By most estimates, Bangkok has over 100 Italian restaurants and in my experience 99% of them share one common trait: high prices. It has always concerned me that the high prices for pasta, pizzas, fish and meat are almost the same from restaurant to restaurant and it was as if all of the owners sat around a table and had a meeting of the families to discuss the price. I think a lot of that is about to change with the launch of Cucina by Calderazzo which showed us last week that you can have real home cooked Italian food without getting whacked by a big bill.
Marco Calderazzo’s latest venture in the new Central Rama 9 was inspired by his dream to turn authentic southern Italian food into a delicious, fresh and affordable experience for Bangkokians who are turned off of Italian food because of the high prices. A similar comparison might be the iconic Uniqlo and H&M which have both proven around the world that quality can be afforable if the retailer sets that as one of their priorities from the outset. After dipping the fresh bread in olive oil and vinegar we picked out 4 courses to find out if Cucina by Calderazzo is going to change the game of provide more of the same.
We were both big fans of the calamari served at Calderazzo’s on Langsuan and I didn’t have to ask CB twice if she wanted to order it. As usual the squid (THB179 / $6 plus tax and service charge for all dishes) came with just the right amount of very well seasoned batter and was fried to a golden brown. Their secret to producing tender squid is their ‘slow and low’ approach when deep frying and if you want overly battered crispy squid you better head elsewhere. The small side salad contrasted well with the fried squid and the fresh garlicky tomato salsa made you forget everything you knew about aioli or tarter sauce.
For our pasta course we couldn’t pass up the homemade short and twisted strozzapreti served with a beef and pork ragu bell pepper sauce. Though this dish isn’t overly huge it makes up for that in richness and depth of flavour and at THB189 / $6.25 it’s obviously a great deal.
I am probably the biggest steak lover in Thailand who happens to order the least amount of steaks. A low priced cut of Thai beef isn’t expensive but every bite makes you think of how many years this cow must have worked plowing the family farm. On the other hand, the high quality imported steaks taste amazing but are severely over-priced. To put things in perspective, if you went to the JW Marriott’s ‘New York Steakhouse’ and ordered an 8oz Angus filet mignon without any side dishes the price alone including tax and tip would be THB 2,700/ $90! When I saw the Australian grain fed beef tenderloin for THB379 / $13 I had to look twice and at that price we had to give it a shot. The steak came with a serving of not overly sauteed spinach (bonus points), a portion of creamy mashed potatoes and a well made gravy served on the side. How was the steak you ask? If I was in England/Japan/Thailand/Italy/Canada I would say brilliant/oishi/aroi/delizioso/fricken awesome! I can honestly say that we have now finally found a place in Bangkok where we can have a properly cooked tender steak at a more than reasonable price.
CB doesn’t stand for ‘cocao bean’ but it might as well because she loves anything to do with chocolate! That made our dessert choice easy and we went with the made in-house chocolate budino which means ‘pudding’. Most budinos I saw on the internet resemble more of a flan or lava-cake and our beautiful budino (THB179 / $6) came rolled in almonds, oozed velvety Belgian chocolate and was served with a scoop of premium double vanilla ice cream. The one bite that CB gave me was very good (just joking).
Back when I was a kid, a trip to the mall usually meant our choices to eat were limited to bland burgers, pizza sitting under a heat lamp or westernized Chinese food from Golden Red Jade Dragon Panda Express. If I was locked up in the joint for the last 20 years and you told me that they are now serving fresh, homemade and affordable Italian food in a shopping mall I would call you a liar. How times have changed, and in this case, definitely for the better.
Cucina by CalderazzO
7th Floor, Central Grand Rama 9,
Ratchadaphisek Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Open everyday from 10:00AM – 10:00PM