La Pala – Pizza Romana – walk in eatery in Bangkok

March 19, 2012

Welcome to my city: Krung thep, the city of angels

Bangkok is a fascinating Asian mega-city. Millions of people visit it every year. Bangkok is where different people from different cultures meet, relax, shop, trade, interact and enjoy each others diversity.

This is also reflected in the great variety of different eateries from East and West. None of the major world cuisines is not represented. And Bangkokians love food, their own and foreign food. Therefore it is no surprise that Bangkok has a vibrant restaurant culture catering to the needs of the poor and the prosperous alike.

The entrance to La Pala, right below the Asoke BTS station

Recently, I discovered a new Italian eatery, La Pala, right below the Asoke BTS train station. La Pala offers Pizza Romana style food. The quality of the food ingredients is the key, as are the service and the hospitality in general.

La Pala is not a romantic place. The crossing with the BTS station, the underground, the overpass and the shopping malls around it, is one of the busiest corners in Bangkok, bustling with people and traffic. La Pala is “practical” without frills, it is down to earth and at the same time a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

The counter with cheese and ham

The pizza oven and work benches

The food is simple but delicious as you can see from the three pictures below. Of course there is also pizza by the half-meter and the meter, or in small pieces. But you can also order a pasta or a risotto.

A tuna salad

More salad

Focaccia in many different variations

Italian food would not be complete without wine. This is one feature I like best in La Pala. You just order by the glass or a bottle, and there is some good choice of delicious Italian wines.

We sampled a bottle of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a region West of Ancona in Le Marche. It was immediately put into a bucket with ice to keep it cool.

Claudio Volpetti, the owner, is from Rome. He imports high quality Italian food items for five star hotels in Thailand. He has also a small selection of wines you can order with a order form called Wine “Meranda”.

On this list you can find an Amarone delle Valpolicella by Villa Girardi, a Moscato d’Asti Nivole by Michele Chiarlo, Crede Prosecco Brut by Bisol, a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi by Garofoli and Liano, a Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon blend by Umberto Cesari.

The address of La Pala

So if you find yourself hungry and stressed out from over-shopping in Bangkok, go to Asoke BTS station and find refuge in La Pala, enjoy the warm hospitality, the excellent food and fine wines. Needless to say you will bump into many Italians there, clear evidence for the outstanding quality. Check it out. Enjoy a bit of home far away from home.

Restaurant review: Orazio, Rome

July 15, 2010

It is wonderful to be again in the town which was my home for three years (1988-90). Rome is just stunning, a wonderful city. In 1990 I witnessed here the soccer world cup. Ten years later I was invited as visiting professor by the Food and Agriculture Organization to conduct a study on property rights in Asia. In 2010 I am back because my children thought that the celebration of my 20th wedding anniversary deserves a special treat.

Everywhere I go, I am also somehow confronted with my past. As all old man, I am reminiscing. One special place is the restaurant ‘Orazio di Caracalla’. It was here were we had – after the ceremony at the “Campidoglio” (capital hill) – our wedding lunch. The restaurant is located right at the end of the Terme di Caracalla on the way to Porta Latina. It has a splendid garden and a big car park with old trees.

Menu of ‘Ristorante Orazio’

We casually strolled in after visiting the Colosseum on a beautiful summers day with blue sky and temperatures around the mid thirties.

As with many good restaurants in Rome, little changes over the years. Interesting I also find that the waiters seem to be part of the place. So it is at Orazio. They are observant and discreet, and very friendly.

Mixed starters

On hot days, plates of antipasti are always a welcome start of a meal. Both dishes (above and below), the mixed selection of starters and the melon with ham, were just delicious.

Melon and ham


Although not in the “carcioffi” (artichoke) season, we could not resist ordering “Carcioffi alla Romana”. I had to go for “penne al arrabiata”, one of my favorite pasta dish.

Penne al arrabiata

The local wine we selected was, of course, a Frascati. This blend of Malvasia and Trebbiano (sometimes other white varieties are added) is ideal accompaniment of Roman food on a hot summers day.

Casalgentile is a very well known producer of the Castelli Romani. It’s ‘Agrospino Bianco’ blend has earned various awards. So have many of Pietro Mergé’s other wines.

A wine from Lazio: Frascati

Family lunch

As the photo above shows, we had a great time.

Ristorante Orazio
F.lli Valentini
Via di Porta Latina 5
Tel.: +39-6-70492401
Fax: +39-6-77207339
Closed on Tuesday

Cappuccino cornetto in Ariccia

July 13, 2010

The cafe where we had our breakfast in Ariccia

We visited Ariccia, one of the small towns in the Alban hills near Rome. Ariccia is a very picturesque place with great views of the coastal plains. We very much enjoyed strolling through its narrow roads and soaked in the atmosphere.

Cappuccino cornetto

We also enjoyed a simple Italian breakfast with cappuccino and a cornetto. The owner of the cafe was very friendly. We felt like locals.


The two cornetti were most delicious. Trip adviser: if in Rome go and see Ariccia.

Pomodoro, Italian cuisine in Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

June 20, 2010

The historic Peoples Committee building next to modern high rises in glass

The menu of Pomodoro

“One cannot have always Asian food”, is how some people feel when traveling in Asia. Having the opportunity to check out an Italian restaurant was just too tempting. “Pomodoro” it was called, tomato. And in fact tomatoes were to be found not only on the menu, but also on the coasters. I took one as a souvenir.

The staff in the restaurant is very friendly, helpful and flexible. I craved for gnocchi when I detected them on the menu. Just simple “gnocchi al pomodoro”. They were delicious. I just had a salad with it, which made a perfect meal.

Gnocchi with tomato sauce

The restaurant has a very impressive wine list. Unfortunately, I do not know much about Italian wines. We asked what seemed to be “il padrone” (the boss), and he suggested we try the house wine, a ‘2007 Sandiliano Salento Rosso’ from Apulia.

A beautifully presented bottle of red

As I learned while writing this blog entry, the Apulian wine region is divided into two, the North and the South. Salento is situated to the south of the Brindisi-Taranto line. It is a peninsula of low, rolling hills that extends between the Adriatic and Ionian seas to the easternmost point of Italy. Thanks to the sea currents and breezes, the climate of Sorento is not too hot.

Therefore it wines have sufficient acidity and are not boring like “sultana wines” (or raisin wines as I call them). Salento’s traditional wines were the powerful, inky reds from Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera grape varieties. But increasingly fresher reds and rosés are produced, which show some unexpectedly bright and fruity characters.

The ‘2007 Sandiliano Salerno Rosso’, the house wine of Pomodoro, belonged to this latter category. It went very well with my gnocchi. The wine is a blend of Negroamaro and Merlot (12% vol. alc. only). It is fruity but not overwhelmingly so. It is a dark red and rustic wine, as I like them. One can taste the soil and the peasants hand.

Sandiliano Salento Rosso

pomodoro italian restaurant
79 Hai Ba Trung, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel.: +84-8-38238998
Fax: +84-8-38238957

PS: For the Italophiles among you, I enclose herewith a little video clip on “Il padrone della casa”

La Domenica – A Tuscan feast with Tuscan wine

June 13, 2010

Jamie Oliver’s Italy

It was high time for some beautiful Italian food after my culinary peregrinations in Taiwan, especially since I am in the process of packing my suitcase again. I will be in Vietnam for the next two weeks and explore some of the foods in Hanoi and Saigon.

I am a lover of pasta, any pasta. Based on a recipe from the Jamie Oliver Italy book, we set out on a “fusilli con rague”. Imagine a sauce thick with the flavours of beef rosemary and tomatoes simmering on the kitchen stove for hours.

Our favorite Prosecco so that the waiting was bearable

The table waiting for the pasta

Voila: the pasta

It was delicious, just what I needed, earthy and robust, rooted in the peasant traditions of Italy.

What about the wine? I bought a bottle of Italian wine from my favourite wine shop in Taoyuan just across from the International Center for Land Policy Studies and Training (ICLPST). Nothing special, but decent. It was a bottle of ‘2007 Chianti D.O.C.G.’ by Melini, one of the best wine makers of Tuscany.

In wine reviews it gets three, sometimes four, out of five stars. It has about 13.5 % alcohol and costs between US$ 8 to 12. This young Chianti is a solid wine for every day, with good fruit flavours, medium bodied with a long finish. It went very well with the pasta.

PS: The good news is that in July we will be in Rome and Florence with ample opportunity to taste many Tuscan wines.

Spiedini di salsiccia e manzo

December 6, 2009

The spiedini on my Weber

The other day we experimented with a recipe by Jamie Oliver. It had fired up my Weber and was ready to go. ‘Spiedini di salsiccia e manzo’ was the dish, we intended to cook. The photo above gives you an idea.

The recipe goes as follows:

– beef fillet cut in cubes of 2.5 cm (12 pieces)
– Italian sausages of the highest quality ( 4 large ones)
– four thickly slices pieces of pancetta (or streaky beacon)
– fresh sage leaves (18-20)
– gloves of garlic, peeled (2-3)
– one lemon, zested and halved
– extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, ground black pepper

In Jamie Olivers recipe you stick the meat and the sausages on firm sticks of fresh rosemary. We used skewers instead. But I will try it with the rosemary sticks if I prepare this dish in Australia next time.

We marinated the meat in a “magic potion” for a long time before sticking them on the skewer. Make sure that you put about 3-4 pieces of pancetta on each stick, also the sage interspersed with meat needs to be part of each skewer. I whacked them on the “barby”, turned them around a few times, all in all about 20 minutes suffice to make them the most delicious food you ever had.

You can serve them with polenta, or potatoes, or just eat them with bread. Have a beer or two, or a glass of cold white wine. Voila, a great meal. Thanks Jamie for the hint, we loved your recipe.