The day I found out that Da Paolo Gastromia had taken away their White Chocolate Yoghurt Crumble away from their shelves, I inevitably, you know, crumbled a little inside. While I’m a strict dark chocolate girl, Da Paolo’s buttery crumble and white chocolate yoghurt always had me weak at the knees. So much so, it became mandatory that I finished an entire tub by myself.
Da Paolo Gastromia has been a benchmark, nay, a stalwart of classic and tasty Italian bites in Singapore that we (or rather, I) cannot get enough of. From pizza to pasta to their delectable cronuts and larger-than-life meringues, in my eyes, Da Paolo can do no wrong except discontinue my White Chocolate Yoghurt Crumble—but I digress.
After my Starbucks and Mr Bean Showdown, I didn’t think life as a food writer could get any better, but it invariably can. For this Da Paolo Showdown, I knew I had to bring our Deputy Editor, Wani, who is as much a fangirl of Da Paolo as I am.
In her words, this has been as much her dream as it has been mine.
Fair warning, this piece might sound like two writers fangirling about Da Paolo; make no mistake—it is. I know I said Starbucks was the dream, but this feels like a moment I’ll leave on my IG highlight reel forever and ever, and I can have multiple dreams, ohkurrr?
Take this as an exercise in how many ways two people can possibly love Da Paolo and perhaps after a trip down, you’ll be waxing lyrical and writing songs about this place as well. If not, you can always order Da Paolo cakes online and have them delivered straight to your place, what could be better? Don’t think, just order them here.
Nicole: The crown jewel of Da Paolo (at least to me) and the cake that put them on the map. Their Tiramisu (S$15.90) is something that never goes out of style and hits the mark EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
From the careful construction from each fluffy layer of mascarpone to the appropriately soaked boozy ladyfinger biscuits to the fine dusting of cocoa powder, it is a love affair that started all those years ago and will continue for years to come.
Wani: The One that started my never-ending love for this place. This reliable classic is still as bittersweet as I recall, and the potency of coffee liqueur is just right. The sponge layers are adequately moist, and if I had a year-long subscription to tiramisu, it’d be this one I’d want forever and ever.
2. Pistachio Tiramisu
Nicole: A very Italian twist on the classic tiramisu, dotted with almost fluorescent green pistachios and delicate chocolate curls, I hurriedly took my required shots so I could get a heaping spoon of this Pistachio Tiramisu (S$16.90).
If you must know how much I love pistachio, when I was on a student exchange and found myself in the heady midst of an Italian summer, I made it a mandatory rule to buy a sweet, sticky scoop of pistachio gelato every time I passed a store.
With a muted olive-coloured layer of mascarpone in between soaked (a wee bit too much) Savoiardi biscuits, I desperately wanted to love this.
Alas, we were destined to be star-crossed lovers in this gastronomical romance. The mascarpone is fluffy as usual, but there was this curious, intense bitterness to the tiramisu that made me suspect some kind of extract. Either that or some more tweaking is required. With Da Paolo, it’s hard not to like anything that’s from them.
Wani: With bitter top notes coupled with an underlying sweetness that may put off some people. I found those usually perfectly soaked Italian sponge wetter than the original Tiramisu. But my heart still belongs to the OG.
3. N Cake
Nicole: The good folks advised us of Da Paolo Gastronomia that the N Cake (S$10.50) be served warm and so it came oozing and with slightly lopsided dotted crunchy chocolate balls. You have to commend Da Paolo, though for such a chunky square of cake—you always feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
It’s hard to hate anything Nutella flavoured, if not, you and me we’re going to have words. Moist, tender chocolate layers that have a nostalgic tinge, I’m not complaining.
Wani: I found this a little too overwhelmingly sweet, and I have a reasonable sweet tooth. I enjoyed the crunch against slick chocolate, but I cannot imagine myself being able to finish it.
4. Bueno Cake
Nicole: Another cake inspired by a well-loved chocolate wafer snack. No surprises if you can guess it from the title alone. Most cakes tend to be pretty uninspired with these tried and true flavours. Still, Da Paolo makes this Bueno Cake (S$10.50) quite the hazelnut dalliance.
A flaxen milky Hazelnut cream starts you off but swerves into these delightfully dense yet crisp hazelnut wafer bits squidged in with moist chocolate cake wedges. It’s a delicate dance between those strong nutty flavours and chocolate that if one is not careful, might end in a mess.
A curveball that I was not ready to like as much but found myself hopelessly enamoured with.
Wani: The Bueno Cake (S$10.50) tastes very similar to Ferrero Rocher but in the form of a cake. Of course, the sponge adds some denseness to it, but overall, it’s a safe and dependable choice that is emblematic of Da Paolo cakes.
5. Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake
Nicole: This Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake (S$8.90) was simply put, very sweet. I love sweets and have, on occasion, eaten so many cupcakes I ended up in a fetal position on my bed. This was well-intentioned for sure, but the caramelly layer with chocolate balls was veering slightly on the edge of overkill.
They were Valrhona pearls, so I can’t hate it entirely.
Wani: First impressions: this cake is very sweet. The butterscotch vibes lend a saltiness that does help, but not enough to temper the sweetness. Colour me slightly unimpressed.
6. Milk & Cookies Cheesecake
Nicole: If milk and cookies can bring you some comfort in dark times, what more a Milk and Cookies Cheesecake (S$9.50)? There’s a pretty balance of a superfine shower of chocolate cookies on the top and a rich velvety cheese layer on the bottom. I would have liked a biscuity crunch but seeing as the cheese layer and cookies already stole the show, I could overlook it.
Wani: The crumble on the top is extremely and impressively fine; not a haphazard afterthought, this one. The cheese layer itself is complex; not just cheese for the sake of its name. I detected a tinge of sour, mild sweetness, which I suspect might have come from a touch of lemon or something acidic.
7. Crunchy Hazelnut Cake
Nicole: The Crunchy Hazelnut Cake (S$9.50) serves as a carbon copy of the Bueno Cake. A good carbon copy nonetheless.
Wani: This was light and creamy but unfortunately quite one-note. Again, this cake is very acceptable but not my first choice of dessert if I were to have cake here.
8. Blackforest Cup
Nicole: These well-portioned dessert cups are the best for on-the-go munchies. Blackforest Cup (S$6.90) is one flavour that has been grossly overlooked. With sharp chocolate shards with cherries drenched in Kirsch, this is the boozy cake that you’ll want to eat.
Wani: This was unexpectedly light even though the cake feels dense at first blush. I enjoyed the plump cherries and the crimson-stained cream more than I expected.
9. Triple Chocolate Mousse Cup
Nicole: Good things come in threes, and even better things come in a chocolate trinity. A good-looking dessert, this Triple Chocolate Mousse Cup (S$6.90) is sure to please anyone with slight OCD tendencies.
There are three perfect layers of white, milk and chocolate mousse that are sweet but not cloying-ly so and whipped almost criminally to perfection; I think the phrase we are looking for is ‘mic drop or mousse drop’.
Wani: Given the temperamental nature of mousse, this is best eaten when chilled. You can never go wrong with chocolate from Da Paolo Gastronomia, and when three of them make an appearance in a single dessert, you know good things await.
Given that it’s such a fun-sized delight, I can imagine kids absolutely taking to it.
10. Flourless Valrhona Chocolate Cake
Nicole: This is quite the gallant gateau, dark and handsome, so good looking that you need to call it by its French name. Even though it has been slightly warmed, unlike the other cakes, this one had the most stylish overflow.
With lavish, thick piping of Valrhona chocolate ganache interspersed with a rich chocolate cake, if Ryan Gosling were a cake, this would be him, and I would gladly run away with him too.
Rating: 9/10 with a side of Lucas Bravo
Wani: I love how each cake layer compresses, leading the chocolate to ooze out between layers. Valrhona chocolate is top of the line, and instead of being assaulted by the saccharine sweetness so many chocolate cakes miss the mark in, the tender element of bitterness serves as balance and makes for easy eating.
Verdict: This is what you should order
🏆 Milk & Cookies Cheesecake 🏆
You would think I would pick the Tiramisu but love changes. I still hold a special place for my first love of Tiramisu, but the Milk & Cookies Cheesecake has swept me off my feet into the throes of quite the torrid love affair. First loves will always be with us, but as our palates develop we have to make way for new romances.
🏆 Blackforest Cup🏆
Just like Nicole, the Tiramisu will always, always have my heart. But it is 2020, and I need to be slightly more inclusive—even in my favourite foods. So, my vote would have to go to the surprisingly impressive Blackforest Cup. It’s going to be my new dependable, consistent cake here at Da Paolo Gastronomia, and no one can sway me otherwise.