Italian food is one of my favourite comfort foods. It’s food that instantly warms the heart. Whether it’s the enticing colours of the freshest summer vegetables, simply laid out with cheese, olive oil and basil, or a hearty bowl of pasta, cooked al dente and sauced simply, Italian food can be therapeutic and immensely satisfying. I’ve been eating less and less carbs over the last few years, but with Italian food I’ll nearly always have a carb splurge, because it’s worth it. Crispy bread, a slice of thin crust pizza or a steaming bowl of spaghetti vongole will be too difficult to resist.
I mentioned last week that I’ve been working on a top 10 post for Italian restaurants, well the research has been long running and not without it’s frustrations 😉 a) because of the carbs and b) because I’ve had to endure a few tortuous experiences (more on that in the big blog post coming soon). The trials and tribulations of writing about restaurants 😉 . Anyway, I recently met up with some girlfriends and we decided that dinner would be in the east somewhere. I searched all my notes, articles etc and came up fairly bare. Then I remembered having seen an Italian restaurant on East Coast Road when I was visiting Oh Deli one day. A google search revealed Al Forno, a family run restaurant that seemed to perform well with the local crowd and their website revealed that at “Al Forno East Coast, food is love.” It sounded like my kind of place.
A traditional Peranakan style building might not be the usual place to find traditional Italian food but in this case the combination works well. The roomy restaurant is warm and inviting and has an authentic Italian feel to it. It’s the kind of restaurant where you wouldn’t feel out of place if you popped in to have a quick bite to eat on the way home from work, or equally it could be a good date night venue.
Al Forno means ‘oven baked’ in Italian, usually a wood fired oven, and reviews about the pizzas at Al Forno had indeed been very complimentary of this feature. Our group of four decided to share a pizza to start and then move on to individual dishes. The pizza was definitely good, a thin crust, excellent toppings with fresh and flavourful mushrooms really adding flavour, my only complaint was that it was just a teeny bit soggy in the middle. But super tasty and off to a good start.
At this point I’ll mention the very quaffable and reasonably priced Gavi that we enjoyed. At $73 per bottle the Michele Chiarlo Le Marni was one of the best white wines I’ve had for a while. Light and fruity but dry to the palate. So much so that we ordered a second bottle. Well we tried. But it took some time to get the attention of the appropriate wait staff. There seemed to be a lot of staff on the floor but they were people who had mastered the age old art of looking around a room without actually seeing any customers. Frustrating but luckily the eventual arrival of the wine distracted us.
The four of us ordered pasta for mains (we had also ordered a salad to share with the pasta but this had arrived first thing, American style). I went with one of my tried and true test dishes, spaghetti vongole, whilst my companions enjoyed a penne carbonara, a spaghetti aglio e olio and a ravioli (pastas all $24++ except the aglio e olio at $21++).
We were all very impressed with our pasta. And none of us are particularly easy to please 😉 . The pasta was al dente without exception, the sauces tasty and served in the correct amount, not too much to be left eating sauce with no pasta (it’s surprising how little sauce a bowl of pasta actually needs to be good). There were plenty of vongole on my plate, fresh too, with a couple of tiny little sand bits to prove it, and a great garlic, wine and slight chilli flavour.
We skipped dessert but enjoyed the last of our wine and our satisfaction at having found great local Italian food (if you’re on the East Coast) that warrants a re visit. Unfortunately as we waited to ask for our bill it was again a case of being ignored for a solid five minutes before we could make the request. If Al Forno could improve the staffing situation it could be the perfect location for a casual Italian meal on any night of the week. We paid $34++ per head plus the wine at $73++ per bottle.
I would also love love love to hear from anyone who knows good Italian or otherwise on the East Coast. I often visit but I never know where to go to eat and people are asking me all the time!
400 East Coast Road, Singapore, 428996
phone +65 6348 8781