Previously known as Café Les Amis, Casa Verde underwent a two-month-long renovation to assume a dual identity; counter-serve café by day and cliché-free trattoria by night. With its dim, brick-walled dining room, the trattoria is what’s really generating the buzz. The Italian cuisine served freshly re-imagines the culinary artistry of Buko Nero’s Oscar Pasinato, who has been roped in by the Les Amis group to conceptualise sharp dinner menus that change monthly. But you shouldn’t expect any dishes here to scream ‘Asian fusion’; the focus is fixed firmly on Italian comfort food. You will not want to miss the towering, ceramic wood-fire oven that sits in an open kitchen, offering live pizza-making theatrics.
For starters, think slivers of Parma ham with sweet rock melon or the smooth blend of green pea soup with diced prawns; nothing experimental, just tasty, familiar favourites. The fresh pasta can silence an entire table of diners. Consider the home-made pappardelle with crab meat, which may not look like much, but the sensual arrangement of slippery sheets of pasta with a mix of tender crabmeat, parsley flakes, lemon and chilli melts in your mouth. You’ll also want to make a return visit for the hearty rigatoni tossed with shredded, braised veal shank ragu, and flecked with lifting bits of gremolata (a chopped herb condiment made with a mix of garlic, parsley and lemon peel): excellent, if a shade sweet.
There’s also an admirable simplicity to the well-rendered, mirepoixflavoured braised leg of duck in a thick and fragrant brew of red wine and rosemary-reduced sauce. On a lighter note, the grilled prawns on skewers with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and garlic vinaigrette will win the adoration of seafood lovers with their sheer freshness and smoky tang. As far as the pizzas are concerned, however, the oven itself is much more exciting than what comes out of it. The pizza menu includes 12 varieties that are available all day, but after munching our way through four rather plain and dry pies, we were convinced that an adjustment to the ratio of tomato sauce to mozzarella cheese was needed. The desserts did not leave a lasting impression either; the home-made chocolate tart, for example, was not bad, but was hardly lick-the-plate-clean delicious.
The real coup de grâce was the service, a comedy of out-of-whack timing. At one dinner, hot crostini were served only after the antipasti (a good 30-minute wait). At another meal, the art of pacing was thrown out of the window when our entire order (excluding desserts) was served fast-foodstyle, within 20 minutes of our sitting down. Hopefully Casa Verde’s teething troubles will be resolved over the coming months.
1 Cluny Road (6467 7326)
As published in Time Out Singapore.