Ari’s new Italian eatery is a tasty trattoria with a neighbourly vibe
Everyone loves their neighbourhood local. The concept of a place near your home that serves up reliable meals—where everybody knows your name—has been around for centuries. So when Mat Milotich, a local wine importer, noticed he’d been living in Bangkok’s Ari district for years but the area still didn’t have an authentic Italian restaurant, he decided to do something about it.
Cantina Wine Bar & Italian Kitchen is patterned after a subterranean wine cellar and has the feel of a dimly lit tavern—the concept is clearly more trattoria than fine dining. It’s partly owned and managed by Soho Hospitality, the creative studio and restaurant group behind such high-profile F&B venues as Above Eleven, Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology, and Havana Social. With a focus on quality ingredients, the restaurant sources authentic produce from Thailand whenever possible, creating relationships with local suppliers, and has even gone so far as to check the sustainability of some of its contractors, such as with tuna from the Maldives.
The staff are at ease discussing menu choices with customers, including the merits of sausage from a particular region of Italy, while Mat is there most nights making folks feel welcome. Cantina also makes its own limoncello, which displays a clean, smooth finish and a lower proof than usual.
A salad of white anchovies (alici), fennel, shallots and orange slices (B220) provided a tart start to the evening thanks to lemon juice and fennel that really made the dish pop. Smoked burrata (B440) with farm fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil followed, with cheese procured from a Thai dairy. Meanwhile, the Luganiga pork (B420)—with stracciatella cheese on a bed of mashed potatoes, rocket, cherry tomatoes and carmelized onions—featured a grilled mild sausage from Southern Italy.
Pasta is where the kitchen really shines, turning out a Paccheri Siciliana (B290) using spicy salami, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, chili and a lovely smoked scamorza cheese along with parmesan. One of the eatery’s owners asked the pasta chef to make his best dish on the spot, and this smoky, earthy, salty masterpiece was what he came up with. A tip of the cap also to Mamma Maria’s lasagna (B280), a 50/50 pork-beef split using the family recipe.
Upstairs houses a pizza oven with a generous menu and a smoking patio. While not usually a fan of Panna cotta (B150), Cantina’s version with strawberry sauce was so light and delicate it provided a perfect counterbalance to my heavy entrées.
The restaurant has been open since October, and wine is available by the glass as well as by the bottle. It’s also worth noting that the owner’s family makes their own wine in Slovenia—under the Edi Simčič label—bottles of which are featured at the restaurant, including the Giocato brand. Their 2014 Giocato Sauvignon Blanc delivers a pleasant mineral tang, the result of its being cultivated at high altitude without irrigation.
By Robin Banks
Cantina Wine Bar & Italian Kitchen
4, Ari Samphan 3 Alley
Tel: 02 278 0250 | Open daily: 5pm-midnight