I’m back with another banal article, and boy am I excited for this one!
To my friends, I must sound like a broken record player. But it’s a preference that I will live and die by — and it’s the fact that I only order Aglio Olio whenever I’m at any Italian restaurant or place that serves it. Like, ever. Carbonara? Nope. Risotto? Nope. Spaghetti? Nope. I only want the generic, spicy pasta drizzled in oily and garlicky sauce. Only that. Yep. Nothing else will satisfy me until I leave the restaurant with some of that delicious pasta in my stomach.
I’ve therefore taken it upon myself to discover what the best Aglio Olios are. Mind you, I’ve already racked up a list over the years — so much so that some of these establishments have already been bankrupted and struck off the list. What I’ll mention, then, are some of the Aglio Olio I’ve tried. I can’t kid you and say that I have exquisite taste; I can only claim to share what are some of the generic and non-generic Aglio Olios that I’ve sampled around Singapore. Personally, I prefer savoury and plain Aglio Olios.
On Campus Aglio Olios
What better place to start than our very own homeground? I’ve tried three different Aglio Olio meals on campus: The Pasta Express @ the Deck, the bacon version of its kind @ the Tea Party, and the Pasta stall at Fine Foods. Truly, truly, my verdict is that I have absolutely no taste buds and that they all taste good to me. I can, nonetheless, give a brief run-down of my experiences.
- The Tea Party — Frankly speaking, my favourite option in NUS. Not only does it come with a lemon tea drink, it also has a generous portion of pasta-to-meat ratio. Unfortunately, it does not come with the necessary dietary fibre for my diet. That’s perhaps why it’s so good, though. Price point: $.
- Pasta Express — Has the garlick-iest Aglio Olio I’ve eaten. It really cranks up the notch on its savoury oil and spice. Previously, the pasta used to be excessively salty. Now, the salt is more mellow. It’s still drizzled in oil, though. 10/10 garlic. Price point: $$.
- Fine Foods’ Pasta (at the back) — Also pretty garlicky, if I do say so myself. The default order for this actually comes with some vegetables, so I feel less guilty about eating it. The plating and appearance of the pasta looks inviting and pretty. Price point: $$.
Let me know what other Aglio Olios I should try on-campus!
Cafe Aglio Olios
Moving onto the second tier: Cafe Aglio Olios. Keeping in mind that student subsidies are now off the table, the base threshold for a price point ($) is much higher, perhaps at around $11 minimum. I also had to boot a few off because they’ve permanently closed.
- Craftsmen Specialty — You either like it or you don’t. At this cafe, the aglio olio is drizzled in oil, tomatoes, and garnish. One time I went and it had bell peppers. The other time, it was just prawn. Either way, it’s just Aglio Olio 2.0 (with a lot on the side). Not necessarily bad, but too complicated for me. The seasoning is also uneven, and taste appears on an off-chance rather than consistently. Price point: $.
- Eleven Strands — The name is eponymously known for only serving 11 strands of pasta at their cafe. Just kidding. That’s reserved for the Terrace canteen. Here, the portions are decent; in fact, the Aglio Olio has a kick to it, and to me, this is what the ideal Aglio Olio should be. The pasta is generously laden with oil, and is a garlick-y treat that’s hard to beat. Last I went, they included sundried cherry tomatoes as well, which balances out the flavour and prevents you from getting ‘jelak’ (sick of how rich the food is). Price point: $$
- The Knockhouse Cafe — I write to you live from the cafe itself, where I actually drove down just to try out the Wild Mushroom Aglio Olio. Since this isn’t the conventional Aglio Olio, I won’t fault it for not tasting too much like Aglio Olio. Unfortunately, I am still left in crippling dismay, especially since I spent $18 on, essentially, something I could cook at home. It has a bit of spice, but that fades away after a while. The flavour is pure mushroom. I can’t taste anything else. This might be up your alley, but it simply isn’t for me. Price point: $$
Restaurant and Bistro Aglio Olios
The price point for these Aglio Olios are also earmarked against the standard prices found at restaurants.
- Saizeriya — Ah, how can I not address this one? Though I’m not exactly proud to say this, I call myself a Saizeriya lover. Just…not so much of their Aglio Olio. What can I say, except that it fails to put the Aglio with the Olio? The dish is too dry, the spaghetti is too much, the garlic sparse — there’s too many things to mark down about this one. (That’s why I only order Black Pepper Chicken Pasta while I’m there.) Price point: I can’t put a price tag to this, because, c’mon, it’s like $4.90. You pay for what you get.
- Poulet — I recently went to eat this again and they changed it to Angel Hair. Perhaps my memory is failing me, but to the best of my recollection, I remember Poulet’s original dish as spaghetti. Nonetheless, by changing to Angel Hair, this outlet delivers on the most authentic Aglio Olio. The oil and garlic is really well-balanced with the generous amounts of chicken and bacon, and this makes for an affordable option for folks like you and me (cough, students). Not that it’s relevant, but I also recommend the mashed potato at this outlet. Price point: $
- Wine Connection — Good, but also mid. I’m not too sure myself, but the food here gets kind of sickening after a while — even the Aglio Olio — which is strange, because the point of the dish is to whet your appetite and keep it going. Also, funny story. One time, I was at this restaurant, and the new waitress was nervous and spilled the entire jug of iced water on me on my birthday. I didn’t give two hoots and continued eating my Aglio Olio. It was a soggy experience. Price point: $.
- iO Italian Osteria — One of the best pastas I’ve eaten, while simultaneously being in the most desolate place ever (Hillv2? Who even goes there?). This restaurant certainly delivers on some of the most authentic Italian food — but disappointingly, the Aglio Olio looks like any other Aglio Olios I’ve had. It certainly tastes good, but I’d pitch it at the same level as the Tea Party, whilst being 2-3 times more expensive. The portioning is alright, but I do eat a lot. Price point: $$.
- Privé — The Aglio Olio here costs a whopping $25. Once more, I drove down to try it out for this article, and it’s really good! (Or at least the Tiong Bahru outlet delivers on what it promises.) Privé truly spares no expense on the portion, and there’s a lavish amount of spaghetti, topped with juicy braised pork (yes, the Chinese one), chicken, and thinly sliced sundried tomatoes. But it does cost $25, so I left the restaurant feeling both fuller and emptier than when I first stepped in. Price point: $$$.
I continue my Aglio Olio journey
Among the list, my favourite ones are a matter of how much joy it sparks, with respect to the value-for-money ratio. To conclude, it would be…drumroll please…Pasta Express, Poulet, and Privé!
Still, I hold out on a prayer that I might stumble onto a life-changing Aglio Olio; one that opens the doors to Aglio Olio Heaven. But for now, I shall continue trekking along on my Aglio Olio journey, and continue rating the wild Aglios that I encounter.