The buzz: Upper Bukit Timah's The Rail Mall has a solid Italian option, if you want a chill but atmospheric weeknight dinner without having to trek all the way back into town. With a name meaning water and flour in Italian, the casual and pretty Acqua e Farina eschews chef-driven, contemporary cooking and instead goes back to basics with trattoria classics using enduring family recipes. In the kitchen is a north-south duo, chef Antonio Manetto from Nocera, and Milanese counterpart Roberto Galbiati. Their friendly sparring about whether southern or northern Italian food is better is a source of amusement.
The vibe: The space has little pretense, excuding a casual warmth with its mounted wine bottles and warm brick accents that line the yellow walls. The chefs make the rounds around the dining room, and the clientele is comprised primarily of regulars from the area.
The food: The gents of Acqua e Farina pride themselves on importing 90% of their ingredients from Italy, and that too directly rather than through suppliers. This means especially good things for the seafood dishes, like the humble but exquisitely done polipo e patate ($28), which is some of the most tender octopus we've had in Singapore, boiled, pan-fried and mixed with fat capers, Italian baby potatoes, olives and cherry tomatoes. It also means that the prosciutto that wraps around the cheese and tomatoes in the fagottino di mozzarella ($23), is pretty moist, mild and memorable. The chefs also bring some secret recipes to the table: a mysterious two-tomato-types sauce that makes the calzone Napoletana (with mozzarella, ricotta and pork salame, $23) so good, and a method for making pizza dough do a slow rise over a couple days in humidity-intensive Singapore. Brunch service continues the flavor-heavy, surprise-light trend, with options like omelet stuffed with mozzarella cheese and served with smoked salmon, avocado puree and toasted brioche bread ($22) and, if you're more into lunch than brunch, roasted Argentinian ribeye beef with potato gratin and gravy ($28).
The drink: On the drinks menu, Acqua e Farina does a range of Italian alcohol like beers such as Peroni ($9) and Menabrea ($9); prosecco ($12) and six choices of liqueurs like limoncello ($9) and Amaro Lucano ($8). The mostly-Italian wines start at a surprisingly affordable $50 per bottle.
Why you'll be back: You live in Upper Bukit Timah and don't want to schlep into town for a solid Italian meal.
You could be one hour away from the biggest night of the year
We're not sure if the shirt will actually be washed before being handed over
Despite a rough start, we are still supremely proud of our cultural export