If you ever tire of garden-variety Italian, the newly-opened Griglia Open Fire Italian Kitchen at Craig Road by the folks behind Zafferano makes for a unique proposition – it’s interesting, tasty and relatively inexpensive.
Named for grigliata, the Italian word for summer barbeques, Griglia is both an Italian grill house and a small plate eatery that celebrates great produce prepared in light Italian styles, mostly with Mediterranean accents, meant for sharing. Conceived by chef-partner, Andrea De Paola, execution by head chef Federico Schiraldi is pitch-perfect.
The menu is atypical of an Italian eatery in that dishes are grouped according to whether it’s from the garden, the land, the sea, the open fire grill or sides, cheeses and desserts. Each dish is good for 2 guests and if you order exactly the seven or eight dishes that I’m proposing, you’ll leave a happy camper (and you’ll spend no more than $110 a head before taxes).
Many guests who dine here rave about the summery Burratina ($16) but the vegetarian Eggplant ($15) dish gets my vote for its layering of tangy, slightly smoky and light umami flavours from the stackup of Roma tomatoes, grilled eggplants, smoked ‘Caciocavallo’ fondue with basil. Think of it as Neapolitan parmigiana with a delicate facelift.
The Hiika Squid ($18) may just be my favourite dish. Succulent dwarf Japanese squid is dressed with salmoriglio (a southern Italian condiment of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, orange zest and herbs), smoked over coals until cooked but still perfectly springy, then assembled with charcoal grilled Palermo peppers alongside Nduja foam for a side of slightly spiced and complex flavours.
For an Italian eatery, their pastas certainly live up to expectations.
Fresh pappardelle made with New Zealand-imported eggs and Italian flour are tossed with crispy Guanciale and fork-tender braised pork jowl cubes in a deeply savoury Chianti wine-braised pork jus finished with grated Parmesan. A hearty dish that tastes like it’s made by an Italian nonna. Except that it’s not.
Simple as it is, the Spaghetti de Martino (a pasta brand from Gragnano recognised by the European Union to be a Protected Geographical Indication product) with datterini tomatoes is also a winner. The sea water-brined tomatoes are cooked via confit on the charcoal grill, blended with vegetable stock, then emulsified with oil to create a bright and creamy thick sauce topped with carefully coiled spaghetti with a crown of charred Datterini tomatoes.
From the open fire grill, it’ll be tempting to order a piece of steak and the Grass Fed Wagyu Striploin MBS3/4 (200g, $68) more than passes muster with its well-charred exterior and beefy flavour.
But with the Whole Spanish Turbot (400g for $58, 800g for $98) beckoning, the choice, to me, is clear as day. Fresh Spanish turbot is seasoned with nothing more than sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, grilled over hot coals until it is still moist but bearing visible marks of char, then enlivened with an amalfi lemon dressing alongside a side of romaine lettuce.it’s perfect with a side order of horse radish-speckled potato puree.
Have a gluten-free Capri in a cake ($12) for dessert before you leave – Amalfi lemon cream sandwiched in flourless almond cake with extra virgin olive ice-cream. You’ll not regret it
37 Craig Road #01-01, Singapore 089675; +65-8949 7012; griglia.sg
© Evelyn Chen 2021
Please note that the reviews published on 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.