iO Italian Osteria: like eating at Nonna's place

Visits to iO Italian Osteria always bring a smile to my face. Warm affectionate service staff with occasional burst of passive-aggressive enthusiasm. "Eat the food when its hot, OK?" bellows Chef Anna Borrasi as she thrusts the piping hot and and saucy looking Raviolocci with beef filling into your hands. The imaginary wooden rolling pin she was holding in hers proving to be a tad menacing at this point. Not to say that there is an air of 'Italian Mafia' spirit here, but that's exactly what I'm saying..and here family matters are not to be trifled with. So put away your phones and devices and try to enjoy a good time in good company.

Under the Small bites of Italian Street food section comes the mandatory deep fried therapy of Olive all'Ascolana ($9) - salty, cream filled gems of stuffed olives. The Rice suppli with melting mozarella heart ($9), typically of Roman origin, appeases the carb-loving fans with a tight ball of risotto churned with tomato sauce and raw egg to bind, crumbed and deep fried. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Crispy Golden Seafood in Semolina Crumb ($12) , the variation offering up everything from prawns to salmon sticks and the perennial favourite, calamari, to be eaten with thick licks of creamy aioli.

The dish that really knocked it out of the ballpark for me was the Traditional Roman Schiacciata ($15) featuring Tuscany flatbread freshly toasted and a generous amount of homemade black truffle paste slathered in between; such that its earthy aromatic cream bleeds into the malty nooks and crevices. Pick it up with your fingers and eat with no reservations. Believe me, you don't want to be chided by the matronly Chef Anna for digging in with your fork and knife. 

The Porchetta ($14) is what dreams are made of. I've lauded its perfectly crisp crackling before and I'll do so again. Another dish that threads in the same fine league is this devilish Spicy Roasted Chicken alla Diavola ($22) -think thick plump cuts of poultry runneth over with juices mixed in with spicy chili oils as you slice through the thigh. The only time we truly appreciate "thunder thighs".

Pasta dishes at iO Italian meanders on being just a little too tough sometimes. The Orecchiette with pork sausage and saffron sauce ($18) is nothing quite like I've ever tasted before but its oh so tasty. Pasta may border on being just a little bit too al-dente for some but apparently that the way Italians eat it. The same goes for the Homemade Raviolacci with beef filling in marsala sauce ($20) - a overly thick hide of pasta engulfs a generous mound of seasoned beef mixture. The pretty blue plate of haphazardly ladled brown marsala sauce over large crimped ravioli packages, certainly a sight for sore eyes.

I would steer clear of the pizzas if I were you, it's thick base and chewy base clambering for bit of a wrestle session. Instead, concentrate on the seafood. Over here at iO Italian Osteria, they do it fresh and they do it well. The Mixed Grilled Fish and seafood platter is finished in herbs, the genial smile that spreads through your face as you slice through the perfectly seared squid, will and surely happen.

As for desserts, you can expect a plethora of divine delicacies which Chef Anna is known for; Tiramisu, panna cotta and other more traditional Italian desserts. The Traditional Italian Trifle with raspberry amaretto soaked sponge, chocolate mousse and coated with a flame torched meringue looked like it came out of a 1980s cook book. While that did transcend a bit of the convivial vibes of the place, what the mains had in finesse, the desserts lacked. Portion sizes are ridiculously large and almost impossible to ingest if you're a party of two. The dessert above, comprises thick layers of less than flaky caramelized puff pastry encasing a slightly firm ganache-esque filling with whole roasted hazelnuts. Honestly, just a tad hard to navigate. However, it was the Vanilla Creme Bombolone which took the cake. Spilling forth some frickin' delicious secrets, the fluffy innards holding creamy vanilla flecked secrets within. 

iO Italian Osteria is a place that you should definitely visit even if you're not residing in the Upper Bukit Timah region. It's festive ambiance and authentic Italian fare will guarantee your next visit.

iO Italian Osteria
4 Hillview Rise
t: 6710 7150

Operating hours: 
Daily: 10am - 10pm

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