ONCE you get past the mind-boggling arrangement of the commercial blocks making up Jaya One in Petaling Jaya, Santini beams like a homing beacon.
Chilli-red pillars beckon from the façade of the Italian restaurant located on the Palm Square level. The latest offering from the TT Resources Berhad group opened for business a few months ago.
Inside the restaurant, silvery white accents and comfy red sofas conjure an ambience different from that of its Suria KLCC outlet. With the additional attractions of the bar, private room and deejay spinning music for the dance space, Santini aims to offer a complete chilling out and dining experience.
The non-smoking enclave comes with a view of the open kitchen. Towering over the rest of his team here is TTRB Western Division corporate chef Federico Michieletto, who has been in the country for eight years.
Ready to woo diners with his culinary ingenuity and charming smile, he also loves his food.
“I know Kajang. It is the town where you can get satay, right?” he asked when we were comparing notes on where we lived over dinner.
“Santini might look like a fine dining establishment but our intention is to promote trattoria-sort food where you get quality at affordable prices while creating a niche,” he added.
Michieletto hails from Venice and has authored the cookbook Pasta From My Italy, published by Marshall Cavendish. With the Western division to care for, he has a lot on his plate but the passion reflected in his recent efforts at Santini shows a partiality for the restaurant.
In stuffing us to bursting point, Michieletto also displayed true Italian hospitality.
It began with the Antipasto Platter, a melange of many treats. The platter was laden with Salmon Carpaccio, Tomato and Mozzarella Deck, Veal Tonnato, Tomato Bruschetta, Balsamic-marinated Mushrooms, Beef Meat Polpette-style, Grilled Vegetables and Deep-fried Calamari.
It serves four to six diners and we relished every single morsel of that offering, which smacked of a master chef at work. At the back of our minds, we knew there was more to come. The other sampler was Fritto Misto, featuring deep-fried squid, prawns, zucchini and seabass with tartar sauce.
The pace slowed down with Beef Carpaccio, served with fine mustard, parmiggiano cheese and baby rucola salad, followed by Pan-fried Goose Liver with green apple and port wine.
Michieletto explained that carpaccio is named after Italian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio (1450-1525). Carpaccio features thin slices of raw beef cut from a slab of quality meat, and the test of good carpaccio is that it is done in such a way that diners savour meat as smooth as silk that just slides down the throat. Santini scored well.
The restaurant also offers a wide range of dried and homemade pasta dishes for Michieletto deftly churns out the staple diet of Italians in different forms and flavours using the pasta machine acquired by the restaurant.
Risotto of the Day came with slivers of porcini and cepes mushrooms. Michieletto was also keen for us to try uncommon pasta offerings, such as Crespelle and Taglierini.
Crespelle was a light pancake stuffed with chicken and mushrooms while the Spinach Taglierini Granchio featured flat noodles heavily flavoured with crabmeat and coloured medium-green with spinach.
The dish was served with cherry tomatoes, basil and dried chillies for a spicy edge that worked well with the crab flavour. In addition, there were parcels of Shrimp Ravioli doused with light tomato crab sauce. It allayed our fears that crab with a piquant touch might not be tempting.
No Italian meal is complete without pizza. Instead of the common pan-style pizzas, we were served Calzone, the half-moon version filled with beef bacon, grilled vegetables, mushrooms, tomatoes and mozzarella. The Calzone should be a meal by itself.
“Exquisite” best describes the Roasted Cod Fish with portobello mushrooms, gratin potato and garlic oil. Every effort was made to preserve the cod's natural taste with delicate hints of mushroom and garlic oil.
The Veal Osso Bucco with saffron risotto was saved for last. The meat was extremely tender and the added luxury of saffron endeared it to the less “carnivorous” members of our group.
Gelato, the traditional Italian ice cream, is made at Santini in titillating bacio, vanilla, sabayon and strawberry flavours. If you still have room, throw caution to the winds and be utterly decadent: surrender to the temptation of the sublime Chocolate Souffle or Cinnamon Creme Brulee.
SANTINI, D3-G-1, Palm Square, Jaya One, 72A Jalan Universiti, Petaling Jaya, Selangor (Tel: 03-7957 8866). Business Hours: Daily, noon to midnight.