Dining at Trattoria Amanda, which opened in Stanley Street about two weeks ago, is like travelling back in time.
From the decor to the service to the food, everything reminds me of the Italian eateries that popped up around Singapore's residential areas during the 1990s.
Before anyone thinks I am saying that in a negative way, it is quite the opposite.
The late 1980s and early 1990s were when many Singaporeans, including myself, became acquainted with Italian food as ristorantes, trattorias and pizzerias helmed by Italian chefs started opening here.
The trattorias, a number of which were in private residential estates, were more casual and the food had a more homey flavour compared with the restaurants in town. And I fell in love with the dishes for their rusticity and robustness.
Trattoria Amanda is just like that. It may be right smack in the Central Business District, but it feels like a neighbourhood family-run eatery. The business crowd will probably overlook the lack of finesse because the food is easy to warm up to.
14 Stanley Street; tel: 6222-5808; open: 11.30am to 3pm, 5pm to midnight (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays
Price: Budget about $90 a person, without drinks
Running the kitchen is chef Salvatore Catalano, who owned the now-defunct La Noce trattoria in Hillview. His menu - comprising mainly antipasti, pizzas, pastas and desserts - is a collection of classic dishes and there are some I haven't eaten in a while.
So I'm happy to find them here - especially when many taste just the way I remember them from the chef's La Noce days.
I will never get tired of eating the Sauteed Vongole With White Wine Sauce ($24) because the clams are so sweet and juicy.
The sauce also has more depth than those at many other restaurants, with a richness that comes from more than just clam juices and white wine. It is so delicious I drink it all up.
Another classic appetiser is Eggplant Parmigiana With Buffalo Mozzarella ($26), where thin slices of fried eggplant are layered with cheese and tomato sauce and baked. It is a dish that is hearty and hearthy and the version here tastes good with the tartness of tomatoes balanced by the stretchy mozzarella.
My dining companion and I can manage only a pizza and a pasta between us for our mains.
But with 14 pizzas and seven pastas to choose from, making a decision is not easy.
In the end, for pizza, I pick an old favourite I've not eaten in years - Quattroformaggi, or Four Cheeses ($26). And I am glad I do.
The pizza, topped with gorgonzola, pecorino, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, is excellent. The cheeses each contribute a different character - from the salty and pungent gorgonzola to the mild and stretchy mozzarella - and come together in a blend of delicious flavours.
The pizza dough is good too, crisp at the edges, slightly chewy in the centre and just thick enough to balance the cheeses perfectly.
For pasta, I pick the Spaghetti With Lobster On Tomato Base ($42) as a contrast to the cheesy pizza.
This is not different from most versions I've eaten, but there's nothing wrong with it either. The dominant flavour comes from the tomato sauce, while the pieces of lobster meat break the monotony by providing some seafood sweetness.
Desserts are the most disappointing part of my meal here.
The Classic Italian Tiramisu ($12) lacks the punch that comes from a strong espresso and turns out insipid. Without the coffee, it is also a bit too sweet for me.
The other dessert I order, Homemade Sicilian Cannoli With Ricotta Cheese ($12), is also rather blah. Eat it if you want to end your meal with something sweet, but really, nothing about it stands out.
So I'd adjourn somewhere else for dessert.
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•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here