Central Mall isn’t The Central directly above Clarke Quay MRT station. It is diagonally across from The Central (exit B from MRT), a solid 10 minutes’ walk, where Club Nana and Saint Pierre are. Wee Teck, food critic from The New Paper, named Trattoria Gallo D’oro as one of the best restaurants in 2012, and after trying the food, we concur. The rule is follow the food critic and not the publications because you’d know what the critic likes and dislikes. For Wee Teck, we notice that he likes simple, affordable, wholesome, rustic, homely food, which is exactly what Trattoria Gallo D’oro, or “The Golden Rooster,” stands for.
Taking over the space of the defunct French Kitchen, the decor is completely transformed. French Kitchen had a rather frigid minimalist look, white everywhere–you had to speak in whispers, sounds reverberated off the walls–but the rustic culinary style of Chef Carlo Marengoni, who had cooked for then-President SR Nathan, is reflected in the homely and relaxed decor with red bricks and photos of his hometown near Milan. 2-course set lunch is at an affordable price of $18++ while the sharing menu is priced at $38++ or $68++ a person. Extremely value for money.
The roasted pork loin salad doused in tuna mayo, on the sharing menu, was fantastically well balanced. The unsalted loin was sliced paper-thin and the mayo, which looked excessively rich, was in fact quite light but creamy. Put together, the crunchy salad, tender pork loin and viscous dip were simple but delightful. This is a must-order for me.
Equally good was the burrata cheese (found on sharing menu, or a la carte at $18), drizzled with fragrant first-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil. This dish was almost salt-less and depended wholly on its freshness. There is a thin line between blandness and subtlety and this dish fell on the right side.
At a very reasonable price, the homemade pappardelle with pork sausage ($20) was almost too salty at first bite but the saltiness quickly gave way to a light creaminess. The sausage was more like meatballs and the al dente pasta had a firm and pleasant bite. We usually avoid carbs but finished the whole pot of it.
The deep-fried sardines ($25) looked and tasted a bit like shishamo without the roe. They came in about 15 or so fish. With lemon, this was simple and delightful. But lost its magic when it got cold.
Another fish dish, oven-baked whole seabass (pictured left, $29), was even better. The fish was huge, about 25cm. The skin was just slightly crisp but the meat was so moist and tender. The flavors were distinctly Italian with olive oil, leeks and caramelized onion skin but if the ingredients were there to rid the fish of its smell, they were superfluous for the fish was so fresh there wasn’t any smell. This would cost a bomb at a Chinese restaurant but here, it was at such good value. When I return, I’ll order this again and again.
Unfortunately, the adage that Italians don’t care about their desserts is true. The desserts weren’t bad, just not as good as the savory food. Grandma’s custard cake ($10), which comes in the form of a slice of pie, tasted like Khong Guan lemon biscuit: depending on whether you like the biscuit or not, this dessert was good/bad. The homemade tiramisu ($10) was decent, a strong taste of espresso, but nothing mindblowing.
In the end, it was the traditional dishes, especially the pork and fish dishes, that won our hearts. If you’re looking for newfangled fusion avant garde food, this restaurant is not for you. But if you like traditional, homely food, this is rustic Italian food par excellence. The homely, hearty food at a fair price in a cozy atmosphere ensures a good time for large groups or dates. This is one of the few restaurants we would return. Highly recommended.
Blk 7 Magazine Road
#01-03 Central Mall
T: 6438 8131
12-3pm, 6.30-11pm (closed on Sun)
Rating: 3.808/5 stars
ps: Thanks Jamie for arranging the tasting and Chef Marengoni for hosting us.