Slap bang in the middle of Phrom Phong is one of Bangkok’s favourite restaurant hubs: Soi 31.
Tardis-style, it doesn’t look like much from the outside but once you’re in, you’ll discover it’s HUGE. Both in physical length – almost 2 km long with a spider plant web of alleys and sub-sois – and in the breadth of establishments lining its chaotic pavements.
Alongside luxury condos and boutique hotels lie art galleries, spas, hipster cafes and more restaurants than you can shake a stick at.
In this mix of international cuisines are a clutch of Italian restaurants that are making a name for themselves not just on Sukhumvit but across Bangkok as a whole. Each has their strengths – and weaknesses! – but each brings something different to la tavola.
Here’s our rundown of what you can expect from each.
Best for: Pizza
Since they burst onto the scene last year, Peppina has proved one of Bangkok’s most popular spots for authentic Neapolitan pizza – we’re talking delicately crispy crusts erupting into light and fluffy dough with generous, creative, and intensely flavourful fillings.
Unlike other pizza joints dotted around the city, flavour isn’t contrived simply by dumping a load of salt into the mix and making for an unquenchable thirst later. These are fresh, authentic ingredients seasoned intelligently with quality oils and herbs.
What’s On Sukhumvit favourites include the Diavola (salami, rocket and chilli oil), the Campania (wild mushroom, cured pig cheek and red onion) and the totally out-of-left-field delight, the Zucca (pumpkin, walnut, taleggio cheese and red onion).
They say the true litmus test of a good pizzeria is the quality of its Margherita but we wouldn’t know – life’s too short not to have toppings.
And at Peppina, you’re missing out if you’re not having toppings.
With such cult status and popularity, however, comes a couple of drawbacks – service can err on the rushed side while they don’t manage to quite capture the atmosphere of a traditional Italian. It feels like more of a pre-party dinner spot rather than somewhere you’ll break bread with Mama and overindulge on spaghetti.
Best for: Atmosphere
Contrary to the scene at Peppina, Bella Napoli’s strength lies in the genuine Italian feel of the place.
It’s all red-chequered tablecloths, taverna-esque décor and warm service here. For just a moment, you may feel that you’ve somehow been transported from the sweaty throes of Bangkok straight into the arms of Naples – until you get a grip and are knocked out of your stupor by the Thai waiters and decidedly Japanese clientele.
You’re certainly not rushed when dining at Bella, and it’s not uncommon to see various merry parties whiling away countless hours in the restaurant as they eat and drink their way through the menu. There’s complimentary bread and some cured meats to see you through to the antipasti course while you’re sure to find something you like in the extensive menu.
Sure; it’s hardly fine dining and there’s not the level of culinary craft on display here as at its competitors, but it’s a bloody good place to spend an evening with friends, family and even spurned lovers (Ed: go for the complimentary breadsticks, stay for the people-watching).
Best for: Pasta
Appia routinely finds itself on ‘Bangkok best restaurant’ lists and it’s easy to see (and taste) why.
The pasta dishes here are – in a word – phenomenal.
In addition to delicately fresh ingredients, rich sauces and perfectly al dente homemade pasta, Chef Paolo Vitaletti captures the essence of Italian cooking: robust, rustic flavours with a passionate emphasis on ingredients and substance rather than needless pomp.
Appia also hits the nail on the head when it comes to atmosphere; the restaurant is small and cosy, trattoria style, with a buzzing atmosphere yet you’re not packed in like sardines or rushed out once you’ve slurped up the last of your tiramisu.
While not outrageously priced, Appia certainly isn’t your budget carbonara joint and it attracts a somewhat HiSo clientele. Wear flip-flops at your peril…
Best for: Romance
If you want to take things up a notch in your romantic relations, allow Antonio’s to do the hard work for you.
With mood lighting, intimate seating and wonderfully authentic food, impressing a date at Antonio’s is pretty easy.
They’ve even got a special lovers’ set menu featuring heart-shaped ravioli and lover’s chocolate lava dessert. If you want to pull out all the stops, book ahead and request a rose, flower arrangement, ready-and-waiting Champagne or even a rose petal-strewn table, if you wish.
You’ll be going full Lady And The Tramp in no time at all…
The final thing that will undoubtedly impress your date is picking up the cheque at Antonio’s – food this good in such a romantic setting certainly doesn’t come cheap.
Best for: Not being on Soi 31
Yep; we know that it’s technically on Soi 27. However, it’s so close to Soi 31 and offers such unbelievably good Italian cuisine that we simply couldn’t not include it.
Enoteca’s menu is more or less unparalleled when it comes to Italian fine dining. Creative ingredient combinations, innovative flavour profiles and traditional cooking techniques all manage to merge here to create a truly astonishing menu. Some particularly memorable dishes include Black Ink Cappuccino, Slow Cooked Italian Suckling Pig (Ed: Oh, mama!) and a divine monkfish dish.
The atmosphere, while admittedly not your classic Roman trattoria, is nevertheless warm and welcoming with plenty of wine on display and a beautiful garden. One bloke loved it so much he proposed to his girlfriend here. It’s that kind of place.
Where’s your top spot for Italian in Bangkok? Any of these places tickle your pickle?