Italian food abounds all over the world, particularly in the West, so many expats may have come to take it for granted before coming to Thailand. After a little while in the Kingdom, though, Italian food, along with French, comes to represent much of what Thai food misses out – the great sauces, the crusty bread, the punchy cheese, the bold, rich flavours. Proper Italian food suddenly rockets to the top of the wish list and DiVino delivers a passionately authentic, immensely satisfying experience.
It’s a curious little set-up, the restaurant split between three rooms that share one corner of Penny’s Corner up in Thong Lor. One section is for private dining, another is filled with stools and high tables, while the newish wine room is a sit-down affair, the walls lined with bottles of gorgeous Italian vino. One of the great joys of DiVino is the staff, Roberto out the front and Armando running the kitchen. From the way their eyes light up when talking about their food, you know you’re in good hands.
To get the balling rolling, DiVino offers a selection of cheese (B790 for six different pieces) or imported cold cuts (B700 for the most generous serving). As appetisers, they do precisely what they’re meant to, getting the stomach gurgling away in anticipation for what’s to follow. Also be sure to try the grilled homemade Italian sausage (B290), served with mustard and exploding with a peppery finish.
So there’s enough variety there to keep customers happy if they just fancy a bottle of wine over a few shared platters but the main courses raise the stakes in a way that fancier, more concept-heavy places don’t always manage. It’s hard to recall pasta being this exciting. The linguine with Alaskan crab meat (B420; main, middle left) is a lighter affair – let’s not go too far and call it delicate -– while the linguine all’astice (B580, above right) is their signature dish containing half a Boston lobster, dripping in one of those bolshy Italian sauces that looks simple but isn’t.
Among the prime cuts of meat, the Australian beef tenderloin with a porcini mushroom sauce (B850) is impressive enough but DiVino’s lamb (B640 for a loin, B850 for a whole rack, main image) is the winner, due mostly to a remarkable herb crust that sets off the milder meat spectacularly.
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Penny’s Balcony, Thong Lor Soi 16 | 02-714-8723
divinobkk.com | 5pm-midnight, Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm