My first experience with Da Paolo was a takeaway tiramisu in a plastic container from Gastronomia. That blew me away. So did the crisp cheesy pizzas. You may have wondered where did Da Paolo come from?

The Da Paolo group had its beginnings since 1989, opened at Tanjong Pagar during a time when there were only few established Italian restaurants in Singapore. More than 2 decades later, 5 gourmet delis, 3 restaurants, 2 themed bars and 1 dessert shop later, this home grown brand is known for its high quality and authentic upmarket Italian fare.

I had the chance to speak to Francesca, daughter of Paolo and Judie Scarpa who first started the humble Trattoria Da Paolo. We met at Gastronomia where she was comfortably introducing the assortment of pizzas and pretty little desserts, in an elegant blue dress with European poise.

Francesca (extreme left) with her staff

Sometimes people may be confused with the many different brands of Da Paolo: Ristorante (Classic Italian dining), Bistrobar (Alfresco, grill and drinks), Pizzabar (Pizza, salads and breakfast) and Gastronomia (Gourmet deli café). Francesca explained that the diversification gave them the possibility to serve different specialities of food in different settings.

As a family member, Francesca had to pressure to mature quickly and take over the business so that her parents can take a backseat. “Although you could say food and service is in my blood, one of the biggest challenges I faced was the lack of prior experience in business administration as well as all the behind the curtains work.” She attributed the success to her hardworking and talented staff.

On a lighter note, Francesca was excited to share that it was a dream come true to be selling Italian food that she loved.

“I love buffalo mozzarella. Actually I love all types of mozzarella. You can get mozzarella in different shapes in Italy and I love to eat it on its own. I love it because its soft and cold and slightly creamy. My favourite is burrata with a deliciously buttery, flowing centre.”

A foodie herself, she would also love to indulge in all local food. She could not pinpoint because she enjoyed almost everything from satay, chicken rice, mee siam, rojak to all the desserts. (And there I wondering how she maintained her slim figure.)

All except tofu.

She found it strange that some of her local friends often compared tofu to mozzarella. “I love one and hate the other. The taste is totally different!”

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