Nestled in a row of shophouses in a residential estate deep in Upper Bukit Timah Road suburbia, Trattoria Milano’s plain façade does not command the immediate presence of Domenico Truglia’s previous venture, Al Borgo.
Inside, however, the space is noticeably homier, with a more authentic Italian feel: young wine bottles with Italian labels are displayed on the back wall, alongside a mish-mash of travel posters, mirrors on which are scribbled the daily specials, and a guitar – from the Milanese chef’s rock-star days – hanging by the counter. His albums play in the background.
We were served by an unusually frank young lady. ‘The black ravioli is a good choice, but the risotto alla milanese is not,’ she said half-discreetly as Truglia walked by to greet every table. Tickled, we stuck to her suggestions, which included the gamberi agli aromi del Mediterraneo (Mediterranean-style prawns). The pan-fried prawn salad was a bright jumble of tart and peppery flavours made up of sunny cherry tomatoes, black olives, chilli, parsley and grilled rosemary snipped fresh from the trattoria’s garden patio.
As our mains started to arrive, the wait-staff – just two of them – were getting slammed with new orders from the quickly-filling house. To our surprise, the tables were still painstakingly laid out with appropriate course cutlery.
The squid ink ravioli lived up to expectations, although more for its capsicum sauce than its pasta, which had been rolled (in-house) on the thick side. Stuffed with crayfish, prawns, chopped carrots, celery and onions, the Romesco-like orange sauce added soft volume and earthy sweetness to the dish – which we devoured rapidamente.
Equally excellent was the daily special of al dente saffron-sauced linguine served with a half-lobster in the shell, and the plump, home-made Calabrian-style pork sausages in white-bean sauce that we tried on our second trip.
While it would have been enough to order just off this daily specials menu (which many of their regulars do), that would have meant missing out on another superb dish: a delicate seafood risotto that was cooked to textbook perfection – soft rice that retains a little bite, paired with exceptionally fresh shellfish.
At the end of our meal, every table was offered complimentary limoncello with heartfelt apologies. Not that they were required; the meal had been excellent, as had the staff. To the credit of Truglia and his team, the meal was served briskly and serenely, though it transpires that much was brewing in the kitchen and Truglia had genuine concerns.
Granted, a staff of two is probably a bit conservative for a 40-seater restaurant, but the sassy lass who served us turned out to be Truglia’s teenage daughter. She’d been called in to fill in for the manager who had, apparently, run away with some of the trattoria’s earnings earlier that night. A handful of staff had also flown the coop that very day.
There might have been a little panic in the air, but we were unaffected. Under the circumstances, apart from a disappointingly weak house red (a Farnese Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, $10 per glass), there really wasn’t anything to apologise for, but rather, plenty to applaud. Celine Asril
|Venue name:||Trattoria Milano|
3 Chu Lin Road
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sun noon-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm|
|Do you own this business?|