You’re going to walk by Pizza Fabbrica on Bussorah Street in the Arab Quarter, one of Kampong Glam’s mystical dining stretches, and not realise that it’s a trattoria. But beneath the exposed concrete surfaces fringed with copper pipes nestles a rustic and true Italian soul: fresh ingredients, herbs grown on the rooftop, everything as handmade as possible.
Of course, knowing that Fabbrica’s executive chef, Matteo Boifava has put in some time at Heston Blumenthal’s 3-Michelin-Starred The Fat Duck, you’ll appreciate that nothing is as it seems here.
The menu is classically structured with the greatest hits of Italian cooking from north to south, but like a Da Vinci code, unexpected details and edgy ideas dapple the selection.
The lamb ragout atop the garganelli is infused with chocolate, which heartens it without detracting from the savoury stewed sauce, and is the Batman to the smoked ricotta’s Robin. The squid ink tonnarelli is cold-tossed in seafood stock with poached calamari and fresh avocado – it’s delightful, jarring and refreshing all at once, much appreciated for its boldness but not a satisfying pasta course, better suited as an adventurous appetiser.
On this menu, however, one eater’s unfulfilled anticipations are easily another’s palate playground frolics – there’s no right and wrong answer, just how the pieces of the puzzle come together for the meal.
Building that meal around Fabbrica’s beer degustation offered for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays is a clever way of experiencing a complete Italian repast – just add a pizza to the three courses of antipasto, main and dessert, and share it with an amico.
And that pizza is exactly why the restaurant calls its copper wood-fired oven its “star” – it takes centre stage in the open kitchen – and the bold claim of turning out “the tastiest pizza you can ever imagine” strikes dough gold.
It would be a dream to snuggle within this authentic pillowy Neapolitan crust and eat your way out of it. All the bubbles and char are in the right places, and with just three brilliant ingredients of pumpkin cream, broccolini and sundried tomatoes complementing the requisite fresh mozzarella and each other on the “House Special”, it’s a home-run on the scale of DiMaggio. Keep it simple, genius.
An antipasto of mixed cold cuts and cheese with beer bread (spoiler: this one’s made with Peroni, if you’re a craft beer purist) opens the beer degustation – it’s not too hard to go astray with a selection of quality cured meats and fine cheeses. The challenge lies in conveying the ambition of beer pairing, much more complex than simply differentiating between the brews’ hues and how they were incorporated into the dishes, which was the extent of our server’s introduction to this experience.
This misdirection parlayed into the Ossobuco; although sous vide’d for 18 hours with the aromatic Proper Job I.P.A., the flavours and fragrances were smothered by a parsley and garlic topping. The paired Del Borgo Reale beer overpowered the veal shank and left one wondering why the meat hadn’t been cooked with that instead.
As for dessert, the house’s signature Birramisu teeters on the sweet side and leaves the Hitachino Espresso Stout it’s made with in the shadows. This one’s definitely a matter of taste.
It all comes full circle back to that indomitable pizza; together with knock ‘em dead service that comprises complimentary free-flow sparkling water and dedicated attention (on an earlier visit, fallen silverware was replaced even before you could finish saying “ooooops!”), any blemish is forgiven and forgotten. Thirty minutes after dinner concluded, I devoured two take-home slices of pizza in the dark of a movie theatre, as good with the Coen brothers I was watching onscreen as bathed in a magical sunset on the restaurant’s pleasant sidewalk seating.
My advice: Take the pizza, leave the secondi.
Pizza Fabbrica, 69/70 Bussorah Street, Singapore 199482, (+65) 6291 0434, www.pizzafabbrica.sg