Unlike many others of its kind, you won’t find a grizzled restaurateur or celebrated fourth-generation chef in charge at this Italian eatery, nor a self-indulgent backstory about how nonna’s treasured family recipes came into the hands of the chef as a young boy. Cicheti confidently sidesteps the clichés of the genre, and it’s nothing short of tell-all-your-friends terrific.

The two-story space is small but well-put-together, with sexy little wooden chairs, a riveting wood-fire oven and an urbane crowd. The style doesn’t come without substance either. From the beautifully balanced starters and salads alone, it’s clear that they have a fine understanding of the ingredients’ flavors and textures.

Do yourself a favor and order the prawns in smoked butter sauce ($13) before they run out, plus fresh bread ($3) to dunk in the grease. The combination is rich yet complex, in part thanks to the incredible crust on the bread, which is all rocky and mineral-tasting and makes you think of sun-drenched Mediterranean sea cliffs. Pizzas, of course, are similarly good; the bacon- and egg-laden Bismark ($23) is a crowd favorite, and the anchovy-studded, cheese-free napoletana ($17) a sleeper hit. And whether you’re a meat lover or not, the 120-day grain-fed beef ($37), cooked rare, is a must-order. It’s some of the most flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth meat we’ve ever tasted.

For dessert, it’s worth going off the beaten track: we love the stoneground polenta and almond cake ($12.5) and, we hear raves about their elusive, off-menu strawberry shortcake. One nitpick is that the small wine list (from $12/glass) isn’t all that exciting. Some of the reds also come chilled, so be sure to ask first. But it’s really hard to complain, especially when you get the check—who else could deliver such a satisfying dinner at these prices?

Mamma mia! Is your favorite Italian restaurant on our list of Singapore’s best?