SINGAPORE — There’s a certain endearing romanticism that is very hard to place when Italian chefs set up shop in Singapore, serving dishes from their hometown. Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture in introducing what you love from home into this tiny island nation, but I do wonder if the same sense of wonder would apply if a Singaporean were to do the same in France, say, crafting a menu of local favourites from his neighbourhood of Tampines St 41.
It’s a trend I see happening more frequently with every new place I visit, with every menu refresh I’m invited. It does, in some ways, satisfy my itching travel bug (albeit rather thinly) when I’m perusing food items that chefs proclaim are more commonly found in the country, continent or neighbourhood where they grew up.
Much like what Chef Simone Fraternali is doing here at Solo Ristorante, breathing new and exciting life into this two-years-old outfit along Amoy Street with his brand of authentic Italian cuisine inspired by the northern region of Italy—in particular, the areas surrounding his hometown of Gradara.
I arrive at noon for lunch to find the restaurant already buzzing with diners joyfully masticating at sturdy wooden tables in a handsome shade of mahogany. Making my way in, I walk past the open kitchen where food assembly takes place, and where you can see Chef Simone himself on practical performative display, manoeuvring kitchen assistants while plating up lunch plates for a house that is almost surprisingly full for a Tuesday afternoon.
Here, the ala carte menu prides itself on being compact but big on flavours. Although true to form, I would hardly consider these plates compact in size. But big on flavours—a hundred times yes. There’s a plate of chilled Branzino that comes with delicately-sliced Seabass layered with a mildly tart lemon emulsion and bold undertones of chives.
Other small plates include a Wagyu Carpaccio that’s a touch of luxe redefined—Grade 5 Australian Wagyu is presented with a pickled artichoke that contrasts against a subtly sweet aged balsamic. It all makes for a very complex mouthfeel—and we’re only at antipasti.
Although similarly labelled, I regard the Melanzana Alla Parmigiana less as antipasti and more as a bridge that connects the flavour profiles between starters and pasta. The eggplant parmigiana’s Buffalo Mozzarella and basil is a symphony of fats, salts, sweetness, and creaminess which segues beautifully into plates of handmade pasta.
As a rule, I don’t order pasta dishes from restaurants regardless of reputation because I’m a bit of a pasta snob who thinks himself the best pasta cook in Sengkang. But I’m inclined to recommend you order what Solo Ristorante has on its menu because it is quite praiseworthy.
What’s there not to love when the Gnocchi Bolognese is the softest blobs of potatoes I’ve ever tasted, mixed in with an Angus beef ragout that has been lovingly cooked down till tender with a flavour profile that is surprisingly layered. It’s a Bolognese that has worked hard for its chops, this much I can tell.
The Pappardelle, too, deserves praise with its slow-braised Pork ragout and a white ragu that bravely toes the tightrope between being bland and overseasoned. This pasta lives life keenly on edge, and if that doesn’t inspire praise, I don’t know what will. The Tagliolini comes close—a dish that will make lovers of uni shiver in excitement and anticipation. It’s a creamy delight which sadly, proved too much for my personal taste.
I’m not entirely familiar with where Chef Simone lives but if this menu is reflective of his hometown, then book me a flight and fly me over when this pandemic abates. I cannot stop gushing over the delicately tender grilled octopus from the Polipo.
It is slightly on the generously savoury side, but understandable given how it’s braised in the seawater it’s imported in, to lock in all that briny ocean flavour. You can easily circumnavigate this saltiness by having each mouthful of octopus with a generous helping of orange zest-tinged mash, creamy beyond reproach.
Desserts here are an exercise in predictable practicality but in a good way. I mean, I’m not about to leap for joy anytime soon at the Torta Al Limone, pretty as it may be with a sizable strawberry sitting pert at the top. Inside, Amalfi lemon and white chocolate curd cake which complements the tart basil sorbet quite amicably.
There’s also the Tortino Al Cioccolato which attempts to balance and pair dark chocolate with a toffee yuzu and orange sorbet. My only criticism is that the tart element needs to be bolder and more forward. Aside from that, my meal today has been quite a scenic gastronomical journey through the country and neighbourhoods of Italy. And until travel restrictions are lifted, perhaps a trip down to Solo Ristorante will have to suffice.
Set lunch: S$26++ for two courses, S$32++ for three courses
Set dinner: S$88++ for four courses, S$128++ for five courses
Website | 45 Amoy Street, S069871
Tue - Sun: 12pm to 2.30pm; 6.30pm to 10pm
Closed for Sunday lunch
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