As the new chef and partner at Solo Ristorante, Simone Fraternali brings a taste of northern Italy to Amoy Street
With a logo that resembles an awestruck patron gazing at a strand of pasta, Solo Ristorante sure leaves diners looking as such.
Opened in September 2018 by veteran Chef Gabriel Fratini, Solo Ristorante has seen a few changes at the top. Where there is change, however, there is opportunity. Keen to showcase the signature dishes of northern Italy — further up the Adriatic coast from the hometown of the restaurant’s founder — is Chef Simone Fraternali.
As a child, Fraternali helped his nonna (grandmother) roll out sheets of pasta in his coastal home in Gradara, Italy. He enrolled in an Italian culinary school at 14, where he graduated six years later. In 2008, he landed a chef de partie position at the three-Michelin-starred Da Vittorio, located just northeast of Milan.
From 2010 to 2013, Fraternali worked as a young chef de partie at the pasta and pastry stations of various restaurants in Italy, notably at the one-Michelin-starred restaurant La Tana Gourmet in Asiago, a stone’s throw from the Italian Alps.
Charmed by Asian cuisine after a memorable internship in China, Fraternali moved to Singapore in 2013, settling in as sous chef within the ilLido Group and eventually moving up to become executive sous chef and chef de cuisine. In 2019, a promotion to head chef saw him front the F&B operations of SO Sofitel Singapore, a luxury boutique hotel located in the heart of the CBD.
However, the prospect of his very own restaurant was too good to miss, and in March this year, the 34-year-old joined Solo Ristorante as chef and partner, where he can be found today chatting with patrons from behind the spacious open kitchen while whipping up a taste of home.
We start with three of the restaurant’s seven antipasti options: Branzino ($20), thinly sliced sea bass with light lemon emulsion, chopped shallots, pimento and chives; Wagyu Carpaccio ($30), featuring Grade 5 Australian wagyu topped with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged for 24 months; and Melanzana alla Parmigiana ($18), baked eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and spicy basil.
Among the trio of starters, the vegetarian dish emerged as a surprise favourite. Reminiscent of a light lasagna, the layers of eggplant yielded easily under a fork, but still delivered forkfuls of cheese and tomato sauce without falling apart. The starter comes littered with cherry tomato halves, fresh and taut, to round out the richness of the mozzarella and parmigiano duo.
Likewise, the restaurant boasts dual concepts for private and casual dining, and now seats 40 with safe distancing measures in place. Solo Ristorante offers an enclosed private dining room as well as a more casual area with seats along the open kitchen’s marble countertop, where diners can watch Fraternali and his fellow chefs bring each wide-rimmed plate to life.
Wood features prominently in the decor, from its ceiling beams to the dark tabletops, while bottles of Berlucchi, the famed sparkling wine of Lombardy, line the walls of the restaurant.
With his Gnocchi ($30), Fraternali departs from the tried-and-tested cheeses in favour of a more full-bodied flavour profile. By simmering Angus beef ragout for six hours with rosemary and red wine, the sauce highlights the light and airy pillows of dough, made possible by using “as little flour as possible”, says the chef.
In a similar vein, Fraternali presents the Pappardelle ($30) with slow-based pork belly ragout, herbs and Marsala wine from Sicily. Between twirls, the thin sheets of homemade pasta hold up the tomato-free white ragout sauce splendidly.
But perhaps the star of the show is the Tagliolini. At $45, it is the priciest item on the a la carte menu, beating out even the five mains on offer. Handcrafted strands of pasta are doused with a bright, sunset yellow sauce of tarragon and uni (sea urchin) paste, finished with lemon zest and topped with a decadent piece of uni, brought in from Japan.
But as with Italian custom, pasta is not a complete meal in and of itself. The three pasta dishes propel us into the next course, but not before Fraternali swings by our table, beaming at our compliments from behind his mask.
For mains, Fraternali brings out Polipo ($38), octopus braised till impossibly soft and grilled for a smoky char; served with a side of potato mash, cherry tomato salad and Taggiasche olives, named for their village of origin on the Ligurian coast on the Italian Riviera.
The Faraona ($36) offered a guinea fowl two ways, with its breast meat prepared sous vide and its leg confit in extra virgin olive oil. The hearty dish harks back to Fraternali’s Sunday roast lunches at home in Italy, now elevated with modern cooking techniques like the water bath. Caramelised banana shallots, resembling oblong onions, offer sharp respite from the moist and sinful morsels of fatty meat.
Fraternali closes the meal by showcasing his years of experience as a pastry chef back in Italy. The Tortino Al Cioccolato ($15) pits a coconut and 70% dark chocolate lava cake against an orb of toffee yuzu and orange sorbet, while the Torta Al Limone ($14) features a dainty tart with Amalfi lemon and white chocolate curd, topped with a generous dollop of strawberry and basil sorbet.
The Amalfi lemons receive their renowned pedigree from the EU. These prized fruits, which grow to double the size of typical lemons, must be harvested from the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, and only lemons from its 13 towns can bear its treasured name.
The yuzu and orange provide a refreshing counterpoint to the velvety molten chocolate, while the strawberry and basil offer an herbaceous backdrop for the Amalfi lemon to shine. Fraternali’s masterful balance of fruit and chocolate concluded the meal with a satisfying sweet spot.
The compact size of Fraternali’s a la carte menu is cleverly exploited through his lunch and dinner sets, starting from $26++ for a two-course set lunch, with addon wine at $10.
The Classics set dinner ($88++) offers four courses with a choice between a grilled octopus or beef cheek main, while the Gourmet set dinner ($128++) adds a soup course in Bisque d’Astice ($22 a la carte), featuring smoky lobster bisque flavoured with anise and orange.
For the indecisive diner, Solo Ristorante offers the Saturday brunch ($78++). Available from Oct 3, the free-flow, “family-style” brunch features seven dishes across various courses, perfect for a leisurely meal.
Certainly, the next time we return, we will not be arriving solo.
45 Amoy Street Singapore 069871
Telephone: +65 6260 0762
Email: [email protected]
Tuesday to Friday, Lunch: 12pm to 2.30pm
Saturday, Lunch: 12pm to 3pm
Tuesday to Sunday, Dinner: 6.30pm to 10pm
(Closed on Sunday lunch and all day on Monday)