MEDIA TASTING NOTES
The wait is over. Welcome to Forma.
Forma, an upscale trattoria with a pasta-focused programme by The Cicheti Group, in collaboration with Singapore’s foremost pasta artisan Ben Fatto, is set to bring a new pasta wave to the colourful Joo Chiat estate.
Before we get started
Here are some things we thought you should know
First things first
Forma is marked by a number of firsts for both the group and the local dining scene. It is the group’s first foray into the east, with its other concepts predominantly within Singapore’s bustling city centre. Its pasta programme is believed to be one of the first of its scale to be run by an all-local culinary team, where pasta shapes are made using traditional techniques that pre-date modern machinery and served with an all-round appreciation of the traditions that belie each dish’s native region. Another first—one that when announced in January this year was met with great fanfare—is that the pasta programme would be, for the first time, collaboratively helmed by none other than Yumhwa Lee of Ben Fatto, Singapore’s foremost pasta artisan and popular private dining outfit.
Locals do it better
At Forma, Yumhwa will be joined in the pasta production kitchen by Denise Tsi, a sfoglina who displayed a propensity for pasta-making while working at Bar Cicheti, and has spent the past year apprenticing under Yumhwa’s tutelage in preparation for her role in Forma.
Leading the culinary team is executive chef Dylan Cheong, who joined The Cicheti Group’s culinary leadership in 2020 from stints at Gattopardo, Osteria Mozza, including a stage at chef Massimo Bottura’s three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana at Modena, Italy. Ronald Kamiyama, Peruvian-Japanese by birth but local at heart, developed the wine list in accordance to the menu’s exploration of Italy’s astounding regional diversity.
More than just a pasta place
A meal at Forma doesn’t end with pasta. In fact, as the anatomy of a traditional Italian meal would dictate: it starts with pasta as a primo (first course), preceded by antipasti (starters to share), and is followed by secondi (main courses) and dolci (desserts).
Here at Forma, it is best enjoyed alongside vini d’italia (wines of Italy) flowing throughout, with a shot of vermouth for aperitivo and a caffè correto followed by a rexentìn for digestivo. But more on that later.
A handcrafted space with a sense of place
To help encapsulate all of the above, the group appointed integrated design firm Takenouchi Webb to design a space that characterises the crafted and handmade elements of Forma, while retaining a sense of place that connected with the heritage building and the quaint neighbourhood.
From the street-facing, pasta production kitchen that greets guests and curious onlookers, into the different pockets of indoor dining spaces with open views of pasta-makers and chefs at work, extending into the outdoor dining patio across the five-foot-way and into the street—each space offers a unique experience that is cleverly weaved together as one. Here’s how.
Front row seats
A theatrical experience
Palettes that match the palate
A crafted space
No place like
A sense of place
The Forma Experience
Fresh discoveries every season
Each season, the pasta programme will shine a spotlight on a selection of pasta shapes from different regions and the dishes associated with each shape. The series will anchor the food menu and be refreshed every quarter.
Our opening selection features seven traditional pasta dishes based on regionality and framed broadly from North to South of Italy, and to the Islands. It will showcase a combination of iconic dishes with a presence on the world stage and lesser-known dishes that remain equally acclaimed on a regional level, made using both handmade and machine-extruded pasta shapes, based on the original methods of fabrication.
Front row seats to pasta made before your eyes
Diners can watch the entire pasta-making process unfold right before their eyes even as they arrive at the entrance, with unfettered views of the glass-encased pasta production kitchen from both the dining room and the front pavement.
Within the pasta kitchen, a handsome wall of specialist hand tools mostly imported from Europe, as well as specific machinery for bronze-drawn pasta, and a pair of custom pasta benches enable both Yumhwa and Denise to fabricate the pasta shapes in accordance with the original methods.
While the restaurant currently only opens for dinner, the sfoglini can be spotted making pasta from day to night; on some nights they will be making rounds in the dining room to share more nuggets of wisdom on the pasta dishes that are being enjoyed.
Know your pasta
The menu invites diners to learn about the cultural anthropology of each pasta dish, fleshed out in vivid details through a QR code. The regions and towns they originated from; the social, cultural and geographical influences on how they took shape; right down to the history and folklore passed down through generations.
From legends of how the first Tortellino was invented by an innkeeper from Emilia-Romagna who modelled it after the navel of Venus, the goddess of love; to history lessons of how today’s long-rye Struncatura was once made using sawdust and scraps swept from the floors of wheat mills and peddled to the destitute of Reggio Calabria.
Sauces and broths that transport and delight
Over at the kitchen led by chef Dylan and his team, the pasta are cooked in sauces and broths that stay true to traditional recipes made using each region’s prized produce.
Hand-rolled ribbons of Pappardelle are enrobed with a braised oxtail ragu borne out of ‘cucina povera’ in Rome, Lazio, where offal was something nobility never had to endure but prized by the proletariat class, who’d stretch the use of leftover sauce from their secondo to dress pasta. Linguine al Limone, with ambiguous roots in the deep south lives up to the original with bronze-drawn linguine clinging onto a delicate, emulsified sauce made using Sorrento’s prized Amalfi lemons and Provolone del Monaco DOP, a regional semi-aged cheese made from the milk of the Agerolese cow.
The Forma Experience
Food and wine
Come for the pasta, stay for the feast
Diners will be pleasantly surprised to have the full breadth of an Italian trattoria menu at their fingertips. If the pasta offering was a deep dive into each shape’s regional past and present, the rest of the menu is akin to a convivial way of eating and drinking your way through the rich mosaic of Italy’s gastronomic identity—the perfect setting to celebrate ‘la bella vita’ with familial ties and warm friendships.
The unlikely chef
While chef Dylan might look (and sound—you’ll see) like a local boy through and through, his love for Italian cuisine is a language of its own.
The food menu is inspired by his extensive travels across Italy when he staged at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, while spending the rest of the year savouring his way through the streets of Italy from Milan to Venice, Parma to Modena, Boglogna to Florence, Pisa to Lucca, Rome to Naples, and Campania into the islands of Sicily.
Regional specialties, dry-aged meats and inventive sweets
A fresh and colourful selection of regional specialities made using indigenous ingredients are spruced with just the right hit of spice that The Cicheti Group is reputed for, and finished with chef Dylan’s knack for transforming time-honoured classics into beautiful and modern plates.
Working with a local specialist butcher in Joo Chiat, Butcher Box, the menu also offers a daily selection of premium pork and beef cuts dry-aged for up to 55 days. Desserts are a fine way to end with chef Dylan’s inventive takes on homespun sweets.
Wines that read like a love letter to Italy
Inspired by the regional exploration of Italy in the pasta and food menu, Ronald Kamiyama has devised a 150-odd wine list spanning the country’s 20 wine regions from Valle d’Aosta in the north to Campania in the south, choosing to shine a light on native and unfamiliar grapes the likes of Cesanese from Lazio, Nero di Troia from Puglia, and Schiopettino from Friuli.
Vast flavours of the new and old wine world are also represented—with newfangled discoveries such as a juicy Japanese orange wine or a classical back vintage Barolo at every turn. Do it like the Italians and start with a Piedmontese lager and finish with classic caffe corretto moment.
Warm your bellies
Do it like the Italians and whet your appetite with a shot of Cucielo Vermouth from Turin, the capital city of Piedmont in northern Italy and the birthplace of Vermouth. What started as a medicinal potion, is now one of the most important spirits in the cocktail world. Born in the small town of Moncalieri in Italy’s Piedmont region, Cucielo Vermouth di Torino Rosso uses a combination of the finest Italian wines along with the perfect blend of naturally sourced botanicals and aromas that capture the best of Italy and the Mediterranean.
Whet your appetites
Inspired by the fried snacks that line the streets of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Gnocco Fritto are Emilian-style fried parcels of leavened, lard-enriched dough served piping hot, contrasted with cold, fatty slivers of lardo. Pink peppercorn adds an almost fruity tinge of acidity.
Pair your antipasti with
2020 Bergianti - San Vincent (Lambrusco di Sorbara)
The fried foods and salinity in the antipasti menu can afford something juicy, bubbly and refreshing, and Gianluca Bergianti’s Lambrusco di Sorbara does the trick. Intense, bright pink colour with notes of black currant and wild berries, the wine is driven by a crispy freshness that makes it highly quaffable with antipasti. Vini Bergianti is a project part of Terrevive farm. The farm was born in 2008 on 16 hectares of land in the village of Gargallo di Carpi near Modena, that while physically out of the limits of the DOC Sorbara, grows on a loamy-sandy terrain, where the Lambrusco grapes find their maximum expression.
Polpette di Baccalà
Baccalà, a salted cod delicacy that was introduced into the Italian diet through the Mediterranean, is prized for its flaky texture and intense flavours. Enjoyed across different regions of Italy in different recipes and celebrations, we serve it up in crunchy, breaded bites mixed with mashed potato and seasoned with garlic, chives and parsley, along with a bright, creamy lemon aioli dusted with aleppo chilli.
Smoked Speck Ham
As the famous Italian saying goes: L’appetito vien mangiando (the appetite comes while you’re eating), and nothing whets an appetite like the salinity of Italy's cured meats. Smoked Speck Ham wraps up pan-roasted medjool dates with thin slivers of Speck Alto Adige IGP, a lightly cured and cold-smoked ham from Alto Adige that draws its unique flavours from the pristine region's ample sunshine and salubrious mountain air, combined with secret blends of spices and salt. A sprinkle of sea salt and lashings of extra virgin olive oil is all it needs.
Prosciutto di San Daniele e Melone
The famed proscuitto crudo of San Daniele—a small village in Italy's northern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, where the intoxicating air from the Carnic Alps and the Adriatic Sea gives it its unmistakable fragrance—is juxtaposed with the sweetness of grilled philibon melon, jalapeño jam, aged saporoso balsamic from Modena and a light dusting of fennel pollen.
Carciofi con Stracciatella di Formaggio
When it comes to eating artichokes in Italy, all roads, as ever, lead to Rome. The modern Italian artichoke, however, is said to be cultivated in Sicily. Carciofi con Stracciatella di Formaggio is a Sicilian-inspired cold starter that serves up braised baby artichokes perfumed with rosemary, garlic, white wine and lemon, along with creamy stracciatella that’s dotted with balsamic braised black currants, pine nuts, mint salsa verde and breadcrumbs. For those who like it au naturale, try the Carciofo alla Romana on your next visit: a whole globe artichoke braised with aromatics, along with bagna cauda aioli to dip its outer leaves in, before tucking into its rich, buttery heart.
Now your meal begins
Tortellini in Brodo
Origins: Bologna, Emilia-Romagna (North)
Pork-filled egg pasta in a clear, slow-simmered chicken brodo
Tortellini are tiny meat-filled pasta encased in sfoglia. Fresh egg pasta sheets are rolled out manually with a rolling pin and each tortellino sealed by hand. It is considered by many as the “king of pasta” and rightly so, given the ingredients, time and specialist skills necessary in making it in accordance to Emilia-Romagna’s almost religious standards. As chef patron Massimo Bottura once famously quipped: “if you don’t believe in God, believe in tortellini”. The size, weight and composition of each tortellino is in accordance with parameters of the registered recipe. They are 100% handmade, produced with traditional methods without the “taint” of modern machinery. It is believed that the tortellini were invented by an innkeeper in Castelfranco Emilia and modeled after the navel of Venus, the goddess of love.
Pair it with
The 'king of pasta' speaks for itself, and shall be left untouched.
Origins: Reggio Calabria, Calabria (South)
Bronze-extruded long rye pasta with anchovies, taggiasca olives, chilli and breadcrumbs
Struncatura is a long bronze-extruded pasta that resembles a thick trenette that was once the ancient cucina povera speciality of Reggio Calabria. Translated from the Calabrese dialect, struncatura means “scraps” or “crumblings” or “sawdust” and, in this case, refers to the floor sweepings of wheat milling operations in the past, where by-products of the process would carpet the mill flour which would either be swept from the floor, destined to be animal feed, or used to produce a very cheap, dark coloured pasta product, peddled to only the most destitute. Often known as a 'poor man's dish' because it was prepared with low cost ingredients, it has since emerged from notoriety and earned its cult status in Lucanian gastronomy. We true to its humble origins with Mediterranean flavours of anchovies, taggiasca olives, chilli and Mollica di Pane—sauteed breadcrumbs that were considered ‘cheese of the poor’.
Pair it with
Il Mio Primo Fiasco (Coda di Volpe)
A 100% skin contact orange wine from Campania with loads of complex flavours including umami coming from the skin contact. The wine is called “Il Mio Primo Fiasco 2020” by Cantina Giardino, who used Coda di Volpe which was pressed by feet with his son and his friends, then left to macerate for six days and aged in glass demijohns.
Pappardelle e Coda alla Vaccinara
Origins: Rome, Lazio (Central)
Wide, flat egg pasta with a braised oxtail ragu
Pappardelle are long, wide and flat ribbons that pair well with ragu as the broad shape has more surface area to hold sauces and condiments. Hand-rolled from sfoglia, no two bite feels the same. every We pair it with a braised oxtail ragu of tomato, Pecorino Romano DOP and red wine—an iconic dish borne out of 'cucina povera' in Rome, Lazio. Its history lies in the 'vaccinari', the lowest social classes in Regola, the 7th rione in the heart of the eternal city. This dish, along with many other popular offal offerings in modern-day Rome are all categorized as the 'quinto quarto' or fifth quarter of the bovine—essentially parts that nobility never had to endure like spleen, intestines, tripe and brains. The least appreciated cuts were left to the class of the proletariat such as your butchers, tanners, leather workers and the ilk that were connected to slaughterhouses and tanneries, said to have populated the east of the Tiber. La coda alla vaccinara is not only a typical dish of Rome but a representation of cucina povera, prized for economy and versatility. While primarily enjoyed as a secondo, its leftover sauce can be “stretched” to dress pasta.
Pair it with
2019 Frank Cornelissen Susucaru (Nerello Mascalese)
Susucaru is a legendary natural wine, made by Belgian Frank Cornelissen on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. Featuring smokey tannings and dark fruit, it is the perfect expression of Etna that’s produced in a more traditional way of blending different Nerello Mascalese with other local varietals—Nerello Capuccio, Allicante Boushet, Minella and Uva Francesa—to obtain a fragrant, elegant and fluid wine with structure and personality
Second to none
Merluzzo alla Scafata
Merluzzo alla Scafata serves up a slab of pan-roasted blue cod—its delicate, soft yielding flakes held together by a crispy, almost crackling-like skin—with flavourful trappings of fava beans, English peas, cipollini onions, prosciutto and a cucielo vermouth-butter sauce inspired by scafata, a springtime staple of Umbria.
Pair it with
2015 Tabarrini Adarmando (Trebbiano Spoletino)
Matching the Umbrian roots of the scafata sauce, we pair it with a rich and flavourful white wine from Umbria made using local grape Trebbiano Spoletino, a traditional vine of great elegance and charm. The gregarious fourth generation winemaker Giampolo Tabarrini’s Adarmando is a real eye-opener to the quality and tremendous personality that can be found in this corner of Central Italy.
Bistecca di Tomahawk
Working with a local specialist butcher in Joo Chiat, Butcher Box, we also offer a daily selection of premium pork and beef cuts dry-aged for up to 55 days, such as this off-menu special that’s best shared among the table. A 55 day dry-aged grass-fed Tomahawk from Little Joe Farm in Australia, where their beef products are guaranteed a minimum marbling scare of MB4+. The sensational taste development and beefy tenderness is perfectly enjoyable on its own, with a sliver of slow-roasted garlic, or accompanied with trio if homemade steak sauce, mustard salse verde or porcini gremolata.
Pair it with
2011 Querciabella Mongrana (Chianti Classico)
The wine is aged in old barriques and with the richness of the vintage it takes on a slightly more modern feel, yet the flavour spectrum is definitely shows lots of old world highlights. It is a classic Tuscan wine, 100% Sangiovese, with some age to go with the dry-aged meat.
Crostata al Limone
At first glance, this tart will have you wondering “where’s the lemon” and “did my tart split”. Upon closer, tastier inspection, you’ll find tucked beneath a fruit tea jelly top a delightfully sweeter-than-bitter Amalfi lemon curd, with dots of Amalfi lemon gel. As for the split tart, it’s a brush of toasted meringue masquerading as “marshmallow”.
Pair it with
Turiddu (Sicilian Limoncello)
Turiddu is a Sicilian limoncello produced with Verdello Bio lemons from Bagheria, which are harvested just one hour before the start of processing. With the unmistakable and decisive flavour of verdello, this Sicilian bitter from the first taste brings on the lips the incredible fragrance of the best Sicilian citrus fruits. It has a strong and exquisite flavour that strikes at first taste thanks to its remarkable intensity of citrus aromas, and is excellent served chilled at the end of a meal, with a Amalfi lemon tart at arm’s length.
Torta della Nonna
A nutty take on the Tuscan ricotta tart that encases within shortcrust pastry layers of creamy ricotta, a silky-sweet chestnut paste, pine nuts and topped with a vanilla gelato. Flavours reminiscent of a Chinese yam pastry, and much like a warm hug from a nonna to thank you for joining us at Forma today.
One last shot
Caffè Correto followed by a Rexentìn
An espresso shot rinsed with Grappa di Brunello. The perfect Italian digestivo. Now you can go.