Spotlight Series – Basilico
Quisine’s Spotlight Series takes an inside look at the food and beverage industry by speaking with the folks who know it best – restaurant owners, chefs and managers. This time around, we get the inside scoop on Basilico.
Tell us about one of the funniest experiences you had in your restaurant
About 15 years ago, I was working in a renowned 5-star hotel in London as a junior chef in their signature Italian restaurant. Out of 47 chefs, the team comprised 44 chefs from all over Italy. Eventually, we began to create our own Italian dialect and lingos. Our daily interactions were hilarious and it felt like we were all a part of a comedy show.
What made you choose this line of work? What/Who inspires you?
Food is a very important part of life in Italy and it goes beyond fulfilling the need of physical hunger. We celebrate our family ties and friendship through bonding time over the dining table. Each Italian meal is well treasured and our passion for cuisine compels us to use only fresh and authentic ingredients for even the simplest meals.
I grew up in Puglia. I remember fondly my family taking immense pride in preparing our daily meals with organically grown fruits and vegetables, fresh unfrozen seafood, and open farm raised stock. In my younger years the kitchen was always where I felt most at home.
What do you feel your restaurant adds to Singapore’s dining scene?
We believe that Basilico showcases some of the most authentic Italian food in Singapore. I fly in five variants of tomatoes and other organic seasonal vegetables from different regions in Italy twice a week. We also boast the biggest selection of Italian cheese in Asia. We have over 50 farm cheeses in our dedicated cheese room.
Basilico is helmed by three Italian chefs from different regions. This allows us to come together and introduce the diverse flavours that each of our towns has to offer. The open kitchen concept allows our chefs to engage with every guest as their dishes are prepared before their eyes. Our guests can peek in to see how each item is prepared from scratch, be it gelato, pizza or even fresh ravioli.
The antipasti buffet setup takes pride of place in the restaurant, and draws reference to an ancient Roman arena.
What has been the biggest business challenge for your restaurant?
As a gourmet paradise, the number of restaurants in Singapore has multiplied exponentially over the past decade. We are now competing against a wider-than-ever selection of international cuisine. With a well-travelled local and expat community here in Singapore, our guests are often able to discern the quality and authenticity of what is presented to them and only the best will stand the test of time.
This pushes us as a team to constantly improve and further innovate to deliver unique experiences. An example is cooking our meats pentolone – a century-old style of preparing them with smoked hay. We grill the meat and vegetables and set it in a pot with smoked hay. The pot is then sealed with dough and baked to a perfect crisp, keeping the meats juicy and succulent.
Check out some of our other spotlight series articles
Where do you see the future of dining out or the restaurant scene in general?
Guests are more aware of what they consume and what makes for healthy and hearty choices. There will always be a growing trend of sourcing organically, as well as food sourced from sustainable fishing and farming practices. At Basilico, we have options for most dietary preferences: keto, vegan, gluten-free etc.
At our takeaway outlet, Dolcetto by Basilico, we have gone entirely plastic-free. This further reinforces the trend of socially responsible practices in our culinary agenda.
Is there a dish on your menu that you’re most proud of and is there a story behind it?
My all-time favourite dish to cook is risotto, which originates from the north of Italy. This might be surprising for some as risotto is not a common dish in the south east of Italy where I lived.
Combining my love for risotto and also the abundance of fresh seafood in Puglia, I created my own version of Seafood Risotto by using the finest Piedmont Rice, cooked in a light langoustine and lobster broth which consists of fresh scallop, lobster, prawns and asparagus tips. True to Puglia cooking traditions, I add a pinch of dry fennel seed to the broth as well. This is the taste that my guests have come to recognise and love.
I have made numerous changes to my menu and created countless new dishes in my career as a chef. However, the Risotto Pugliese has always been there on my menu since its creation 13 years ago.
What are your food trend predictions for the coming years?
I believe there will be trends to exploring flavours from lesser known regions from South America such as Peruvian, Chilean and Venezuelan cuisines. Ethnic flavours from Africa continent and smaller China provinces might also be avenues for exploration and creating new flavours. There will also be the growing trend for vegan and healthful alternatives.
If you could sit down for a meal at your restaurant with any two people in the world, who would you choose and why?
A younger version of myself 10 years ago and an even younger version of myself 20 years ago. It would help me see how I have grown throughout my career and reminisce the journey of a chef throughout the blood, sweat and tears.