Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bangkok food trip: Pizzeria da Luigi

Thailand is known for its cuisine. I was raring to eat real Thai food in Thailand as I've only tasted versions of it in San Francisco, Sydney, Los BaƱos, and Manila. One of my favourite dishes in cooking class, Thai beef salad, features the right balance of different tastes; and it is exactly this balance that I was looking forward to experience when I landed in Bangkok.

Since it's my first time in the bustling city, I figured that it would be a good idea to eat my first meal with Matty, who had been in Bangkok before. Meeting him was quite a challenge because I discovered that the hotel I was staying at, the Heritage Hotel, was not as easily accessible to train transportation. I had to take a cab to go anywhere in the city, which was the reason behind a crash course in how to speak English with a Thai accent (thanks to the hotel's concierge).

Once we've met, Matty and I started looking for a place to eat. Out of habit, I took photos of sights along Sukhumvit Road–bread crumbs that Hansel and Gretel can use to guide them back home, if you will–just in case we get lost in a city where English communication is a challenge.

Sukhumvit Soi 21. The Asok SkyTrain station runs atop Sukhumvit Road.

I was open to try hole-in-the-wall type restaurants so I kept pointing at those but my dinner partner was quick to dismiss them because there were only a few patrons (which, in any city, may mean that the food wasn't worth queueing for). A few minutes later, I first got a whiff of a very familiar smell. No, it wasn't of Thai food. I smelled the smoky aroma of pizza crust! I really must have been hungry because I smelled food at least a hundred metres away... the restaurant was behind a building on the other side of the road!

Pizzeria da Luigi, the restaurant I was able to smell from the other side of Sukhumvit Road.

The owner of the restaurant, Luigi, popped out of the kitchen to greet us and to discuss the best options for first-time patrons of his restaurant. While we waited for our pizza, Luigi and Matty exchanged stories about Napoli, a place Matty has been to, Luigi has grown up in, and I've never visited. One day, I'll be able to visit Napoli, but in the meantime, I was content to listen to them talk about that part of Italy.

Waiting for our pizza orders.

Lucky for us, the rain that began as soon as we arrived in Bangkok had dissipated by the time we sat for dinner because we opted to eat in the courtyard. There were flowers in elevated pedestals everywhere! Maybe there was a wedding reception previously. Or maybe that's just how the venue was decorated. I was confused with the vibe: was this a casual dining restaurant or a more formal one? But judging by the salt and paper shakers, I decided that I'd be allowed to hold a pizza slice with my hands while eating it... no need for forks and knives.

Plastic horned cows for salt and paper shakers. Okay, this is definitely casual dining.

Finally, our pizzas arrived! We were both famished! The black olives pizza was delicious but might not have been the best on the menu. Maybe I should have tried the pizza Luigi had suggested. Nevertheless, I loved how generous the olive portion was on top of pomodoro and mozzarella. Matty, who's been to Italy, proved to be quite a pizza foodie... he always jokes that a good (or is it great?) pizza comes from restaurant with a dirty kitchen and a rude owner (he struck out on both criteria at Luigi's). He was looking for certain pizza characteristics and he didn't get them from the pie he ordered.

An Italian dining experience is never complete without dessert so I thought I'd go for panna cotta, a dessert I fell for the first time I tried it in Dalcielo's. The version in Luigi's however, was just heaven in a cup! Strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, and raspberries provided a tangy and textural contrast to the milky goodness found underneath. Yum!

Heaven in a cup. Enough said.
As I mulled over my first meal in Bangkok, while sitting in one of the city's well-known evening traffic jams en route back to my hotel, I wondered when I could try authentic Thai food in my very short stay in this cosmopolitan city. That was still a mystery.