Pietrasanta the Italian Restaurant

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Can I be completely honest here? I’m not one who would willingly live my life on pizza and pasta. Italian food is magnificent; its rustic and hearty authenticity can awaken the dead and magnetise them back to wooden tables by a fire on a cold night, the red-and-white checkered tablecloths abound with bruschetta and coarsely-cut garlic bread and moon-sized pizzas just for extra hearty assurance.

I’ll start off with that tomato sauce starter there. A little cup of salty heaven, looking down on all Ketchup-derived descendants around the world. Dip a little bit of bread in it, or drink it straight. Shot or slow, that’s up to you. I like to dip my finger in every now and again. That’s just me.

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Margherita (Italian mozzarella with basil leaves in tomato sauce)- $16.90

Prosciutto E Funghi (Italian mozzarella, cooked ham and button mushrooms in tomato sauce)- $18.90

The pomodoro pasta you see at the top was a special request by the kids, otherwise they usually only serve lasagna, a hefty portion of beautiful noodle and melting, sweet meat. The pizzas are all thin-crust but burst with the appropriate flavours with each bite. Tomato comes through like the shining opera singer, but doesn’t crack any windows. I prefer the funghi version, only because less cheese and more fungi (how weird do I sound) is my thing. The whole idea of button mushrooms usually turns me off, but its bouncier, firmer texture as opposed to something like shitake or chanterelle worked superbly with the melting cheese and tomato.

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Zappa Di Pesce (Fresh seafood soup) –$15.90

Italian tomato, rocket and parma ham salad– $14.90

Burrata and smoked scamorza– not sure of the price as this was a simple, special request

Squid ink fettuccine with crab meat sauce– $20.90 (In other words, my favourite dish)

Home-made fettuccine with sausage and truffle– $24.90

Now then. Would you LOOK at that burrata? It’s hard to get something produced fresh and seasonal wrong, but God, they never go wrong with the burrata. Cold, pure and oozing like uncontrollable organ spillage. I should seriously reconsider food blogging with my abhorrent descriptions. But honestly, it’s actually one of the most beautiful things in the universe, coupled with good balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil and ripe Italian tomato. Parma ham if you want, but let’s not forget to worship the purity of that bone-white baby burrata.

If it wasn’t for the heady richness the sausage fettuccine offered, I would say that it would be the best of the lot. But the lolling tongues of fettuccine and achingly creamy sauce served to appease much of the obesity resistance movement of my stomach, and it just gets too much after about 5 minutes. The squid ink, on the other hand, is lighter, but darker, if you know what I mean. A decadent smorsgabord of savoury umami flavour, grounded by the honest humility of an experienced pasta maker. Homemade, they say? Homemade it really is.The crab meat is the best part, juicy and chunky, and makes for a nice break when you’re not looking in your lady’s mirror desperately scrubbing away at your blackened teeth.

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A mash up of my uncle’s Ossobucco con gremolada (four-hour braised veal shank–$32.90) and Risotto Porcini (risotto with porcini, saffron and bone marrow–$23.90)

If you know me well, I prefer the supposedly icky gelatinous bits and bobs of an animal to the meat itself- bone marrow, fish eyes, blubber, cartilage, fat trimmings, you name it, I’ll have it. I’m basically the hopeless bottom feeder. The tender braised meat is absolute divinity, and it paired wonderfully (surprisingly too, for the pairing was spontaneous, I tell you that) with the rich, aromatic risotto, yellow, fat, plump little pearls. Al dente, with an almost smoky air about it.

And lastly, tiramisu. I’m not associating a price with it, because, well, tiramisu. I don’t think this is the best around, for the sponge could have done with a more luxurious and thorough caffeine and rum spa. A little dry, a little too sweet. The cocoa was decadent, but didn’t mask a less-than-rich interior.

Reliable Sunday lunch resort.

Rating: 4.8/5

Pietrasanta

5B Portsdown Road
#01-03 Singapore 139311
Tel: +65 6479 9521

Roundhouse Pizza Bar and Grill

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Sunday dinners.

Came across this name whilst doing my daily (almost) perfunctory scrolling through a food blog the other day. Roundhouse. Like Roadhouse but not quite. More…Round. Someone laud my honest jokes, please. Anyways, it’s a little Italian place started up by this local DJ, taking over the area in Turf Club where Picotin, another pizzeria-like restaurant-cum-bar, used to stand. Perfect ambience, with this lovely outdoor area, and we sat at a table with high chairs (who doesn’t love high chairs?!) They serve lots of meat, seafood, and most importantly, most characteristically, pizza. I went in with a bold stomach.

My dad’s smoked duck salad starter was a refreshing start, though it was odd how they also added things like blueberries and strawberries. I wasn’t complaining since I’m a fan of the odd combination, and the cold smoked duck still managed to take centre stage. The fatty outer edges were the highlight, of course.

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Seafood Bouillabaisse. Welcome to mussel, prawn, and fish fragments land. Coupled with a few bits of rather soggy buttered toast and a hollandaise-like dip which did little in complementing the toast. Appealing grilled marks though. These things make me jealous of the behind-the-scenes machinery. Grill marks are to me simply the epitome of grandiose home cooking. I think I need a grill pan soon. Just to be pretentious with my morning toast, you know. We dipped it in the surprisingly delicious bouillabaisse sauce instead. The dish was ho-hum, predictable, nothing flabbergasting.

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Good news. You get to customise your pizza. 2 flavours. One pan. Bring it. We chose half to be vegetarian, with olives, capsicum and mushrooms, and the other to be capoeira, a combination of 4 cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola and cheddar). The flavours exploded on the emaciated crust, which was lovely albeit the fragile base. A stronger support would be nice. And I may extrapolate this in real life. My life. Actually.

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Grilled king prawns with pineapple salsa/ whole sea bass with orange barley risotto/ angus rib-eye (280g)

Salt, salt, salt. I cracked open my first prawn, fingers stuck in, nicely gooed and oiled (I made up that first word). I chewed at the head, limbs and all, but boom. My mouth throbbed with the taste of the sea, but not in a pleasant way. Tragic, it was. Fresh, elegant prawns with lashings of sodium. I had to pick at my mum’s grilled vegetables to lighten the heavy lashings on my tongue. Taking a bite of the sea bass further dimmed my hopes. Lacklustre, bland, banal, trite. A severe lack of balance in flavour, though the sear and cook on the outside was laudable. Oh, so sad. For the first time, I wasn’t eager to get down and dirty with a fish head. Almost good enough to compensate for the poorly inside. My dad had the rib-eye, but also said it was nothing to shout about.

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Outrageously dense vanilla gelato to combat the salt-rimmed roof of my mouth. Thick, sweet, speckled.

On the whole, not as impressive as I hoped, but look, I lived to tell the tale. Considering the fact that this place is relatively new, perhaps some things will change for the better in the near future. The ambiance and energy more than made up for some serious culinary flaws.

Rating: 2.8/5

Roundhouse Pizza Bar and Grill

100 Turf Club Road

64660966

Trattoria L’Operetta

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You know, it’s said they have the best pizza in Singapore.

I recollected my memories of Peperoni, that one red-walled, kid-friendly placed we used to frequent every couple of weeks for the paper tables and crusty, cheesy goodness of fresh pizza. How would this compare? My memories were insufficient, and in the end, i didn’t even order pizza. What’s wrong with you Alex. Prithee, reader, hear me out. There was a man at the front, tossing the crusts from board to plate, wafts of steam rising from the pockets between bounteous toppings. And yet, I noticed there was something a little off.

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Atop, we have the classic Margherita. Below, their version of an oyster omelette, coupled with thousand island dressing.

‘Soggy’, remarked my mother. Soggy! Lord! And so my friends, that is how I ended up not bothering with the slicing and biting. I just couldn’t. The omelette was decent, but I noticed that they repeated dish components without a healthy conscience. The same dressing was used for the fried calamari, which you should be grateful isn’t pictured, as it was a disastrous mess of separating, soggy batter and putrid little rubber rings approximately a millimetre wide. The poor squids, without their decent spa treatment. The flavours hung like stale fog in my mouth.

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Top to bottom: scallop starter, squid ink spaghettini starter, penne arrabbiata.

The first two are part of a menu degustation which my father predictably ordered, given his larger-than-life appetite. The starter was underwhelming in flavour, but I sing praise for the squid ink follow-up. The clumpy cheese choked the minuscule bites of scallop to death, whilst the pasta was delicate and aromatic.

Now for that penne, some of which I stole from my sister. In my opinion, it beat everything else. Without a doubt. Up there. The al dente pasta boasted homemade earthiness, ridges catching all that rich, sweet and sharp sauce, imbued with a calmly spice, simmering with chunks of reduced tomato and herb. That penne was perfect, though if anything, they should reduce the amount of sauce to perfectly complement the penne’s loveliness.

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Their fresh ‘fish of the day’, which was the sort of portion you would look at and go ‘hmph, alright, $25 it is then. But never again.’ Why? I could cry trying to recount this painful experience once more. Because. This beautiful fish arrived almost an entire hour after everything else was served. My mood was sunken, my eyes watery, my hands ready to rise in exasperation to the Gods. Not even those rustic grill marks could compensate for the cardinal sin. The grilled vegetables were sweet and caramelised, but doused in too much olive oil. The fish was flavourful, though humbug plain if it weren’t served with two types of salt and tomato paste, which was also too oily.

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You can tell the first is a steak, but I should like you to zoom in on the second shot. Behold the duck breast with fruit reduction sauce and caramelised root vegetables, alongside the same (you see the repetition?) clump of al dente meditarranean-style mixed black rice. May I say this was twice as good as my fish. Flushed and tender, good sear along the side, with the sprightly, slightly gummy sauce basking in the bonhomous nature of the burgundy bed it inhabited. This and the penne were the star dishes that night.

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Sea salt caramel and almond ice cream from the Ice Cream Gallery afterwards, starring my sister’s lovely pins. I think it beats the earl grey and fig flavour, which possessed no roundness or depth. This.

This.

Rating: 2.9/5

Trattoria L’Operetta

224 Tanjong Katong Road

Basilico

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‘Hey girls, guess what. You get a treat from me. Your mother. And you know what, we’re going to go have a lovely dinner tonight. Preferably without breaking the bank, yes?’

My mother’s honest words. We were considering all the decent, cheap options around town, when she herself suggested Basilico. Isn’t that quite expensive, I murmured. Not like I’ve ever been there, but ‘Basilico’ was clearly a more-posh-than-average Italian name with slight snake-related connotations. Or serpent or amphibian. Oh hell, it was an excuse to wear my Calvin Klein leather-topped sleeveless mini dress anyway. And so we headed for the Regent Hotel, aka the golden-knobbed house my country can show off to tourists. I was excited. We all were (I think).

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On a Saturday night, we were offered the choice of an antipasti and dessert buffet plus the choice of one main course from their a la carte menu. I couldn’t complain. Good God, it’s expensive, I thought, when the waiter said the buffet alone was a pocket-burner ($65, to be exact). Still. The rose-tinted, rustic yet sophisticated aura and scents made me dizzy with glee. I had to take it in slowly. Buffet and course choice it was. Saturday nights make me more adventurous and willing, I should think. I remained quite politic as I walked around the spread, eyeing the fresh fruit, cheese and wine. I must’ve stumbled on something from the dazzling aesthetics alone. I ended up with a plate of cold and crunchy asparagus salad, smoked salmon and caviar, eggplant, provocative vine tomatoes, a little mozzarella and mussel salad. Most things were pleasantly chilled, and the flavours of creamy mozzarella and exploding tomatoes savagely invaded my palate, in the best way possible. The eggplant could have done with a touch more salt, and some empty mussel shells were sandy.

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Behold the kids pizza funghi.

Yes you heard that right. Kids. I was frightened by the monstrous slab which lay in front of my 6-year old sister. It was the fastest to come, and the most gargantuan. It was an animal, bigger than the slight consumer herself. ‘We’ll help’ , the rest of us announced, to compensate for the silent shock. The edges were thick, flour-crusted and fluffy, the body laden with a great deal of stringy cheese and clumps of nice and innocent Champignon slivers. The marinara base was appropriate in both taste and amount in proportion to the rest of the pizza, though the Champignons could have used more seasoning. That aside, I enjoyed the texture of the whole thing, the entirety of a single bite, even if I was just picking at bits on her plate. I’m a disgraceful, disgraceful picker.

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grilled queen scallops with mushy peas, roasted tomatoes and chanterelles

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Scallops for my main course. Six mini ones, at that. Branded with a beautiful sear on both sides, squished together with some brilliant, sweet mushy peas and a heavy drizzle of olive oil. The peas put me in heaven, and I could have had those alone. I willingly smashed them into the charred sides of scallop and warm burst of tomato juice, alongside the fruity, forest-flavoured chanterelles. What a great melding of juxtaposed flavours. The scallops, albeit juicy little things, weren’t sweet enough for my taste. Good, just not great.

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kids spaghetti marinara
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paper-wrapped sea bass

I appreciate the textural effort put into all the dishes served. My other sister had the spaghetti with marinara sauce, which was perfectly al dente, and my mother had the sea bass. The knife cuts were smooth, the delicacy enticing. The fish itself I did not find sufficiently flavourful, but the aroma and presentation almost fully made up for that.

I’m re-unearthing the wonders of honest Italian food. But if you wish to come here, be prepared for a wait. Especially if you’re ordering anything other than pizza on the menu. Just. Small warnings.

Rating: 4.3/5

Basilico Italian Restaurant
1 Cuscaden Road
Singapore 249715
Tel: +65 6725 3232

London- Signor Sassi

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The thing about London in general is that, in full and absolute honesty, you are a man of zero intellect if you ever get tired of it. Fine, that’s mean. What I mean to say is, I don’t think it legal for one to grow near half weary of what I believe to be one of the most beautiful historical cities in the world. Or of all the universes, parallel and distinct alike. Those Charles Dickens cobblestones, the crass rumbling from here, there and everywhere, the chilly mist which all succumb to in either cutting hatred or morose indiference. Perhaps even glee, to the odd one or two. A heat wave to them is like 18 degrees C, after all. The glaze of English folklore, the nostalgia from God knows where. The tea craze, the well dressed and eccentricity. Boots (yes the drugstore too), tights and soft sky hues, made subtler with greyer undertones in the dusk and early morning. Driving from Heathrow to Kent Street for another stay at Monarch House actually gave me chills, as memories of my stay here as a 5-year old came swamping my sentience.

Signor Sassi is a world-renown Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge Green, the South of London. Plastered up on the walls were black-framed portraits of Nigella Lawson, Rihanna and if I am right, one of the PMs. The round tables are packed from random circumference points, glasses crowding the spaces and yellow lights imparting a romantic, sentimental glow. The waiters bustle about like agitated ants shouting in sparkling Italian.

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We started off with some cheese, bread and olives. They come to you with a cloth-covered basket filled with an assortment of crusty, freshly baked breads. I chose a dark rye type, and the parmesan was like briny crystals of heaven.

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Rare bluefin tuna fillets, a ‘special’. You can choose between medium rare and rare, so well, the choice is a little obvious now, isn’t it. They cut like chewy butter and retained a lovely fragrance on that bed of petit pois, tomato and olive oil. It was divinity with the bread and cool tomato on the side. Despite my deep love for tuna, I found the strips to be more on the salty side, teasing the border of excessive.

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Foreground: Scampi pasta (special)

Background: Spaghetti Lobster

Both of which I sampled. The best flavour award definitely has to go to the scampi pasta, which reeked of perfection. The luxurious, yet not overly creamy sauce bathed tender noodles made pungent with the aroma of sweet, plump, scampi, the juice taking on a delightful serum-like consistency.

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You can’t exactly not have tiramisu at an Italian restaurant. I patted my inflated belly and decided to give it a taste.

Oh, and my uncle says hello above the willowy gooseberry(:

Soaked through, stiff and sweetened cream, tender, luscious. My only complaint would be that it reminded me of a kid-style tiramisu, steep sweetness and lacking alcohol (ooh, the white wine here was quite a treat).

The first of many posts on London as I sit here on fluffy and bulging white sheets, soaking up the quaint and established architecture, a stand-alone dream.

Signor Sassi

14 Knightsbridge Green, London