In Bangkok's indefatigable gastronomic sphere, most restaurateurs and chefs try to reinvent their menus, offer culinary novelty and stay out of old-fashioned cliches. Yet amidst an imaginative diversity of novel cuisines, one Italian restaurant seems to have its faith the other way around.
Owned and run by an Italian chef and American restaurateur, Appia is so far the only dining establishment in the city to dedicate solely to authentic Roman cuisine. The 65-seater, which opened four months ago, is also among the top few new restaurants most treasured by keen food connoisseurs at the moment.
Dedicated solely to authentic Roman cuisine, the four-month-old Appia is among the top few new restaurants most treasured by food connoisseurs at present.
Chef/owner Paolo Vitaletti is a native of Rome (the other partner, Jarrett Wrisley, also owns Soul Food Mahanakorn). The chef explained that due to the city's location, Roman cuisine is somewhat in the middle between the mild and cheesy northern fare and refreshing Mediterranean seafood. Yet the culinary character of Rome's dishes is very different from those of the North and the South in that it offers more intense flavour and often employs preserved produce and with sheep and pork as the common choices of meat.
To offer as much as possible the genuine flavour profile of Roman cookery, 60-70% of the ingredients here come from Italy. Six kinds of pasta are handmade daily also with imported flour, and a variety of breads is exclusively baked by Bangkok's highly celebrated artisanal baker Michael Conkey.
The Roman cuisine of Appia is served in trattoria style, meaning that diners will find comfort home-cooked dishes with a simple home-style presentation in a warm bistro atmosphere.
From the one-page menu which features 30 items in categories including small plates, pasta, rotisserie meat and main courses, our dinner started off wonderfully with Caprese In Puglia, a refreshing platter of burrata cheese, marinated tomato, bottarga, eggplant and crisp bread (400 baht). An impressive blend of flavours and textures, the dish presents the gummily soft burrata (a very creamy version of mozzarella) on a bed of marinated eggplant, cured fish roe and tomatoes laced with tapioca-like basil seeds and garnished with crispy olive oil-treated thin toast.
Beef connoisseurs should never miss one of the restaurant's best-sellers - Trippa Alla Romana, or Rome's classic tomato and beef tripe stew with pecorino cheese (310 baht). A great demonstration of culinary excellence, the stew, which came in a hearty portion, featured neat pieces of honeycomb beef offal slow-cooked to a very delicate texture in white wine-tomato sauce. The offal's delightful beefy taste wasn't at all overpowered by the sauce. Instead, the two complemented one another perfectly and together offered a tasty dish ideal for sharing and perfect with wine.
The Porchetta Like In Rome (400 baht) is another often-ordered item. Made with organic pork seasoned with fennel, rosemary and garlic, the porchetta is slow-roasted in a rotisserie oven for several hours to offer a succulent, slightly salty meat and crackling skin. The scrumptious pork was served with a variety of condiments and pickles and proved worth ordering.
My favourite dish that evening was Appia's oxtail stew with herb gremolata and fregola pasta (550 baht). In a hefty portion, the perfectly braised oxtail came on a bed of celery and featured a tender meat that fell off the bone very easily, yet it retained its pleasant chew. Perfumed with Italian herbs, the meaty oxtail stew was accompanied by al dente, hand-rolled fregola (Sardinian-style tiny pasta pearls).
Of the eight pasta options, we went for spirulina taglioni with fresh crab and a potato and dill pangrattato (480 baht) and carbonara with dried paccheri pasta, cured pork cheek and pecorino cheese (380 baht).
The first featured homemade, green spirulina algae-seethed pasta noodles laced with thick, mild-tasting sauce and heaps of fresh crab meat.
The latter was an authentic and delicious representation of the Italian carbonara that's prepared without cream but only the yolk of the imported, expensive and most sought-after eggs from Paolo Parisi, Italy's top egg maestro. The fat tube-shaped paccheri pasta was cooked al dente to offer a sticky feel when chewed, and seasoned with the delicate sheep-milk parmesan and enlivened with supple salty morsels of cured pork cheek.
Ever since tiramisu has become the most common Italian dessert worldwide, the idea of sampling this sweet treat made with mascarpone, coffee-soaked biscuit and liqueur never thrilled me. But Chef Paolo's simple-looking tiramisu (300 baht) made according to his grandma's recipe proved so delectable that I could hardly stop eating. This was thanks to its light consistency, but rich and creamy taste.
The wine here is carefully picked by Wrisley, who said all are artisanal Italian vinos from small producers, and half are either organic or biodynamic. Impressively, there is eight to 12 options of wine by the glass available on a daily basis.
Service was prompt and pleasant. Reservations are highly recommended to avoid disappointment.
Caprese In Puglia: a refreshing platter of burrata cheese, marinated tomato, bottarga, eggplant and crisp bread.
The restaurant’s best-selling Rome-style beef tripe stew with pecorino cheese. The brilliant oxtail stew with herb gremolata and hand-rolled fregola pasta pearls. Appia: Sukhumvit Soi 31, Call 02-261-2056, Open Tuesday-Sunday, 6.30-11pm, Park on the premises, Most credit cards accepted
The restaurant’s best-selling Rome-style beef tripe stew with pecorino cheese.
The brilliant oxtail stew with herb gremolata and hand-rolled fregola pasta pearls.
Appia: Sukhumvit Soi 31, Call 02-261-2056, Open Tuesday-Sunday, 6.30-11pm, Park on the premises, Most credit cards accepted
About the author
Writer: Story by Vanniya Sriangura, photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya