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Eurocompensating: Italy

Well, here we are again, everybody. Trapped in the limbo of a Covid-related shutdown of devastating proportions. Can’t go to bars, can’t go to red-light districts, can’t eat out–well, you can, but you can’t drink booze with your meal, so really, what’s the point? Though it might seem cruel to resume our series on ways to get your European food fix here in Bangkok, the good news is they’ll likely remain open daily till 9:00 pm, and some or most of these places will offer delivery during the current tyranny. Today we’re talking Italian food, and by my last count, BKK is home to about a hundred thousand Italian restaurants, so this pitiful blog ain’t gonna come close to adequate coverage. As with previous posts, I stuck close to home (Silom), and even still did a barely passable job. Let’s get to it.

But first, some ground rules. I skipped chain franchises like Scoozi, and with two exceptions (one by accident and one by necessity) excluded pizza joints. Pizza is its own separate topic, which did help to narrow my focus. I ended up hitting four places. I tried for five, initially heading over to 1919 on Soi Convent where I’d had an excellent Christmas meal, only to discover they’d closed permanently, another cruel victim of Covid’s wrath. Then on 14 April I went to Zanotti on Sala Daeng for their set lunch special at 410b, only to be told it wasn’t on offer because it was a holiday. They handed me their dinner menu, and the cheapest thing on it was 590b, so I bailed. Sorry not sorry, Zanotti. Maybe I’ll try again next year.

That left me with remarkably few options.  First on my list was Ciao Pizza on Silom Soi 3. I went with the intention of trying anything other than the pizza. But then I saw the menu. They have—no joke—around 50 different kinds of pizza. So try as I might, I couldn’t keep from eagerly perusing page after page of pizza in their menu. I went there twice, both times intending to avoid the pizza, and failed both times. On my first visit, I got a multi-topping pie, meaning every one or two slices, the toppings changed. They were: ham, artichokes, olives and mushrooms, parma ham, and sausage. 250b for a small, one-person pie. I determined that I would go for the truffle pizza next time.

On my second visit, I got two pizzas—the 7-cheese, and the tartufata, a combo of truffle cream, sausage, mozzarella, and mushrooms. Both were positively awesome, especially combined with the wine-by-the-glass offerings on their menu. The white, which paired nicely with the 7-cheese pie, was a pinot grigio by Roccaventosa. The red was a Sangiovese from Della Poggio Quercia. By my calculations, I need to go back to Ciao about 20 more times to get through their entire pizza menu.

My second destination was Sorrento on Sathorn Soi 10. It felt a little too fancy for a gogo rat, but I put on my best polo and gave it a go. It’s both a French and Italian joint, but since I was just there for the latter, I had to navigate carefully through the menu. I opted for two dishes: Cannellini and angel hair with rock lobster, paired with a Chard from New Zealand. ‘Twas big, buttery, and beautiful, and should’ve gone great with the pasta, except that the dish was so spicy, it crushed the flavor of both the wine and the lobster. It broke my heart a little bit. A Riesling would’ve made a better match for a plate this hot. The pasta was well-cooked but there wasn’t a lot going on. Some olio to speak of…and I just did. Dish number 2 was ossobuco with a side of cheesy risotto that reminded me more of American style mac and cheese. Paired with a sublime chianti that leaned more alcoholic in flavor than most others I’ve tried. It matched perfectly with the meat, each bite of which worked in concert with each sip of wine as if inspired to a kind of crescendo. The too-spicy lobster aside, I’d describe Sorrento’s food as delicate and structured, like a Da Vinci sculpture of some hot topless Italian bird. The culinary version of where art and lust collide. And although the check was +++, the meal came out cheaper than my Spanish lunch at Tapas Big Mama’s (see my previous Eurocompensating post).

On the day I was denied the lunch menu at Zanotti, I accidentally wandered into The Commons Saladaeng, and housed within, there happened to be a New York style pizza place called Soho. So, ho, I gave it a go, ordering three slices: garlic mushroom, Lebanese lamb, and the G.O.A.T.—comprised of smoked ham, mushrooms, caramelized onion, goat feta, provolone, mozzarella, and scamorza. Every slice was fantastic, very reminiscent of New York-style pizza, and a pure pleasure from first bite to last. And since they deliver via Foodpanda, they’re a welcome discovery given the current lockdown.

My final visit was to Il Bolognese on Sathorn Soi 7/3. It’s a charming, homey-yet-classy location with a wood burning stone pizza oven and quintessentially Italian décor. And like Zanotti, their lunch menu was not on offer—ostensibly due to it being Songkran week, even though Songkran was technically over. I ordered two dishes—one a hit, the other a foul ball (to use a baseball analogy). The hit was an appetizer: stuffed portobello mushrooms paired with a pinot bianco. The mushrooms were turned upside down, using their caps as a bed, upon which was a mixture of mushrooms, pine nuts, stuffing, parmesan, and sun-dried tomatoes with a crème sauce. It was positively scrumptious. The wine was too light for the mushrooms. A chard would’ve paired better. Dish two was a tender slice of pork with grilled vegetables. I got it because it was half the price of the ossobuco, but was disappointed to find it came with no sauce-just a slab of pork sprinkled with rosemary. I paired it with a glass of valpolicella, which turned out to be too heavy for the meat. Regardless, I scarfed down every bite and although I inwardly scolded myself for making bad menu decisions, I wasn’t put off the place, and I plan to go back again and again. The chef is Italian, and nearly half the clientele were also Italian, which is a very good sign that the food is great, as was the throngs of people who were there midday on a Friday.

Overall, I enthusiastically recommend all four of the places I went for this blog—even Soho Pizza. I plan to revisit each of these lovely foodie-friendly joints with enthusiasm. For a pictorial companion to this blog, plus a short update on recent events in Patpong, you can visit my Sunday post: http://patpongnightlife.com/2021/04/18/eurocompensating-italy-plus-patpong-update/

Next week’s article, Buddha willing, will be a breakdown of the best German restaurant in Silom and the best (and only) Greek restaurant in the same said neighborhood. If you’re a fan of either country’s fare, tune in, and between now and then keep your fridge stocked, your morale up, and cheers to another week above ground in the best country on Earth, even in the midst of a 3rd Koof lockdown. Cheers, everyone.

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