Warm and outgoing, Chef Luca Appino, a native of Torino, greets me with a handshake and a playful grin. Getting some chefs to talk is like pulling teeth, but not so with the handsome Luca. A fount of information and firm convictions, he is never reluctant to express himself – a food writer’s dream come true.
His restaurant, La Bottega di Luca, is a light and airy place located on the second floor of The Terrace 49 building on Sukhumvit Soi 49. The centrepiece is a large fan-cooled wooden terrace that sits in front of the entrance to a smallish wood-filled dining room. Although casual and informal, this definitely isn’t your average pizza-pasta joint. The menu features a well thought out selection of traditional dishes from all regions of Italy.
“So what do you want me to prepare?” Luca asks, as he slips me a menu.
“Something simple,” I reply.
He eyes me for a second, “Let’s make some pacherri pasta with tomato sauce and burrata cheese. It’s something that I plan to put on the menu soon. It’s so simple even you could make it,” he says, laughing with gusto.
We squeeze into the small kitchen and Luca grabs a small frying pan. He fires up a burner and puts in some quality extra virgin olive oil. When it has heated he adds some small teardrop shaped tomatoes that have been halved. “The tomatoes are local,” he says, “but the chopped fresh Italian basil I just added is imported.”
He skilfully tosses the tomatoes in the pan. The fire is hot and tossing keeps things from sticking and burning. The tomatoes begin to exude water, creating a thick sauce. As the water evaporates, he replenished it with water from the pan of pacherri pasta, which he has just put on to boil.
“We use this water because it has some starch in it. It gives some body to the sauce.” As the sauce thickens, he adds a little salt. “It needs some salt,” he continues, shaking a finger, “but no sugar.”
He continues tossing the tomatoes and sauce for a few minutes, adding water when necessary. Finally, he adds some of the now drained pacherri, a tubular pasta similar to rigatoni. “The pasta is 95 percent cooked,” he says, “but we want to finish it in the sauce so that it absorbs some of the flavours.”
When he is satisfied, he quits tossing and cooking the sauce and pasta. He quickly places a large dollop of burrata cheese on a plate and carefully arranges some of the pacherri on it. He then adds more burrata. The result is bright and colourful.
Later in the dining room, I decide it tastes as good as it looks. And there is no getting around it: preparing this dish is delightfully simple. “No excuses. Now you have something you can do at home,” Luca tells me, flashing his impish grin.
La Bottega di Luca
The Terrace 49, 2nd fl, Sukhumvit 49 | 0 2204 1731
labottega.name | Tues-Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, daily 5pm-midnight.
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