Glass doors swing open and lead into acid jazz. Inside La Bottega di Luca, a seven-year veteran of Bangkok’s increasingly fine-tuned Italian fine dining scene, lounging in the back of the second floor at Terrace 49, an open-air community mall astride the line between Thong Lo and Phrom Pong, the soundtrack practically broadcasts romance. Knives being sharpened break the rhythm of high hats. Pans hissing on the stovetop ride a four-four glide. A cork stopper pops. Quiet chatter builds. Within minutes—preferably after a glass of cold cuvée brut arrives at the table—the mood is already set.
The extremely likeable Luca Appino, chef and owner of this slick indoor-outdoor eatery, has made an indelible mark on the way Bangkok understands and interacts with Italian food. The format here is equal parts black and tan, wood and leather, amber track lighting and the glow of the moon. Bright oils from Living Art Galleria D’Arte decorate the walls, the kind of paint-chucked-at-canvas abstracts that could distinguish even the starkest spaces (they’re all for sale, too).
Born and raised in Piedmont, but having worked in kitchens across the Mediterranean, Luca relies on rustic tastes he recalls from his childhood for the foundation of dishes and sprinkles them with foreign notes he picked up in his travelling years. In light of recent trends—the caprese now out of fashion—starting with Luca’s decadent Puglia burrata cheese, surrounded by prosciutto di Parma and sweet basil-laden cherry tomatoes (B1450/1650), makes for a wise first move in a journey through his native Italy. A grouper carpaccio eases the transition to hardier tastes (B580).
Perhaps the most famous of Luca’s signature dishes is his heart-melting black truffle-, Parmesan-, and pancetta-enriched risotto (B590). All the right earthy undertones work as a vessel sending diners to the comfort of a home in the Italian countryside they never knew they had. The same effect comes through in a plate of red prawn with Sicilian capelli, but this time the brine of the sea beneath succulent tomato sauce and sweet fresh wheat transports the palate to the Mediterranean (B1510).
The logical next step points to roasted rack of lamb with a pistachio crust and fragrant wine-and-shallot sauce (B1240). Or, perhaps, grilled langoustine served with a salad coated in butter, the perfect complement to smoky crustaceans. Round it all out with red wine from Piedmont and the exploration is complete. In this context, traditional Italian fare is easy to appreciate—and it’s also clear to see why Luca is so well-liked.
La Bottega di Luca
Terrace 49, Sukhumvit 49 | 0 2204 1731 | labottega.name | Mon 5.30-11pm, Tue-Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm
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