More known for their Italian dishes, one-stop shop for drinks, food and bread, iO Italian Osteria is gaining popularity for their in-house bakery.
Located at HillV2 mall at Hillview Rise, iO Italian Osteria is a one-stop bakery, kitchen and bar offering casual Italian regional cuisine. After three years in business, their signature dishes such as porchetta stuffed with wild fennel, and orecchiette with pork sausage have now become favourites among diners.
The bakery offerings, which are refreshed frequently, are a different story. Even regulars may find that the extensive range of homemade breads and pizzas here contain gems waiting to be discovered. Partner/group executive chef Anna Borrasi of Sicilia Mia Group always knew that an in-house bakery would take pride of place in their osteria.
Breads are a sacred accompaniment to any Italian meal and are the most accessible way of showcasing Italy’s regional flavours. Borrasi says, “In general, Italian pane (bread) tends not to be so compact. They are also very light and easily digestible due to the Italian flour and methods used.” But ultimately, the uniqueness of each variety comes down to the region and the baker’s hand.
Savoury and Sweet
At the osteria, Borrasi and two other Italian bakers make about five or six types of breads at any one time, with several more on rotation. One regular item is Roman schiacciata, a variant of focaccia also known as pizza bianca. Says Borrasi, “The Roman schiacciata is unique because it has a crispy crust on the outside and a light and chewy texture on the inside.” There are three varieties to choose from: plain (from $7 per slice), wholegrain or spicy (both from $9 per slice). All three can be enjoyed as stuffed schiacciatas.
The Mascarpone cheese and black truffle option has proved the most popular choice so far. Another regular offering is pane alle olive ($8 per loaf), or olive bread from the Puglia region. Borrasi makes hers by blending three types of olives: taggiasca from Liguria, gaeta from Lazio and cerignola from Puglia, into the flour. The result is a fragrant bread that has a mix of sweet, tart and umami flavours, and is great eaten on its own or with toppings like a bruschetta. Other regular breads at the bakery include ciabatta, whole grain bread ($8 per loaf) with or without prunes, and Grissini breadsticks ($5 per bag).
Another bread Borrasi makes in limited quantities is a traditional pane di mais or corn bread. She remembers her grandmother baking it in a wood oven back home in Lauro, Naples, and wants to bring it to customers here. “I wanted to recreate the aroma of this round, yellow, filling bread which was just so amazing,” she says. Other specialty breads that make an appearance at the bakery are pane carasau, a flatbread from Sardinia, which is similar to the Indian chapatti; casatiello from Naples ($18 by loaf), stuffed with ingredients like cheese, eggs and ham and usually eaten after Easter; and Pugliese grano arso bread made with burnt wheat flour.
Her range of sweet breads is extensive as well. Some examples include milk bread ($2), chocolate bread ($4), bambolini or Italian doughnut ($4), pane dolce ($20), a Piedmontese bread made with wild berries and marmalade. And there also the festive panettone ($15), a Milanese sweetbread sprinkled with raisins and candied fruits typically eaten during Christmas. Borrasi stressed that only natural ingredients go into her panettone which she tweaks by using different citrus fruits from Italy.
Finally, there’s a range of tempting biscotti (from $2) which includes gluten-free options such as pistachio from Sicily, amaretti from Tuscany and brutti ma buoni, literally ‘ugly but good’ cookies. Resembling craggy rocks, brutti ma buoni originates from Lombardy and Lazio and are made with egg whites and hazelnuts.
Pizzas by the Slice
iO Italian Osteria serves pizza in the Roman ‘pizza all apala’ style, typically thick-crusted, flat and oblong-shaped. It is available in small ($9), medium ($24) and large ($29), and diners can mix flavours on a single pizza base, so you can try a margherita, marinara or diavola (made up of tomato, mozzarella cheese and spicy salami) all on one platter, for instance.
*For those who plan to be in Bangkok any time soon: iO Italian Osteria will be opening an outlet there starting this month. It will be at Groove@CentralWorld, the city’s swanky new food and drink hangout in the heart of Ratchaprasong district. It is easily accessible via skywalk from the Chit Lom and Siam BTS stations.
#02-01 HillV2, 4 Hillview Rise. Tel: 6710 7150;
This was first published in Wine & Dine’s December 2017 issue – The Festive Issue, as a special feature.