Torno Subito Serves a Childhood by the Coasts of Modena in a Meal - Men's Folio
Lifestyle, Wine & Dine

Torno Subito Serves a Childhood by the Coasts of Modena in a Meal

  • By Charmaine Tan

Loving traditional cuisine doesn’t mean la dolce vita can only be achieved by living by the rules of bygone times. At Torno Subito’s first Asian flagship, award-winning and Chef’s Table-alum Chef Massimo Bottura transforms the flavours of Modena, Italy into something quite modern, quite sophisticated, yet undeniably reminiscent of idyllic family holidays by the Adriatic Riviera.

It’s always immediately clear when someone absolutely loves the fact that they ended up dedicating their whole life to food. Everything they say when they talk about food rings with the timelessness of lore, yet the sparkle in the eye that accompanies these lines on lines of proclamations is what tells you that they wholeheartedly love with a kind of passion that is almost as pure and innocent as that of a child’s, and that, is a sign of true match made in heaven.

Whether you believe in a place like heaven or not, that description right there is Massimo Bottura in a nutshell. From the very second he stood in front of the 20-seater long table to welcome all the esteemed guests to the first outpost and Asian flagship of his one-Michelin-starred Torno Subito at COMO Dempsey, you could feel the gravitas of his presence, his assistants (who both happen to be daughters of his childhood football buddies) flanked on either side accentuating his youthful, beaming charisma.

Quoting Picasso’s comment on how he took only four years to paint like Raphael but a lifetime to paint like a child, he explains that his approach to Torno Subito was akin to this endeavour. First debuted in 2019 at the W Hotel in The Palm, Dubai, the one-Michelin-starred restaurant was conceived as the casual sibling of the Modena-based and three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana. To rekindle a kind of joy that is natural in childhood, in play, he wanted to curate and gift some of his happiest memories to the rest of the world in the Italian way of spreading love and happiness: food.

“You must always remember to view food with a critical lens and not a nostalgic one, because my grandmother was a bad cook but I still loved her food because it was hers,” Chef Massimo said. And with the pop-coloured interior and mosaic-tiled oven that is meant to mimic the convivial, fiesta atmosphere of a beach-bar in his hometown Modena, its hard to keep from smiling at the space designed by award-winning Italian designer Paola Navone of OTTO Studio.

In a kitchen helmed by Executive Chef Alessio Pirozzi — who was Head Chef of Torno Subito in Dubai since 2022 — Chef Massimo would go on to paint his favourite flavours of Italy with his own expert stroke of genius; contemporary yet informed by the first-hand memories of a talented restauranteur who is born-and-bred in Italy.

Culinary team at Torno Subito Singapore

Executive Chef Alessio Pirozzi

Those privileged to attend the intimate tasting last month were fed from a menu titled CIAO Massimo!, specially curated by Chef Massimo himself (and only available when he’s in town) to highlight specialties from where he’s from — the Emilia-Romagna region. The most memorable creation was the Tortellini, which appeared on the tasting menu just as Massimo’s Surprise and the note “Massimo’s favourite pre-dessert”. Chef Massimo later came out to explain that not everyone will go the lengths to prepare this dish, but it is something anyone from his home would be more than happy to indulge in. “We believe in a saying that if you don’t believe in God, you can believe in tortellini,” Chef Massimo chirps, and the rich and creamy concoction of handmade pasta stuffed with juicy eggplant (in a 36-months aged Parmigiano Reggiano sauce) was almost divine proof of just why.

Other showstoppers include the Modena Ribs, an extra tender feature of juicy meat surrounded by flying streaks of beetroot, sweet potato and parsley sauce (apparently inspired by the Chef’s sighting of the Damien Hirst painting on a spinning canvas); “I Love Pizza”, a classic Margherita with a light and airy crust made with PETRA — a unique flour Torno Subito had to get the license to import because they are the first in Singapore to use the flour Chef Massimo swears by — and baked with the in-house oven; the infamous “Tiramisubito”, a deconstructed “lite version” of the decadent Italian tiramisu that kindly takes into account Singapore’s heat and includes the creamy mascarpone component as an ice cream. Only this time Chef Massimo decided to do the IG-worthy cracking of the chocolate biscuit topper himself — truly embodying tradition in evolution.

The list of favourites could go on, but the mark this homely sitting ultimately left was one of deep satisfaction. The kind where you’re stuffing yourself full because you know its a way to show love to those who took the time and effort to make food for you, inducing a kind of nostalgia that us Singaporean diners never had. But that’s the closest you can get to an authentic experience of Italian hospitality, and signed off by the tastemaker who is constantly keeping tradition alive by reimagining it — a sweet life this is, indeed.

To make bookings or learn more about Torno Subito, click here. Once you are done with this story, click here to catch up with our March 2024 issue.