With the city’s fine dining scene near saturation, restaurateurs are increasingly looking at alternative avenues to tap into the expanding casual-dining pie. Lino Sauro of Gattopardo is targeting this segment with his recently launched Morsi & Sorsi at Telok Ayer Street and now Beppe de Vito (who also owns Il Lido and Latteria Mozzarella Bar) has jumped on the bandwagon with the December 2013 unveiling of &Sons at China Square Central.
Drawing inspiration from traditional Venetian wine bars (or bacaro), de Vitto has fashioned an airy 200-seat space with a sexy marble-topped bar counter at its heart, brandishing Italian aperitif, cocktails and Italian wines to the parched CBD crowd. The space is handsomely stylish rather than homey-rustic, featuring stucco blue walls, gorgeous brass lamps and a mixture of leather-bound high stools and formulaic wooden seats.
To encourage guests to linger well beyond just a drink or two, de Vitto has distilled a menu of wallet-friendly Italian small plates (or cicchetti) at lunch and dinner. Besides home-cured hams – all except 2 types are cured on site in a temperature-controlled curing room – the surprisingly extensive menu offers salads and appetizers, home-baked bread, pastas, charcoal grilled items, seafood, meats, cheeses and sweets pitched at affordable price points. Majority of the small plates are capped at not more than S$20, with the most expensive item – the wagyu tagliata salad – tipping just S$26.
The best way to sample &Sons at lunch or dinner is to come with friends and order an average of 3 dishes (including desserts) each and share.
To start, de Vitto suggests his clutch of home-cured salami – try the sopressata veneta (S$9) and black pork capocollo (S$9) – chased down with an aperitif or a glass of Prosecco. Like most small plates joints, breads – like the garlic and herb focaccia – are not on the house but can be ordered from the menu at a cost of S$5 to S$8 per basket.
But why fill up on breads when you can save up for the pastas?
&Sons fields a hearty rendition of tagliolini (S$9) tossed with crabmeat and nduja (spicy spreadable pork sausage) served crowned with pristine white olive oil snow.
Lovers of sea urchin may be tempted to order the homemade spaghetti with sea urchin carbonara (S$16) and bits of guanciale (Italian cured meat). While the very thought conjures up a dreamy plate of pasta crowned with creamy raw sea urchin, &Sons serves its sea urchin cooked – and therefore completely drowned – in oodles of al dente egg pasta.
|Josper over-grilled wagyu beef with mesclun is a standout|
|Another standout: asparagus with beetroot puree and garlic chips|
Fret not – there are plates aplenty to keep diners happy. Succulent roast squash (S$8) topped with lashings of rucola leaves drizzled with a truffle oil-laced cream sauce is a crowd pleaser, as are the thinly sliced Josper oven-grilled wagyu beef (S$26) served with shaved Parmesan-flecked mesclun leaves and salsa verde. If we have to pick favourites, the crowning glory goes to the Josper oven-grilled asparagus (S$9): smoky spears of asparagus with beetroot puree and pungently delicious garlic chips.
If you are knocking back more than a glass and need some rich food as buffer so that you can bounce back to work looking all sober, the ultra-creamy baked sliced Hokkaido scallop (S$16) in sabayon will come in handy although you’ll probably find more cream than scallop here. Snails baked in a blanket of crusty melted bone marrow (S$15) too cut the mustard but, in our opinion, it’s hardly a good use of precious bone marrow.
De Vito’s latest Italian outing may not be the city’s best but its wallet-friendly wines and competent small plates will make it a compelling proposition. And did we mention that a glass of Prosecco costs just S$8?
&Sons | 20 Cross Street, China Square Central #01-19 | 6221 3937
All photos are courtesy of Diana Kwek
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published in this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.