It strikes a brilliant balance of salty, sweet & tangy with a hint of heat underlying every drop of it. Now, take that sauce, add an adequate amount of fresh clams, prawns, squid, and finish it off with handmade tagliatelle ($3 extra), and you’ve got Eleven Strands’ fabulous Frutti di Mare ($23, additional 10% service charge applies).⠀

The sapid sauce has excellent mouthfeel as well, with a sensuous slickness for the most part, and a little chunk of tomato every now and then to shake it up. I chose the handmade tagliatelle, which was cooked a touch past al dente, but was still more than acceptable. The broad width of the noodles allowed for more of that amazing arrabbiata to coat it thoroughly.⠀

The seafood elements in the dish did not disappoint either, with everything being fittingly fresh and expertly cooked. The squid & shrimp were snappy with every bite, and had just enough bounce to inform me that they had been prepped just right. Better yet, there was an ample portion of seafood in the Frutti di Mare, which certainly assists in heightening your pleasure.⠀

I would definitely endorse this over the prawn basil pesto pasta, as both are $23, but this one gives you a lot more mileage in your trip to Flavortown.

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The free main dish that I got with #burpplebeyond at @elevenstrands is this pretty plate of prawn basil pesto pasta (normally $23 before adding 10% service charge). It’s a simple dish, but the flavours are greater than the sum of its parts. ⠀

Your choice of pasta done al dente is tossed in the noticeably thick, toothsome pesto paste composed of basil, olive oil & pine nuts. For the garnish, you get a smattering of grilled prawns & a light grating of parmesan cheese on the pasta, and it’s ready for devouring. The pesto paste is superbly savoury thanks to a perfect seasoning job, and the fragrant basil & pine nuts add a delightful herbal & earthy quality to the pasta.⠀

My only bone of contention with this dish is the paltry amount of prawns in it. The prawns are diced up into small chunks, and there aren’t that many of them in the pasta. If you’re looking for a perfectly balanced (as all things should be) ratio of pasta to protein, this ain’t it chief. But if you’ve got an appetiser that’s not fries, soup or salad, then I reckon the pesto pasta is piquant enough to let it slide just this once.

Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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