For proof the world’s borders are shrinking, look no further than Lucca. A name inspired by a village in Tuscany, with recipes from the Mediterranean, served in a renovated house that once accommodated Saigon Rimsai, and prepared by a Thai chef, who, during his over 40 years in the industry, worked in London, joining the kitchens at French and Italian restaurants rather than the Thai joints where chefs transplanted from home typically took up residencies. A lot to take in? Sure, but the sum of the parts is quite pleasing. Maybe we should be thankful for all this globalisation.
“Lucca is the name of a village in Italy’s great food capital,” says Natdanai “Nat” Yuvaboon, co-owner of the restaurant, in explaining the concept driving the latest addition to Bangkok’s Italian directory. “And so in Bangkok we want Lucca to be like a ‘village’ within our world food capital.”
Fitting to this provincial distinction, getting to Lucca takes some travelling. Set off from Sukhumvit in the narrow, funnel-like alleys of Phra Khanong, down Soi 65, the restaurant enjoys genuine privacy from the city’s unceasing commotion. With parking space for over 20 cars, and ample signage on utility poles for those coming by way of taxi, the isolation becomes an asset rather than a disadvantage. Lucca is a warm, romantic place, where jazz on the speakers isn’t broken by car horns; where parquet floors, exposed beams, and red candles on white linen tablecloths lend a homelike air to the experience; and where the food is every bit as comforting as the atmosphere demands.
The menu is large, yet non-threatening. Still, Chef Hee Chanyadee offers recommendations for those who welcome a little guidance. A good place to start—though not one of the chef’s picks—is the Tasmanian black mussels sautéed in white wine sauce, served with garlic toast and a slice of lemon on the side (B320). Sea brine, citrus, and sweet wine combine in a beautiful palate pick-me-up ideal for sharing. Soups, like the earthy mushroom cappuccino—a trio of porcini, shiitake, and abalone with a blended broth foam and cracked black pepper on top (B260)—that speaks to French influence, or a classic bouillabaisse (B420), round out meals. But you won’t be looked down on if you skip the soup and head straight for pastas and entrées. Not with the wealth of choices in store.
Lucca’s fresh tagliatelle with herby meatballs of Italian sausage in a sauce flecked with truffle and Pecorino cheese (B320) is a dish to return for—especially at that price tag. And, although big enough for three, the braised short ribs, served with sautéed vegetables and spot-on mashed potatoes (B890), could quite rightly become a fan favourite; there’s a lingering heat in the capsicum-laced sauce that carries through the tender bone-in beef, a taste that locals, above all, should love.
Save room for dessert. Traditional tiramisu (B220) gets fresh plating in a swivelling glass cup. Presentation aside, this is one of the better tiramisu’s available in Bangkok right now. But if chocolate and coffee isn’t your thing, a cool, Piedmont-inspired panna cotta with raspberry sauce (B240) plays the refreshing, tangy foil to a meal of rich Italian and French cuts.
With pocket-friendly prices for large portions (check the two- and three-course lunch specials [with free dessert] at B390 and B490), and flavours filling the gap between Thai and expatriate tastes, Lucca has the feel of an out-and-out establishment in the making. Thankfully, you won’t have to travel to Tuscany to experience it.
108/4 Sukhumvit 65 | luccadining-bkk.com | 0 2714 2207 | daily 11am-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm