All-in for Abruzzo
You know a city is finally offering genuine Italian cuisine when it ceases being labelled “Italian” at all. No, it’s only time to say arrivederci to mushy meatballs and cold spaghetti when Bangkok restaurants start advertising themselves by regional handles such as Tuscan, Roman, Milanese, Lucchese, Genovese, Sicilian, and so on.
The latest evidence of this is on offer at Spasso, a restaurant that in the past has gotten somewhat lost in the shuffle of all the outlets at the Grand Hyatt Erawan—mainly because it’s in the hotel basement and doubles on weekends as a live music dance club. Ironically, the Italian representative at what has long been one of Bangkok’s most luxurious spots is now being updated and brought back to prominence by a chef from one of his native country’s most humble regions.
Talk with head Chef Luca di Pietro, who has been transforming and personalizing the Spasso menu since he came on aboard nearly a year back, and within seconds you’ll become urgently aware of his deep pride in the special cuisine of fellow Abruzzese as imbibed and inhaled since he was on his grandmother’s knee—or more likely holding onto her apron strings. Somewhat lagging behind the rest of industrial Italy, the province is best known for its rustic pastas and sausages, although Chef Luca delves even deeper into its culinary traditions.
A special tasting menu of his favourite home dishes forms the heart of the new Spasso. Most prominent and prideful of these is the Stinco di Agnello al Forno, a hardly stinky lamb shank cooked in tomatoes and garlic until near decomposition (B990). And, of course, there are the pastas: the Chittarina al Granchio (B580), lemony crab informing handmade coils of “guitar” strings, and the Gnochetti (B600), also known as gnocchi, nicely pillowy and dressed with lamb again, as well as the Abruzzo version of hard Pecorino cheese. A compressed round of ocean trout tartare makes for an exciting starter (and references Abruzzo’s long Adriatic coast and port-capital Pescara, B600).
For those who miss the full range of Italian flavours, there’s always Spasso’s buffet, one of the most comprehensive in town when it comes to cold cuts, grilled vegetable antipasti, breads and pizzas, caprese salads and capers, and on and on, making diners forget regional fare or all sense of logic or diet. At a mere B895–1275, this is one of Bangkok’s better lunch bargains—and as authentic as Chef Luca as well.
Lower Lobby Grand Hyatt Erawan, 494 Rajadamri Rd | 0 2254 6250 | bangkok.grand.hyatt.com | daily noon-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10pm; Sunday brunch noon-3pm