There has been a literal explosion of Italian restaurants in Singapore in the last two decades, which can sometimes make it difficult to choose where to dine when you’re feeling in the mood for good pasta. But if you want a place where it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll enjoy authentic Italian cuisine, then Garibaldi Italian Restaurant and Bar is the easy choice.
Located in Purvis Street, just two streets down from the famed Raffles Hotel, Garibaldi has a long list of awards to illustrate its very consistent excellence in Italian culinary art. You enter through the wine bar, which happens to boast over 6,000 bottles of wine from over 500 labels, and into the cool and contemporary dining area. It’s a quiet, elegant room that seems a world away from the hustling street outside the restaurant's windows.
Garibaldi is renowned for its classic Italian dishes, especially for the Veal Milanese and Ossobuco, but Executive Chef Roberto Galetti has recently re-designed the menu to present a more complete menu encompassing the best of traditional Italian fare. Garibaldi also has a new seasonal specials menu that varies daily according to Chef Roberto’s recommendations and the availability of the freshest ingredients and produce.
We spoke to Chef Roberto about his commitment to the finest standards in authentic Italian cuisine, and were very honoured when Chef Roberto prepared a special menu sampling the very best of Garibaldi’s many dishes.
Capelli D`Angelo Freddi Con Ostriche e Caviale Kristal
(Cold Angel`s Hair with Fresh Oyster & Kristal Caviar)
A hint of truffle oil infuses this cold pasta starter, which is sparsely seasoned with chili to complement the very fresh raw oyster to present a light appetizer that promises of things to come.
Insalata di Polpo alla Smeraldina
(Octopus Salad Sardinian Style with Fresh Tomato Onions Fine Beans & Potato)
Another delightfully light dish - the perfectly prepared octopus is presented with fresh herbs and salad, with a light dressing that complements the octopus flavour without overpowering or disguising it.
Gnocchi al Gorgonzola
(Spinach & Potato Dumplings with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce)
If there’s one simple Italian dish that is hard to get right, it’s gnocchi, yet Garibaldi‘s spinach gnocchi is justifiably famous for it is simply perfect - the gnocchi are small morsels of flavour that literally melt-in-your mouth while the gorgonzola cheese sauce, contrary to our expectations, was surprisingly light and wonderfully complements the gnocchi.
Pappardelle Toscane al Sugo di Cinghiale e Porcini
(Homemade Pappardelle with Wild Boar & Porcini Mushrooms Sauce)
A course for those seeking a little taste adventure, for unlike domestic pork, wild boar meat is a bit more firm and gamey. Yet in this dish the boar is excellently prepared so that both the distinct wild boar flavour and firmness has been moderated into something everyone can enjoy, especially with a pappardelle pasta and a great mushroom sauce.
Capesante, Cipollotti Brasati ed Emulsione al Tartufo
(Pan Seared Hokkaido Scallop with Braised Spring Onion & Truffle Emulsion)
Presented in a scallop shell and topped by fresh spring onions and black truffle slices, this is a dish lovers of seafood simply cannot miss, as the Hokkaido scallops are wonderfully fresh and seared just right to retain all their succulence.
Saltimbocca di Vitello alla Romana
(Milk Fed Veal Tenderloin Scaloppini with Parma Ham, Sage & Semolina Gratin)
This is a traditional Italian saltimbocca prepared in a Roman style and cooked to perfection. The parma ham has been lightly grilled to present a slightly crispy texture that is an interesting contrast to the tenderness of the veal scaloppini.
Banana Caramellizzata con Cioccolato e Gelato Fior di Latte
(Banana Caramelised with Chocolate Sauce & Milk Gelato)
A simple dessert that is, once again, prepared just right. The sweetness and texture of the caramelized bananas nicely balances the richness of the dark chocolate sauce, which is topped by homemade milk gelato.
Prior to our meal, Cosmone spoke to Chef Roberto Galetti on what he feels makes Italian food so popular in Singapore.
What do you think of Italian food in Singapore?
It’s very well accepted, and definitely, the understanding from customers (on what defines Italian cuisine) has improved a lot. Since the ten years I’ve arrived here, people can recognize when good quality has been given to them or not. Before that, they’d accept anything, but now they’ve gone to Italy and they know the difference.
The quality of Italian food in Singapore is very high now. A lot of very good professional chefs have arrived and new restaurants have opened. Now it’s very competitive.
So what differentiates Garibaldi from all these restaurants?
I think Garibaldi has been able over the years to maintain our standards. This is a huge difference. Many restaurants - you go once, you are happy. But when you come back later, you get disappointed and you don’t ever want to come back. I have customers who have, since day one, comes here for our Veal Milanese.
They’re still coming and they recently said to me “You’ve never disappointed me once.” Maintaining this high standard is actually one of the most difficult things, because as much as you can do training, as much as you can involve your team, if the standard is not there, it’s not there. I’m proud to say my team has managed to maintain this high standard even when I’m not around.
You make an excellent Ossobuco, which is very hard to find in Singapore.
We do our own version. We still prepare and cook it the traditional way, but instead of using the shank we use the cheek. We still put in the bone, for the bone marrow, but it’s much more tender.
What is the one signature dish that people have to try at Garibaldi?
That’s actually a tricky question, because after ten years that we’ve been in the market, there are a lot of dishes that I can’t remove from the menu because some people come for the Milanese, some for the Ossobuco, some for the Tagliatelle Challans Duck, other people for the gnocchi, other people because of the quality of the Parma ham that we’re using, so it’s difficult to say one signature dish.
I have to say that our ala carte is a very complete menu, where you’ll find everything that you’d expect by an Italian restaurant and there is where you can expect high quality on everything. Then, apart from this, I’ve just introduced a new menu that is a list of specials that is printed daily and passed to the customer.
This is so the customer can see what is the day’s specials, the explanation of the dish and price. Sometimes people get a bit offended or it gets a bit tricky for them to understand the price of a special, “You offer me this and is it really a special or do you just need to clear your fridge!” Or sometimes customers are worried about how expensive a dish is and they don’t dare to ask for the price as they’re entertaining a guest. So with this list, you can see you can order and the price is there.
And another warranty that everything is fresh is that this menu is printed daily and the date is printed there so we are not giving you the specials we created yesterday, it’s the specials we created today for today and tomorrow will be different.
You mentioned Gnocchi, that’s quite rare in Singapore, isn’t it?
Oh it’s very successful in my restaurant. Its one of the first dishes I did and then, unbelievably, I cannot remove it! I do spinach gnocchi, so it’s green in colour, and serve it with gorgonzola sauce.
Singaporeans are getting more knowledgeable with Italian ingredients. For example, a lot of us no longer buy grated Parmesan cheese in a can and we’re choosing better quality balsamic vinegar. How important is the right ingredient?
Very good olive oil is very important. Garibaldi is the first restaurant in South East Asia to have an ARMONIA Award. ARMONIA is an international olive oil association recognized by the Italian government for promoting top quality olive oil. It’s another warranty, a guarantee to our customers that we are original Italian.
With Garibaldi’s emphasis on quality and authenticity, it’s not surprising that the restaurant has remained on everyone’s shortlist for best Italian cuisine in Singapore. The dishes served and flavours presented are an Italian epicurean’s dream – not overcomplicated by heavy use of spices, sauces and ingredients, but rather made with care and attention to the nuances of traditional food preparation and flavours. Garibaldi’s prices can be considered to be high in the middle range for a restaurant in Singapore, but to us it’s more than a fair exchange for buono Italian fare.