While there are still many restrictions arising from the pandemic in Bangkok, chefs in the Thai capital are resisting with an incredible boost of creativity and enthusiasm.
In recent months, there have been numerous new openings, which offer the most diverse gastronomic experiences, from Spanish tapas, to Japanese and Vietnamese-style menus, as well as tea houses - and, of course, Italian restaurants.
There is no place in the world where Italian cuisine is not appreciated, and Thailand is no exception. Tourists especially are attentive not only to art and history, but also to gastronomy, and when they enter an Italian restaurant abroad they expect only the best.
Filindeu in brodo di frutti di mare Courtesy of Salvia
This was confirmed by Roberto Parentela, the chef of Salvia, a restaurant inspired by an Italian tavern, which can be found in the Grand Hyatt Erawan.
“Italian food and gastronomy is increasingly popular in Thailand. I have lived here for almost 12 years,” explains Parentela. “And in all this time I have noticed that if, on the one hand, the demand has increased, on the other, the level has risen a lot with a cuisine that has become more elaborate as it is. Extending the offer of wines that intrigue and appeal to locals."
Salvia is one of the restaurants that opened during 2020, but despite the difficulties, there was an immediate excellent response from customers. “We are a trattoria and our menu is simple and traditional, but also very personal. Perhaps it is precisely this tradition that has allowed us to immediately make a good name,” added Parentela.
Fusilli caserecci al ragù di agnello Courtesy of Salvia
The Salvia menu is the result of extensive research, tests and experiments that found the perfect balance thanks to the experience gained by the chef, who has travelled from Europe to Asia. The key ingredients tell of the chef's Piedmontese youth and his Sardinian and Calabrian origins, so there is no shortage of porcini mushrooms, truffles, Pecorino and ricotta, and chestnuts together with fregola and pasta al ferretto (filindeu pasta).
In Salvia's cuisine, there is great attention to natural, sustainable and organic products that are purchased through food chains that are as short as possible.
"Our customers especially love our fresh pasta that we make here, especially the fusilli al ferretto with lamb ragù or the black paccheri with local crab. In South-East Asia the Italian restaurant must also have pizza and here we prepare it with a Neapolitan style dough and cook it in a wood-burning oven."
Among the new made-in-Italy openings in Bangkok, there is also Cetara which has only been open for a few months. The project by chefs Paolo Vitaletti and Manuelo Pintore - of Appia, the Roman trattoria and Giglio - the Tuscan trattoria takes its name from a small town located on the Amalfi coast that survives mainly on tourism and fishing. Cetara is the homeland of anchovy garum and more, therefore it is considered the gastronomic heart of Amalfi. And it is precisely on the varied and delicious food of Cetara that the restaurant menu is based, with ingredients, especially sustainable fresh fish, local and imported.
There is no shortage of pizzas made in the classic Neapolitan style, but pasta with seafood, oysters and raw foods are the masters.
Risotto lobster and stracciatella. Courtesy of Cetara
Deepwater, wild prawns from Mazara; tuna bottarga; piennolo tomatoes from Vesuvius; the best buffalo mozzarella from the nearby town of Paestum. Mains include braised cod ‘aqua pazza’ style, and fresh whole fish, simply grilled with Amalfi lemon or baked in a salt crust. Meals end with traditional desserts like lemony rum baba with pastry cream. There’s a list of classic Italian cocktails and an extensive wine list that specialises in Southern Italian wines, especially the whites of the Campania region that pair so well with its seafood.
It's a menu capable of bringing a real Italian gastronomic experience to life, also thanks to the setting of Cetara with traditional Vietri ceramics and a bright and airy space.
In Bangkok, Thai and Italian cultures, in particular that of the Abruzzo region, have discovered a common language on the table of L'Oliva.
The Abruzzo cuisine of traditional mutton or sheep skewers is not far from the 'moo-ping' or 'moo satay' Thai street food based on pork. And even the 'sea bass with salt' is somewhat reminiscent of 'pla pao glua', a Thai fish that is salted and cooked over a flame.
Over the years, Thais have learned about the taste of Italian food, but in L’Oliva they have discovered new traditions revisited in a modern way by chef Gabriele Luna, born and raised in Potenza.
The chef inherited his passion for cooking from his grandmother, Angela, a famous pasta maker in the country, starting to put his hands in flour at the age of six. Today the chef is able to make over 100 pasta shapes and at L'Oliva he has found his dimension.
“Abruzzo and the region I grew up in, Basilicata, are very similar,” says Luna. “We both are blessed with food from both the mountains and the sea, you’ve got game meats, truffles, mushrooms, earthy flavours but you also have refreshing tastes from the sea such as sea bass, clams, it’s a perfect mixture of ingredients to work with."
Winning the hearts of Thais was an iconic dish - chitarrina alla termana with pallottine - a fresh homemade pasta served with small meatballs. Thai customers appreciate this traditional food and artisanal pizza doughs, proving that they know how to recognise quality Italian cuisine and that they are not afraid to try something new.
Chef Luca Appino (Bottega di Luca, Vesper Bar, Il Fumo) decided to create the first Gourmet Pizzeria in Thailand inspired by the many Neapolitans who during the great migration of the 19th century took around the world, especially in France and New York, the traditional pizza.
Using only the best Italian raw materials, such as extra virgin olive oil, mortadella di Bologna, Tuscan black truffle scorzone and of course San Marzano tomatoes or Piennolo tomatoes from Vesuvius, together with mozzarella and burrata DOCG, and flour from the Langhe, has created a tribute menu of Italian gastronomic excellence. But for a truly traditional pizza, a wood oven and a 72-hour leavening is necessary.
The success of Pizza Massilia led to the opening of several branches in Bangkok.
The original venue in the Phloen Chit area, with an indoor and outdoor terrace, while the one at Sukhumvit 49 also boasts gardens for al fresco dining, and the Pizza Massilia truck is always on tour around the city. Pizza Massilia is on the list of the best pizzerias in Asia according to 50 Top Pizza, Gambero Rosso, Restaurant Guru and many others.
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