There are Italian Restaurants and there are Ristorante Italiano - and the latter tend to be more intimidating than the former, especially when confronted by a menu written entirely in Italian at the entrance to the establishment.
Adventures in Italian Cuisine for many of us don't stretch far beyond a few tried and tested spaghetti dishes and of course everyone's favourite: pizza. But that's not for want of trying; its just that most fledgling gourmets are too intimidated to even step foot in an establishment where the air is thick with the strains of violins and exclamations like "Era squisito!" and "Buon appetito!"
But fear not, in the recently opened Pietro, you'll find a welcoming, relaxed and unpretentious new hideaway in which to comfortably indulge your forays into the best of Italian cuisine.
Helmed and masterminded by local favourite and chef to the stars, Peter Neo, this 88-seater has been furnished and decorated to bring a slice of Italy close to home, and features Chef's pride and joy, a huge red traditional wood-burning oven, in which pizzas are cooked on a daily basis.
But Peter's cheerful demeanor and sheer approachability means that there is nothing to be intimidated about here... Chef often walks the tables to greet his guests - so if you're not sure about something on the menu, just ask!
Peter cooks his pasta the Italian way, i.e. 'al dente' - still firm to the bite, and he is sparing with the salt. But he is well aware that local palates may still not be ready for this, so just let him know and he'll cook it a little longer and season a little more. However, Peter is also trying to give us a culinary education, so he hopes that local taste-buds will eventually make the adjustment...
Coincidentally, when we were speaking to Peter, a customer hailing from Italy itself congratulated Chef on his 'perfectly cooked pasta'. Straight from the horse's mouth - as they say!
Chef Peter's take on Italian Cuisine is both respectfully classical, and also playfully fusion. You can go with the traditional, or join Peter on his culinary adventure, as he reinvents well know dishes using more exotic ingredients... This applied to both savoury and sweets...
Just a few of the highlights:
The Funghi Portobello ($20), each topped with crabmeat, ebiko and a succulent prawn - perfectly complimented (and not overpowered by) a rich Gorgonzola sauce.
Chef Peter's self-styled Pizza Pietro ($26), a light and crispy pizza base featuring Chef’s own homemade spicy pork sausage. (Could have easily pigged out on a plate of those divine sausages just by themselves!)
Chef Peter’s signature Roasted Pork Belly; Pancetta Arrosto ($26). Served with porcini, kidney beans and apple sauce, the pork is first steamed and then roasted - thus creating moist and succulent meat combined with a lip-smacking, super-crispy skin.
Desserts too, have also undergone the Pietro-treatment.
Too many to mention here, but another very interesting diversion from the 'norm' was Peter's Tortino alla Frutta ($14.80), a zesty, Passion Fruit-laden variation of the classical Chocolate Lava with Rum, Tortino di Lava con Rum ($15). Both indulgently sweet taste sensations!
The Poached Pear Ma Buoni with Orange Sauce ($15.50) was refreshing, tangy and light - a perfect way to end dinner...
And so, with Chef Peter Neo's warm and inviting personality, and a menu that promises (and indeed delivers), hearty, fuss-free and flavorsome food, there's really no excuse to not start exploring the world of Italian Cuisine...
And of course, never again be afraid to say, "Buon appetito!"
Pietro Ristorante Italiano
12 Jalan Kelulut
Tel: 6484 5528
11.30am – 2.30pm (Lunch);
6pm – 11pm (Dinner)