At the posh yet homely Guccio Ristorante, quality ingredients and hearty Southern Italian cooking shine.
We last saw chef Marcio Guccio about a year ago at his previous restaurant, Zafferano Italian Restaurant and Lounge, where he served up seasonal dish after dish in earnest. In a chefs-under-35 interview we did with him shortly after, he expressed a wish to start his own place. And now he has done it. It may be our imagination, but the chef Guccio we see today is more at home, and it shows in his restaurant decor and cooking.
“It’s completely Italian,” he says proudly, of the 40-seater set-up he has got going here. From the simple royal blue awning by the entrance with the restaurant’s name classically engraved to the Italian materials used for the floors, furniture and tableware, each element has been carefully considered. It goes without saying, so too the authenticity of the cooking served up here. Raised in the southern regions of Sicily and Calabria where his grandmother lived, his cuisine is influenced by the Mediterranean and seafood-centric cooking of the region, and nonna’s advice to “respect nature; cook with patience.”
As a result, says chef Guccio, he aspires to elegance. “I really respect ingredients and am passionate about the seasons and their colours. I don’t like to mix too many ingredients together, nor do I think just adding expensive ingredients makes a dish better. No. I truly believe Italian cuisine is about how you well you combine ingredients and harmoniously match what’s the plate. Keep it simple and elegant. We care a lot about that.”
We see these disciplined, harmonious pairings in the signature dishes he has here, some carried over from his days at Zafferano, such as his antipasti of raw Sicilian red prawns from Mazara ($32), here paired with a green pea coulis and ricotta cheese; poached and pan-seared Sardinian octopus, seasonal vegetables, ‘salmoriglio’ dressing ($40); and 48-hour sous vide US prime beef short ribs, parsnip puree, sauteed vegetables, veal jus ($44).
But he has introduced some lesser-known items on the menu as well, such as Mediterranean monkfish, sautéed baby artichokes, purple cauliflower cream ($44). He says he likes this meaty fish because it is representative of Italy, as the Mediterranean Sea has “the best monkfish in the world”. He adds, “You have to be really careful when you cook it, but its meat is white, juicy, sweet and really melts in your mouth.” He says he nearly removed this item from the menu, due to its relative unfamiliarity to diners here, but he stuck to his guns as he wanted to introduce new Italian dishes to the Singapore market.
Through seasonal tasting menus (starting from four courses at $98) that will change at least four times a year, he hopes to serve up creative dishes using the freshest ingredients of the season. For his current summer menu for instance, he has included a tortelli stuffed with braised pigeon, celery root puree, seared wild pigeon breast and vanilla essence, which, like the monkfish, requires an enormous amount of finesse and technique. “Even though it’s a small piece of meat,” says chef Guccio, “it’s very difficult to cook. Cook it too little and it will be too raw; cook it too much and it becomes like a chicken breast. Here we have the doneness completely pink due to the technique we use in the kitchen—sous vide and pan sear.” He has some ideas swirling around for his Autumn offerings, but he will wait to see what ingredients he has before he commits to the menu. This is how nonna did it as well, working with the best of what she had on hand.
Another reminder nonna gave him was not to lose his skills as a chef once he got involved in the business side of things. The way he’s keeping himself busy in the kitchen suggests he is doing just that. Nonna would be proud.
20 Gemmill Lane. Tel: 6224 1684