The heart of Tanjong Pagar used to be referred to as the spillover children; the office buildings that didn’t make it within the Raffles Place radius. Food options were simply means to fill up the throngs of people scouring for a place to eat at lunchtime.

That’s hardly the picture you see when you trot into the bustling Central Business District area today. Food options are proliferating at Tanjong Pagar as every corner, manoeuvre and turn is dotted with a restaurant, café or bar. From the restless stir in well-regarded hawker centres at Maxwell Road and Amoy Street to the splash of trendy new shophouse restaurants and bars at Duxton Hill, it’s now almost a sin to be hungry here.

Two Italian restaurants along Maxwell Road have struck my fancy recently, and here’s why these neighbours serve up the same cuisine, but satisfied my taste buds in exceedingly different ways.

L’Angolo

Swinging open its doors in February this year is L’Angolo, a homely Italian restaurant nestled in the corner of Maxwell Chambers. The name L’Angolo literally means “The Corner” in Italian, and chef-partner Giuliano Dacasto brings with him 17 years of culinary experience honed at several Michelin-star restaurants in Europe, including the three-star Michelin Ristorante Le Calandra in Padova.

The restaurant occupies a huge area and the spacious interior means your conversations are kept to your table only with all the allocated space. Pastas are made in house daily, and are just the right dose of springy.

Must-tries:

Tagliatelle with Chantarelle Mushrooms and Summer Truffle ($30). Sautéed with butter, garlic, red wine, dried porcini, veal jus, rosemary, parmesan and aromatic truffle shavings. The combination comes together in a legendary mix that is full of flavour but won’t have you feeling like a beached whale after.

Parma ham Ravioli with Buffalo Mozzarella Cream and Sweet Peas ($27). The ravioli is shaped to resemble a bishop’s hat, and is filled with Parma ham, minced pork, onion, pepper, bread, milk and egg before tossing it in butter sauce and a served with a sprinkling of sweet peas. I dislike peas with a vengeance, but this dish had me swallowing every single morsel of my most hated vegetable.

Pan roasted Black Cod with Mashed Potato and Porcini Mushroom ($37). If you’re looking for perfection in a fish, you’ll find it here. It’s all of 180g of Canadian Black Cod goodness lightly seasoned with salt and paper, then lightly pan-roasted before served on a pillow of mashed potato. The cod flesh peels off easily the minute you poke your fork in, and melts easily in your mouth.

Apple Cake with Vanilla Gelato ($13). Raise your hands if you think Tiramisu is passé. Going back to basics with Chef Dacasto’s grandmother’s traditional dessert recipe, the apple cake consists of a light butter sponge cake with diced Granny Smith apples and slid atop baked apple slices. Coupled with a drizzling of mascarpone, white wine sauce and vanilla ice-cream, you’ll surely be craving for seconds.

32 Maxwell Road, Maxwell Chambers, #01-03

Otto Ristorante

Whether their auspiciousness worked or not, Otto Ristorante wins the hearts of many who love Chef Michele Pavanello’s recipes which are inspired by the flavours of Rome and his home in Treviso, Italy. Otto, meaning “eight” in Italian (an auspicious number in most cultures), is a three-year-old establishment located at the Red Dot Traffic Building.

Stepping into Otto is like visiting a tasteful, modern abode. The restaurant is ensconced in white, black and burgundy wood panels, and is always teeming with people. In the day, Otto fills up with the business crowd and in the evening, with festive tables of friends or dating couples.

Must-tries:

Montasio cheese gratin white asparagus with sunny side up egg ($24). Sounds simple, and you might never have imagined them together, but white asparagus and egg is quite a divine pairing indeed. What’s more, this relatively healthy dish would get the Health Promotion Board’s stamp of approval (just cut out the egg yolk like I do).

Linguine Boston lobster in spicy light tomato gravy ($38). Delicate ribbons of linguine tossed with generous servings of lobster in a savoury sauce make this dish typically Italian, but what stands out is the freshness of the seafood. It’s easy on the palate, mouth-wateringly delectable and will even leave you space for dessert after.

28 Maxwell Road, Red Dot Traffic Building, #01-02

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