I was invited to try out the hearty Italian food at Ciao@, the newest addition to Haji Lane’s food offerings. This Italian bar-cum-restaurant is a great place for friends and family. With the amazing hospitality and sincerity of owner Chef Domenico, I felt like I was entering his Italian home as a beloved guest. Chef Domenico believes that great food comes from the heart, and his sole mission is to introduce Singaporeans from all walks of life to authentic Italian favourites without the hefty price tag and stuffy fine dining concepts.
We started things off with a sparkling prosseco which was absolutely delicious and this interesting Fritto Del Piceno ($16) which is a fried mix of the Marche region including olives, cheeses and an interesting surprise from Chef (I won’t spoil it for you).
This felt like a childhood snack. Something fun and playful, although nothing spectacular. This next Calamari ($18) dish was wonderful though. Personally, I’m not a big fan of deep fried squid so this was a welcome surprise from chef. It was soft, tender, had wonderful tomato and olive flavours.. mm.. couldn’t get enough.
Next, one of the highlights of the meal — The one-of-a-kind Sughe D’Magre ($23) and Ravioli Di Ricotta ($22). This is just a tasting portion so we don’t fill up. You’ll be getting a lot more for the price.
Look at those beautiful colours! The Sughe D’Magre is Chef’s mother’s home-cooked recipe made of linguine, tuna, anchovies and green olives in tomato sauce. It is the first time I tried a tuna-based pasta and it was absolutely gorgeous. The pasta was handmade, had wonderful texture, and the sauce was just a perfect blend of the saltiness of the tuna and anchovies with the tang of tomatoes. Very unique, and definitely a must-try.
The Ravioli was a classic with great texture. It was perfectly soft on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside with the ricotta a wonderful smooth paste that went amazing with the spinach. The sauce was light and not overwhelming. These are definitely authentic, delicious and won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Another very unique creation from Chef Domenico was from his time in Germany. This is his Pork Knuckle in Beer Sauce ($38) served with Mashed Potato and White Cabbage cooked in Pancetta.
As you can see, this is HUGE and definitely feeds 3-4 if you’re having pasta or pizza to share. This dish was orgasmic. Everything from the beer-flavoured meat dripping with juices and fat to the crispy, slightly-charred skin that cracks open with a light tap of a fork, right down to the smooth mash and delicious cabbage cooked till sweet with the rich flavours of pancetta. Great for sharing.
And not forgetting the pizza. This is the Tartufina ($24).
Just look at that. It’s a light, oven-fired pizza topped with mozarella and slathered generously with truffle paste topped with parmesan. Just thinking about this now makes my heart ache. I was amazed at how light the base and crust felt. Chef revealed he lets the dough rest for more than 36 hours before cooking so it won’t expand in the stomach and cause discomfort! So much heart and love goes into the food.
If you’re looking for something lighter, try their Pizzawich. Yup, you guessed it. It’s a pizza sandwich and this one is the Parma E Ricula ($15). This one’s great for a to-go snack and goes well with the Truffle Fries with Parmesan Cheese ($9).
I personally prefer the pizzas but this last dish here was definitely something I’d never seen before — Bistecca Di Polipo ($32).
It’s essentially a grilled octopus steak with spinach, but the way this is prepared is fascinating. Chef twists the giant octopus tentacles together into a sausage and cooks it for hours till completely soft and tender before serving only lightly-salted with a bit of lemon to bring out the natural fresh flavours of the octopus. This was really unique and worth a try.
As you can imagine, we were completely stuffed. But there was no way we could leave without trying desserts. Here are the traditional Italian favourites of Panna Cotta ($9), Tiramisu ($12) and the Artisanal Italian Gelato which changes in flavour depending on what Chef prepares for the day.
Overall, Ciao is a whole lot of fun, good cheer and serves up hearty, homemade Italian food for very reasonable prices. Have a tipple after in the bar area overlooking the beautifully coloured alleyways on Arab Street for your nightcap. It’s going to be a good night. Enjoy!
8 Haji Lane #01-01 Singapore 189201
39 Arab Street #01-01 Singapore 199738
HP +65 9726 3688
PH +65 6296 9688
FAX +65 6296 9388