Al Borgo

If you don’t have an advance reservation, trying to get a table here at a decent time on a weekend is like hoping the IRAS will exempt you from paying your taxes—it’s plain wishful thinking. We know this because we were told we’d have to wait till nine to be seated when we called up one Saturday afternoon to make dinner reservations. Part of the reason for this is that Al Borgo is a tiny restaurant—it seats less than 50 people. The other is that the food, while nothing groundbreaking, is good in its simple, homespun way.

Our starters of gamberi amoratizate (pan fried prawns in garlic and herbs) and straccetti di carne alla modenese (pan-fried beef with balsamic vinegar and parmesan, with mixed salad) were both excellent; the former an aromatic potpourri of olives, herbs and garlic and the latter, a carnivore’s dream of a salad with its generous slices of beef and slightly sweet and tangy dressing. Continuing the homerun were the spaghetti al cartoccio (spaghetti with seafood baked in foil), a delightful ocean-fresh mélange of mussels, squid and other sea critters; and the rustic and meaty parpadelle al cinghiale (parpadelle with wild boar sauce. Having said that, if you’re the kind of person who goes for intense flavors, skip the oven-baked chicken and mushrooms, which tastes just like it sounds.

There’s not much to choose from on the dessert front, but if it’s a chocolate fix you’re after, the molten chocolate cake—which is doused in Grand Marnier and then set alight in front of you—is a good bet. Service is affable and obliging, even when it gets crazy busy. Given this, and its pleasing home-style fare, is it any wonder why reservations are in order?