The old adage that there's opportunity in every adversity proved to be doubly true for chef-restaurateur Lino Sauro.
Faced with a vexing 85 per cent rent hike when Italian restaurant Gattopardo's current lease in Hotel Fort Canning lapses at the end of the year, the Sicilian chef quickly set off to scour for new locations - and stumbled across not one, but two, plum spots.
So on top of relocating to the upcoming dining enclave of Tras Street around the cusp of the new year, the 3 1/2-year-old restaurant will also be launching a new sister brand: a casual Italian bistro-bar called Morsi and Sorsi.
The 160-seater Gattopardo's last day of operations at the Hotel Fort Canning will be on Dec 31, and it will re-open in early January within two shophouse units in Tras Street previously occupied by Talent Cafe.
Chef Sauro viewed over 70 units before deciding on the new space, he says, which will hold 75 seats across two floors. A reception area, an al fresco courtyard dining space and a glass-fronted open kitchen make up the ground floor, while the main dining room will sit on the second floor, along with a private room for 16 with a built-in kitchenette and access to an outdoor terrace.
Kitchen constraints mean that Gattopardo's much-loved pizzas and grilled dishes will be taken off the menu - which will be reduced by 20 per cent overall - but version 2.0 of the three-year-old restaurant will take on a brand new focus in their place. The restaurant will spotlight sustainable seafood from countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Japan, all of which will be certified by international marine conservation body, Friends of the Sea.
Only 30 per cent of Gattopardo's seafood supply come from sustainable sources currently - a figure chef Sauro hopes to plump up to 80 per cent or more at the new outlet. He explains the growing demand: "After the Fukushima earthquake in Japan, almost half of our diners now ask where their seafood is from. People are getting more conscious of what they are putting in their mouths, they don't want to eat blindly."
In three weeks, the Garibaldi Group - of which Gattopardo is a part - will also unveil Morsi and Sorsi, a super-casual Italian bistro-bar in the heart of the bustling Telok Ayer neighbourhood. "We liked the space when we saw it, but it was too small for Gattopardo, so we decided to create something new instead," says chef Sauro, who was inspired by a similar concept he saw at the Rome airport while holidaying a few months ago.
Morsi and Sorsi - which means "bites and sips" in Italian - will offer simple snack foods and happy hour drinks targeted at the office crowd. One can nibble on typically Italian breakfast offerings such as espresso-paired pastries and cereals; make a quick stop for paninis, salads and a selection of Italian fresh cheeses and coldcuts for lunch; or knock back Italian beers and cocktails such as negroni and aperol spritz with complimentary assagini in the evenings.
A new range of Sicilian wine exclusively bottled for Gattopardo will also be unveiled in both eateries in November, chef Sauro reveals.
34 Tras Street, (opens in Jan 2014)
Tel 6338 5498
Morsi and Sorsi
51 Telok Ayer Street, (opens in mid-Nov)
Tel 9325 8843
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