From making pasta at age 4 alongside his grandmother, Simone Fraternali has gone on to work in noted kitchens from Da Vittorio, in Lombardy, to the ilLido Group, before taking over from Gabriel Fratini this March and becoming chef–partner at Solo Ristorante, a snug spot along Amoy Street.
Fraternali’s a la carte menu presents new signatures that pay homage to northern Italy, with a focus on the vicinity of his hometown of Gradara, a medieval comune on the eastern coast of the Italian peninsula; the Emilia-Romagna region, the birthplace of balsamic vinegar and cheese royalty Parmigiano-Reggiano, features prominently.
Memories of eating at home are a particular inspiration for Fraternali: The pickled artichoke (in the A5 Australian wagyu carpaccio with Parmigiano-Reggiano Vacche Rosse 24 month) is a nod to how his mother and grandmother would preserve excess produce at the end of its season, and faraona (guinea fowl sous vide breast and olive oil confit leg) is reminiscent of the chef’s family Sunday lunches. The menu includes the traditional melanzane alla parmigiana too — baked eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and basil — but at Solo it is dressed far more elegantly than what you might expect of eggplant parm.
Pasta made in house — the intensely rich tagliolini with bafun uni, and the delicate pappardelle with slow-braised pork ragout — provide strong anchors, whether you prefer your carbs bold or subtle. The gnocchi and the octopus, though, yielded unexpected discoveries: The former, drenched in Angus beef ragout that has been cooked six hours, is about as springy as homemade marshmallows (read: barely), and the latter, braised in its own juices then grilled, turns out to be incredibly tender. According to Fraternali, that is how gnocchi and polipo should be done. Unlearning misguided expectations, pronto.
Dessert at Solo is exceptionally well crafted. There is tiramisu, of course, but it is not a token Italian dolci on the menu; it has rightfully earned its spot by packing an electrifying jolt of coffee into a delicate double-wall espresso cup. The Tortino Al Cioccolato (coconut and 70 percent dark chocolate lava cake, with toffee yuzu and orange sorbet) is a clever play on opposites: hot and cold, creamy and tart. And the Torta Al Limone (Amalfi lemon and white chocolate curd, with strawberries and basil sorbet) rounds out the meal with a delightful zing.
Not only is the food at Solo a reminder of home, the restaurant hosts company that enhances the liveliness and intimacy. During our visit on a busy night, a pair of middle-aged women nearby seemed to be gushing in Thai about their uni tagliolini, a trio of Frenchmen in the corner sipped white wine while unwinding, and perched at the chef’s table were three couples — one appeared far more interested in each other than their dinner, one ate efficiently and left by 9 p.m., and one looked so curiously mismatched that speculating about their relationship was a recurring topic of conversation at our table.
With every table filled, the lights dimmed and the ceilings low, dining at Solo becomes a convivial — even boisterous — meal with family in what feels more like your nonna’s kitchen than a food establishment. And the pandemic? It’s likely the last thing on your mind.
45 Amoy Street; soloristorante.com