When the Owner and Head Chef of Etna informed me that they were planning to open up a new restaurant in late 2014 in Bukit Timah, I couldn’t contain my excitement. For years, Etna has been one of my favourite (if not THE favourite) Italian dining spot in Singapore. The food is excellent, the service is impeccable, and the price is fair. And now co-owners Gianluca Impemba and Anna Borrasi has completed works and opened their new outlet for business.

Presenting: iO Italian Osteria.

Located far from the city centre in the new F&B/lifestyle mall Hillv2 I was anxious about visiting as I’m not usually a fan of mall restaurants. Yet, I had to admit, Hillv2, on Hillview Rise exudes none of the usual ‘mall’ characteristics and instead presents itself with more of a Quayside Isle meets Star Vista feel, open-aired, modern, eco-green, and filled with top venues. One of these venues is of course iO.

Walking inside iO, you just have to admire the venue itself. The words modern and industrial come to mind, but with a classic and tasteful charm. Greeting you at the entrance is a view of the kitchen and a tantalising aroma wafting from the pizza ovens. Also on display is their fresh baked (takeaway) bread as well as the 3-4 Italian Chefs cooking up a storm in the centrepiece that is their open kitchen.

review iO Italian Osteria

I already knew this was going to be good, but what struck me was the uniqueness of the menu in comparison to other Italian restaurants around Singapore. Instead being dominated by the standard pizza and pasta that most Italian restaurant offer, iO’s menu concentrates on what Chef Anna calls ‘Italian street food’ or Gli Stuzzichini on the menu…Italian Tapas if you will. A concept that is stands alone in the Singapore Italian dining scene.

Arancini and stuffed olives - review iO Italian Osteria

As the dishes started to arrive, I could see what she was talking about, the Rice suppli’ stufffed mozzarella ($9) were a fantastic start. Perfect crunch on the outside with warm, gooey cheese within. A similar texture applied to the Olive all’Ascolana ($9) – stuffed fried olives. Salty, delicious gems.

Seafood - review iO Italian Osteria

On a more familiar note, the Crispy Golden Seafood in Semolina Crumb ($9). First of all, for $9, this dish is an incredible bargain. But not just cheap, the quality and perfection with which it is cooked is completely worthy of praise. Tender morsels of seafood with a light and crisp semolina batter, made for the dipping sauce.

Fore more familiar classics, you cannot go wrong with their mouthwatering burrata, parma ham and rucola ($19) or their selection of delicious pizzas.

Pizza - review iO Italian Osteria

On the pasta front, whilst iO supplies a healthy variety of standard pastas, it’s their specials which are really worth diving into. One such is their Garganelli, braised with lamb ragout ($18). This of this as an alternative to fusili with bolognese. Simple, homely and very, very tasty.

Pasta - review iO Italian Osteria

As for dessert, you can expect a plethora of divine delicacies which Chef Anna is known for; Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, Sicilian Cannoli and more. However it was the creme caramel stuff Bignè (Italian profiteroles) which ended this gastronomic journey. And what a way to finish. Fluffy, creamy and utterly delicious.

bignè - review iO Italian Osteria

Aside from the restaurant, iO offers a very healthy selection of good to take home, from the bakery itself to a superb selection of olive oils, wines… even desserts…

review iO Italian Osteria

If you live in the Upper Bukit Timah area, this is somewhere that is guaranteed to become your regular Italian from first visit. And if you’re not too close, it’s well worth the occasional visit. Interesting and innovative cuisine and at an incredible affordable price.

For updates on weekly specials, check out the Facebook page.