Chef Osvaldo Forlino, formerly from Forlino restaurant at One Fullerton, has finally struck out on his own. He left Forlino earlier this year, saying he preferred to run a rustic family eatery compared to the fancy fine dining restaurant that Forlino had somehow become. When I found out he was opening his own place, I couldn’t wait to try it, because when we went to Forlino back when he was still there, I remember thinking that the cooking was rather incongruous with the fancy decor and service.
Having been to Osvaldo’s twice now, I’m extremely confused. My first time was a few weeks ago, for a corporate dinner, and it was one of the best Italian meals I’d had in recent memory. Instead of ordering off the menu (quite a challenge for a party of 20), Chef brought out a selection of antipastis and pastas for us to share, followed by seabass and a huge Florentine steak for our main, and finally chocolate mousse for dessert. One of our party was vegetarian, and we were suitably impressed that Chef himself came out personally to serve her portion, explaining in detail what he had prepared for her.
For me, the highlight of that meal was the porcini mushroom and sausage risotto – an oozy, gloopy mound of perfectly cooked rice in a rich fragrant sauce. I was so impressed with it, and indeed the rest of the meal, that I wanted to bring A here to try it for himself.
Having failed to snag a reservation on Friday night (we tried calling at 6.30, to be told that they were fully booked till 9.30), we came here on Monday night and were surprised to find that it was also almost full.
I have to say that if tonight had been my first experience, I would have written it off without a second thought. It’s only because of the huge disparity between my first and second visits that I’m confused enough to want to give them one more chance.
The risotto that I was so looking forward to was a pale shadow of the one I had before. Instead of being oozy and almost creamy from the starch in the rice, tonight’s had distinct rice grains in a watery sauce – almost like mui fun. And this was after I sent it back, because when it first arrived the rice was undercooked. Clearly it was done in a hurry, without the constant stirring that’s required to create a truly good risotto.
A ordered the spinach and ricotta ravioli in a butter, sage and parmesan sauce. This was good but nothing special, but I wonder whether it’s because it may not have been the smartest thing to order.
One of my complaints, which I’ll elaborate in a minute, is the service. Asking 2 different waitstaff about the specials yielded different responses. The first time, we were told only about the vongole, and a tomino cheese wrapped in parma ham. The second time, we were also told that there was one more serving of a roast suckling pig. The cheese and ham was alright, but again nothing special since we’ve had similar (and possibly better) versions at Valentino and Pietrasantra.
The suckling pig was a letdown. Yes, the crackling was thin and crispy, but we were given 3 tiny portions from the rib section, with little to no meat at all. It was garnished with grilled eggplant and zucchini, all of which were underseasoned and seemed a bit perfunctory. The biggest shock was finding out, at the end of the meal, that the rather sad serving of pig was $45 – quite a rip-off, if you ask me.
I do think that Chef Osvaldo means well, and his intentions are to establish a welcoming, family-style restaurant. Unfortunately, if that mindset isn’t conveyed to the front of house, he may be in danger of recreating the same ambience from Forlino that he precisely wanted to avoid.
I got the impression that we were dismissed by the waiters as cheap non-drinkers who were out for a pasta and didn’t know any better. I saw an adjacent table being served a platter of parma ham and twisted mozzarella and if there’s one thing that upsets me, it’s when (a) I’m not immediately told of the specials and I have to ask, and (b) when I do ask, I’m not informed of the whole picture.
The waiters need to be more informed as well. We were deciding on a cheese, and our waitress recommended the Gorgonzola, saying it was a “nice soft cheese that’s the basis of a tiramisu”. ???!!! Blue cheese tiramisu? Oh dear...
Well, there you have it. Sorry for the rant but I needed to get it off my chest. I think we’ll give them one more chance, but my initial fears that this place would give Valentino a run for his money are completely unfounded.
What a letdown...
Osvaldo Ristorante Italiano
32 Maxwell Road
#01-03 Maxwell Chambers
Mon-Sat: 11.30am-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm
(Closed on Sun)