Located just down the road from Cicada, Pietrasanta was doing roaring business on the night we went to Cicada, and while it looked a bit poseur, I did want to check it out to see what the fuss was all about. We decided to try it at lunch today, figuring that it may be less chi-chi during the day. That may be the case, but it was no less packed and we had to settle for a table outdoors. (Hot! Flies!)
This place is opened by the same couple that brought you La Pizzaiola. They’ve since closed that down, to concentrate on Pietrasanta. Pietrasanta is actually the name of the town in Tuscany where owner/chef Loris Massimini is from, so naturally the food here is decidedly Tuscan. Because of that, some of the menu items, particularly the pastas, aren’t the usual predictable ones that you’d see in most Italian restaurants.
Similar to Valentino and Pasta Brava, the food here is rustic rather than fancily-plated, which suits us just fine. While we tried to review this place on its own merits, it was inevitable that we made some comparisons to both.
Like Valentino, this place does specials too, so remember to ask about them. We overheard the waitress telling another table the list of specials, but when she came to take our order she didn't offer the information to us. Maybe she forgot, maybe she thought we wouldn't know any better/weren’t worthy… Anyway, after being asked she gave us the whole list, not leaving anything out (I was listening hard to make sure), so I won't dwell on this.
One of the specials was a Tomino cheese wrapped with parma ham, just like they do at Valentino. I can’t conclude which tastes better, although I will say that the Valentino one is more refined – the cheese here is a lot more oozy, making for slightly shoddier presentation, and the parma ham was a lot more salty. Overall this wasn’t disappointing.
We also shared an antipasto platter. The grilled vegetables were pretty good, particularly the zucchini. The cold cuts, even the parma ham, were uneventful, as was the bread topped with liver pate. But one thing worth mentioning is that they had slices of lardo! I’ve only ever seen this on TV – slices of pure fat. Even for a fat lover like me, this was quite intense.
The pizzas here are fairly standard, and nothing in the main menu jumped out at me either; they seemed a bit heavy for lunch. The pastas seem to reflect the restaurant’s Tuscan roots the best. I had the penne with pork ribs, which at $16.90 was very reasonable for a huge portion and very meaty pork ribs. I enjoyed this – the meat was tender, and the pasta sauce was just tomato-ey enough, with lots of fresh herbs tossed in.
A had something similar to stracci – home-made spinach pasta sheets with a white wine meat sauce. This must be Tuscan, cos I’ve never seen a pairing like this before. I know it doesn't look the most appetising, but it actually tasted pretty good. The meat was like corned beef, and overall it was still quite light and not stodgy. I can’t help but feel that the stracci at Pasta Brava was silkier and had better texture, though.
We wanted to see what they could do with desserts, so we shared the shortcrust tart with custard cream and rice – another Tuscan specialty, apparently. I think this pushed me over the edge; I was so full after this it’s not funny. At first I didn't take to this because I couldn't quite figure out what it was supposed to taste like. But after I tried it on its own, without the chocolate sauce, I liked it a whole lot better. It’s quite interesting – the rice is mixed into the custard but rather than feeling like you’re eating rice, it just adds some texture and bite to the custard. Eating it without the chocolate sauce also ensures that the clean taste of the vanilla custard really comes through.
I won’t say I was completely blown away, but I wasn’t disappointed with anything. Service was a bit frazzled but very polite, and food arrived quite promptly too. I’ll definitely be back.
After hearing so many negative things about this place, I fully expected it to suck. Thankfully, the food and service both turned out to be pretty good. I still prefer Cicada but this place is an okay alternative.
5B Portsdown Road
#01-03 Wessex Estate
Lunch: 12noon - 2.30pm
Dinner: 6.00pm - 10.30pm
(Closed on Tue)