[Singapore] Dinner at Da Paolo Pizza Bar, Holland Village

Da Paolo is one of the grand-daddies of Italian fine dining in Singapore. When they started back in 1989, Paolo Scarpa cooked, whilst his wife Judie Scarpa ran the front of the house. Fast forward 33 years later, and Da Paolo is now one of the most well-established brands here when it came to Italian dining, with the flagship Da Paolo Dempsey Restaurant & Bar at trendy Dempsey Hill dining precinct, besides eight casual dining Da Paolo Gastronomia bistros across the island, plus Da Paolo Pizza Bar in Holland Village. Both Paolo and Judie had retired since a decade back, and the family-owned restaurant chain is now run by their son, Andrea (Group Executive Chef); daughter, Francesca, and her husband, Guillaume Pichoir (CEO).

I was at Da Paolo Pizza Bar last Monday for dinner with a couple of old friends from Singapore Airlines. We noticed that the offerings are not all Italian per se, but also included an interesting selection of fusion/pseudo-Mediterranean dishes which appeal to Singaporeans. Da Paolo has always believed in giving their customers what they want.

  1. Crab cakes with avocado and mango salsa - Da Paolo became the latest eatery to jump on the crab-cakes-with-mango-avocado-relish bandwagon that seemed to have taken over the casual dining market in Singapore, as it has around the world in the past 2-3 years.
    Quite a substantial amount of fillers in the crabcakes. I miss lump crabmeat that seemed to be getting rarer these days here, maybe to keep the costs down.

  2. Classic tomato bruschetta

  3. Burrata and prosciutto

  4. Lobster bisque croquettes, with piquillo sauce - quite a tasty creation here, though being deep-fried, it had an overly-greasy after-taste.

  5. Tri-colore pizza - Italian tomato sauce, mozzarella, burrata, rocket leaves, basil pesto - this is where Da Paolo excels. My fave item for the evening.

  6. Tagliatelle al granchio - home-made egg pasta, crabmeat, Italian tomatoes, cream and parmesan - quite a good rendition. My dining companions waxed lyrical over the dish.

7) Tiramisu - quite an average rendition of the classic dessert. Don’t know why, but I was actually expecting a bit more from Da Paolo.
I remembered my first taste of tiramisu - it was in 1991 when Fratini’s (on Neil Road) introduced the dessert to Singaporeans: at S$16 (US$12) for a single portion, it was rather exorbitant at the time. But I was so hooked on the dessert, I’d go for Sunday lunch at Fratini’s each weekend, so that I could order the tiramisu at the end.

  1. Gorgonzola burnt Basque cheesecake, with mulled wine, Biscoff biscuit and dehydrated orange - this was truly a letdown: it was dense and dry.

It was a “good” meal, but not quite the “special night out” kind of meal I’d envisage we’d have.

I remembered a time when every trip to Da Paolo (its original branch on Club Street) felt so very special. That was back in the early-90s. Judie Scarpa was a picture of sophistication with her perfectly-coiffed hairdo, her slinky form-fitting gowns, and her immaculately manicured nails.

But fine dining went out of fashion in Singapore by the late-90s, just as it did around the world. The formal dining rooms at grand restaurants in town like Le Restaurant de France, Maxim’s de Paris, Truffles, Compass Rose and Le Duc were suddenly swept away, replaced by casual bistros and cafe-like eateries. Likewise, the old Da Paolo remade itself into what it is today. But sometimes, I do wish some things remain unchanged.

Da Paolo Pizza Bar
44 Jalan Merah Saga, Singapore 278116
Tel: +65 6479 6059
Operating hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm Mon to Fri;
11am-10.30pm Sat & Sun.


I always order tiramisu if I’m in an Italian restaurant that’s new to me (in the same way as I always order seekh kebab in a new South Asian place). My long standing “best ever” is actually a place near home - rich and indulgent, with a kick from both booze and coffee. And the runner-up is a restaurant in Burlington, Vermont.

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Oh yes, you’ll have to have that alcohol kick - else, it’s not a proper tiramisu.

I remembered being in New York sometime in Dec 1992, and asked my Singapore Airlines colleagues (New Yorkers) where I can find the best tiramisu. They went, “Huh? What’s that?” I was taken aback by their reaction at the time.

Then, when I watched “Sleepless in Seattle” in 1993, there was a scene between Tom Hanks’s character, Sam, and Rob Reiner’s Jay, where they discussed tiramisu:

“𝘛𝘪𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘶,” 𝘑𝘢𝘺 𝘴𝘢𝘺𝘴, 𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘮𝘭𝘺.

“𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘪𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘶?” 𝘚𝘢𝘮 𝘢𝘴𝘬𝘴.

“𝘠𝘰𝘶’𝘭𝘭 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘶𝘵.”

“𝘞𝘦𝘭𝘭, 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘵?”

“𝘠𝘰𝘶’𝘭𝘭 𝘴𝘦𝘦!”

“𝘚𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘴 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐’𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘴!”

“𝘠𝘰𝘶’𝘭𝘭 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘪𝘵.”

I thought that maybe, just maybe, “Sleepless in Seattle” might have accelerated the introduction of tiramisu as the de rigeur dessert in Italian restaurants to a whole generation of Americans back then.


On the topic of Singapore and Italian food.

I remember in I think 2014 going to a week long conference at the Marina Bay Sands and telling a local conference attendee that I usually refrain from eating Italian food outside of Italy, because the quality is so much lower.

He then assured me there is good Italian food in Singapore, with ingredients being flown in daily, and he offered me to join him to that restaurant. So we went…

And, it was actually really good! :innocent: :rofl:

I don’t remember the name, but I remember driving past a sports club of Temasek, and it was a smallish restaurant, maybe 12-15 tables inside, and then a veranda I think outside. Lots of brown wood in the interior.

Might be one of these restaurants from the chain?


By the way, that was the most incredible conference ever! Every night free drinks on the rooftop… :innocent:

And I enjoyed what was maybe my most memorable dinner ever: they hired the entire Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Mariny Bay Sands mall, and with a group of maybe 40 people we feasted on the most outrageous display of food I have ever seen. Piles and piles of lobster and steak, and free champagne and whiskey. The whole shebang.


I recall having a delicious meal at Mozza in Marina Bay. It felt a bit surreal to be eating pizza in such a food capitol, but B appreciated the break from Asian food after a long trip.

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I can’t be 100% sure since there are a few Italian-owned restaurants in that neighbourhood, but I think you’d probably dined at Ristorante Da Valentino, by Chef Valentino Valtulina. Can you recognize if it’s the restaurant you were at from this video?

Valentino Valtulina first came to Singapore when he was hired to helm one of the poshest new Italian spots in town - Forlino @ One Fullerton. He quit after a few years and opened his own namesake restaurant, Ristorante Da Valentino, and even managed to persuade his entire family to move to Singapore from their hometown, Meda, near Milan.

His sister, Perla, was an extraordinary patisserie chef, whose baked goods, breads and desserts contributed to the restaurant’s offerings.

Back in 2005 thereabouts, when I was working for DHL and we have this work-from-home scheme for some of us, I used to lunch quite often at Ristorante Da Valentino, which was 10 minutes’ drive from my home. It was a really homely place - Gianpiero, Chef Valentino’s Papa helped serve at the front of the house. The food there was truly extraordinary at lunch and, for some strange reason, actually tasted better than what we get at dinner-time when Chef Valentino was around.
Each and every time - every dish I’d had was somehow done better at lunch-time.

Later, I was really amused to find out the reason: Chef Valentino’s octogenarian mother, Alma, was the one who cooked at lunch-time!
So, it’s true - you can’t beat your Mama’s cooking! :joy:


I liked Mozza, and usually brings visitors to Singapore there.

This list here contained some of my fave Italian spots in Singapore:

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Wow, that sounded simply amazing!

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So true!

Not completely sure if that was the restaurant… I guess I need to come visit and see for myself!

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If you had known my mum, you wouldnt be saying that. :slight_smile:


:joy: Oh no!