Beppe De Vito looks nothing like an Italian grandmother. But at the rate he seems determined to feed us all with comfort and haute fare from his motherland, you wonder why he doesn’t just shave and put on a frock to look the part.
Within days of each other, the boss of the ilLido group has launched two new concepts that cover all the bases of Italian cooking. There’s Grammi – the casual, virtual trattoria-cum-supermarket – and Braci a Casa, which brings the one Michelin-starred experience of Braci to your living room.
Grammi is not short for “granny” but is Italian for “gram” as in the metric weight, or maybe it’s an ominous warning of how much weight you’re going to put on if this is going to be your staple diet for the rest of phase one.
Yes, it does have some salad choices for the faint-hearted, but we all know that the rightful place of skinny greens is as second fiddle to voluminous bubbles of burrata cheese – thin-skinned fragile egos of the milky world that collapse upon piercing into a puddle of luscious curds. Roasted pumpkin, rocket and a savoury truffle pesto (S$18) are just the right supporting players, which you can relish like that or mop up with petite slabs of focaccia (S$3.90) which are otherwise a little too airy or dry on their own.
While the latter description also applies to the mini brioche garlic buns (S$7.80), it’s the winning combination of garlic and kombu butter that makes them worthwhile bites. And when the buns are lengthened into hefty sandwiches, they hold their fillings well without arriving at your home in a sodden state.
A case in point is the porchetta sandwich (S$16.90) neatly wrapped and stuffed with slices of tender roasted pork, smoked cheese, sweet and tangy apple relish and mild chilli sauce.
Grammi caters to different levels of laziness – so you can have your mains either ready to eat or ready to cook, the latter in sealed plastic pouches that you can stash in your fridge for days when cooking inertia sets in. Pick from baked pastas – lasagne or cheesy, tomato-ey eggplant penne – to braised dishes – beef cheek stew, chicken cacciatore, lamb shank. If you don’t want to commit to full portions of anything, then try the “bento” meals that combine a tasting portion of meat with a choice of sides from mashed potatoes to wilted greens. Angus beef cheek stew (S$19.80) is a competent braise of fork tender beef in rich mushroom-studded gravy with our pick of buttery mashed potatoes and green peas with strips of pancetta. The pork bento (S$19.80) has nice and fatty Iberico pork collar in a mild gravy tinged with the hues of carrots, onion and mystery spices – its pumpkin-like sweetness countered with pickled onions.
Desserts are the rib-sticking, caloric nightmares of classic but alcohol-free tiramisu (S$16.90) showered with chocolate shavings, dense chocolate cake (S$17.90) and limoncello cheesecake (S$16.90), all enough for two to three people.
You don’t have to stop at just a meal at Grammi because it has enough stocks of deli meats, dried pasta, sauces and salad greens for you to create future meals ad infinitum.
But while that’s well and good for your daily needs, there’s still that flair you crave from more sophisticate fare, which is where Braci a Casa comes in, as chef de cuisine Mirko Febbrile flexes his creative chops.
If Grammi’s underwhelming bread fails to excite, then Braci’s PDO Altamura loaf (S$13.70) makes it up to you with a gutsy crust and resilient spongy interior that’s conveniently cut into diagonal chunks so you don’t have to wrestle with serrated knife and flying crumbs. You can splurge on the bread and olive oil set (S$29.95) which comes with a gift box of artisanal olive oils, and savour the rustic joy of dunking chunks of country loaf into fragrant oil.
Instead of ordering your food ready to eat, invest a little effort into the ready-to-cook ensembles so that your meal is served at its peak. The sets come in neat packages with a picture card on each box with easy instructions (even if you miss seeing them, they’re pretty self-explanatory once you see the sealed packets within).
Tagliolini (S$34.25) is an all-encompassing word to describe homemade 32 egg yolk pasta that you boil for one minute and mix with an unctuous sauce of shellfish bisque elevated with barely-there uni and a touch of lemon for acidity. It doesn’t really help to curb the extreme richness of this dish, but the in-your-face oomph is well worth it. The Mozambique scampi is a little skinny but makes a majestic presence.
While the pasta does test your threshold for cloyingness just a smidgen, a better overall performer is the slow-cooked wagyu short rib which has been sous vide for 30 hours after a slow 24 hour marination in artisanal balsamico. The end result is firm, yielding and gelatinous textured meat countered with the acidity of balsamico, in a mellow red wine sauce.
Lovely whipped potatoes infused with truffle and made more sinful with mascarpone cream top it off. To complete the experience, a grown-up tiramisu spiked with Yamazaki whisky topped with a crispy flaky pastry cover throws some shade at its more homely Grammi counterpart but to a certain extent, we actually prefer the simpler version.
So yes, Beppe De Vito is the fairy godmother who keeps your larder stocked up. And like the proverbial matriarch who kills you with kindness, you’ll at least be well-fed to the end.
Grammi: 1 St Andrew’s Road #05-03 National Gallery, Singapore 178957
Visit grammi.sg or call 9866 1796
Braci a Casa: 52 Boat Quay, #05-01/ #06-01, Singapore 049841
Visit or call braci.sg 6866 1933
This article was originally published in The Business Times.
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