A perennial hit since its opening (expect a wait), one-MICHELIN-Starred Osteria Mozza by Nancy Silverton in Los Angeles — according to our MICHELIN Guide inspectors — is a decade-old darling that continues to please with creative cocktails and Italian cuisine. The décor veers from typical osteria-style, thanks to handsome dark-wood paneling and a white marble counter. The vibe is lively, but nab a seat at the Mozza bar for a prime view of the antipasti preparation.
Lucky for Singapore, the Lion City's post of Osteria Mozza has reopened last 31 May. Once located at Marina Bay Sands, the acclaimed Italian restaurant can now be found at Hilton Singapore Orchard, equipped with its very own Mozza bar for diners to marvel at chefs preparing various antipasti, one of the most popular signatures of which is Nancy’s Caesar.
What's the secret to the perfect Caesar Salad?
The perfect Caesar salad to me is made with flawless lettuce that's dressed perfectly in a vinaigrette that complements the lettuce. For instance, I would never make a Caesar salad with fragile garden lettuce or arugula because it would just overpower the Caesar salad's components.
The salad dressing is also very important. The seasoning, the anchovies, the quality of the anchovies, the quality of the Parmigiano — all that matters.
How does it feel to have Osteria Mozza back in Singapore?
I'm thrilled to be back, and it's taken a few years to come back. But luckily, I had the opportunity to partner up with the Hilton. They wanted to bring an Italian concept to their new Orchard location, and they chose Osteria Mozza to be the brand that filled that niche. So, here I am!
How is this Osteria Mozza Singapore different from its previous iteration?
Since it's only Osteria Mozza now (previously there was a Pizzeria Mozza in Singapore, too), this means that the food we're offering here is going to be more of a complete meal. We're going to have antipasti, pasta, main courses, and dessert. There won't be pizza at night, but there will be pizza available only for lunch. Other than that, it's still an Italian restaurant at its core — it's still my food. It still is going to be reflective of the food that we serve in Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles.
I wanted to make sure that our customers, who have waited long for our reopening, get to see some of the new dishes that we've been working on in Los Angeles that I wanted to bring here. When they come back to Osteria Mozza Singapore, they're going to enjoy some new dishes, along with some of the old favourites. And I believe that's a great way to reopen. There is a little bit of the old, and a lot of the new. But it's still an Italian restaurant — it's still our food, our aesthetics, our sensibility. I want our diners to leave with the feeling of wanting to come back.
What do you love about Singapore?
I got to say, Singapore breeds really strong, dedicated, hardworking people, and that's such a pleasure! I love the food scene in Singapore. It's always been so vibrant from the many types of food — both from local restaurants, to the family-run restaurants, to the more varied higher-end spots. You get the whole range here. I find that what's available here is like nowhere else I've been in the world, and the enthusiasm that you get from the locals — they are food obsessed, which works great for our industry.
“I always say to my staff that it's just as easy to make something good as it is to make something bad. There is no dish, no matter how simple, that can be used as an excuse to be poorly executed.”
What makes Nancy's Caesar so special?
Well first of all, the Nancy's Caesar has a little salad on one side of the plate, and the vinaigrette of that is a garlic-parmesan dressing. The whole Caesar component is on the other side, in the form of a large crostini that we slather with a garlic aioli.
And then, we layer that with some braised leeks. We slice some hard-cooked egg and place large anchovies on top.
What's the best way to enjoy Nancy's Caesar?
A wonderful way to enjoy is is to pick up that crostini, and take bites of it. Then, take some leaves of lettuce and eat with the other hand. It's a perfect dish for me.
“I just love using my hands to eat; there's something so pleasurable about it.”
Tell us about your thoughts on being a woman in this industry dominated by men?
Cooking in California, which is where I'm from, is very different and has always been different from the rest of the country and the world. I have always had a lot of female mentors, and I never felt like I had to be anything other than a passionate cook and a mentor. I believe that as long as you're good, as long as you're passionate, and as long as you are hardworking; no matter who you are, that should be enough.
In the different roles you play in life, which one do you identify the most with and why?
I identify the most with being a mentor, and that's the position that I believe I've grown into over the years. I started out as somebody very young in the kitchen who had big eyes and big dreams. I tried to learn everything, and I was given more and more responsibility until I started to become a restaurant owner.
When I became a restaurant owner, I realised that I had to also embrace my role as a mentor. You can't covet and grow those people unless you can mentor them. So I believe that my role as a mentor is the one that I most cherish and identify with.
“As an owner and a chef, you're only as good as the people that you can hold on to and work with you.”
You've always been very stylish. Can you tell us about your relationship with fashion? Is this one of your passions as well?
I've always loved fashion. The last few years when I've travelled more, I've done more television where I've had think about my fashion more.
Sometimes, I think of my closet as my pantry. Just like my pantry, I know what's in my closet — from my socks to my earrings to my hair clips. I know what's there. And as I start to get dressed and layer my accessories on, it feels just as I would when seasoning a dish — I'm pulling a little from here and a little from there.
Speaking of your pantry, what are Nancy Silverton's pantry essentials?
That's easy. Anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, olives, and capers. Absolutely flaky sea salt — that is a must.
What do you love most about your job?
There are so many things that I love about this industry I am in. It's not just about the creative aspect of it, but it's also the satisfaction I get when I see someone's face of enjoyment, because I know how much I enjoy eating good food.
I love working with my hands, I love tasting ingredients, and I love trying to figure out how to put them together in the best way, both visually and taste-wise. I get so excited when I know that I've made that perfect match.
What's next for Nancy Silverton?
I don't know if there's a next. I think that it's just a continuing. I'm avoiding more restaurants, actually. I just finished a book. At this point, it's just wherever my life with Osteria Mozza takes me.