Davide Giacomelli has never been to Singapore, but that did not stop him from upheaving his life to move here.
“You can say that I’m quite an adventurer,” the Italian native said. “From young, I found inspiration in the little things around me and have always been fearless to jump at any opportunity that allowed me to hone my skills as a chef.”
But it was more than just impulse that prompted the 30-year-old to make the switch earlier this year. Giacomelli landed in town after beating over 100 applications to a global chef hunt by Intercontinental Singapore, which offered the winner a chance to launch the hotel’s Italian restaurant in their name.
Giacomelli came up with Luce by Davide Giacomelli, or Italian for “light”. Taking over Ash & Elm in May 2022, his Italian bistro concept combines fresh seasonal produce with a gastronomy-first approach in what he called “bistronomic.”
“I wanted to showcase authentic Italian cuisine and demonstrate that Italian food is more than pasta and pizzas, as most TV shows portray,” he said. “Rather, it’s the art of using simple and, more importantly, the right seasoning or food pairing to highlight the ingredient’s flavours and freshness.”
Giacomelli’s culinary influence can be traced back to when he was a 14-year-old cooking in his father’s restaurant in the historic town of Sirmione. “Over the years, many food trends emerged but my father always stuck to the traditional way of food preparation: using local fresh produce and making things from scratch,” Giacomelli said. “The process is very time-consuming but the passion and care he invests into the creation of his dish are always greatly welcomed and appreciated by his customers.”
At Luce, Giacomelli distils this experience into his Bruschetta. Simply constructed with toasted bread, grated garlic, Parma ham, fresh buffalo mozzarella, chopped cherry tomatoes, arugula, and basil, it is stunningly bright and multidimensional.
After stints at Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy including Trattoria Vecchia Lugana and La Speranzina Restaurant & Relais, Giacomelli moved to Monaco to work at Le Vistamar. In Paris, he was a part of Le Diane before joining the three-starred Le Meurice Alain Ducasse. It was in these kitchens where he learned how to intensify flavours even further.
“I’ve found a new appreciation for fresh ingredients and a deepened understanding of each ingredient and its unique flavour: how different techniques or pairings are required to draw them out,” he said.
Luce’s signature Acquerello Lobster, for instance, consists solely of carnaroli rice cooked in lobster stock and chervil. Yet the risotto is deeply saline and creamy, accentuated by a topping of sweet and tender Boston lobster.
But Giacomelli also plays to his audience’s preferences at Luce. “We learnt that the Singaporean palate leaned towards full-bodied and robust flavours,” he said. The chef, who enjoys a plate of char siu and roast pork rice, created heartier dishes like Tagliatelle Coda di Manzo, or freshly made pasta with deboned oxtail.
Awareness is crucial for Luce to succeed in Singapore’s competitive dining scene. “Most Singaporeans are foodies,” Giacomelli said. “They know their food well and value a good dining experience. Not only does the food need to be enticing, the experience has to be remarkable for them to have a memorable time.”
To meet that, Luce’s menu will be refreshed every three to four months, and the set lunch rotates new dishes in every week. Additionally, Luce will launch a Sunday brunch soon that incorporates Italian street food such as chestnuts roasted on the spot. Live music will also be provided.
“it’s important that we constantly inject creativity and offer quality dishes to stand out amongst our peers,” Giacomelli said.
Luce by Davide Giacomelli is located at 80 Middle Rd, Singapore 188966. Book here.