I’ve always been a fan of Italian food, and I feel fortunate that in Bangkok there are many fine Italian eateries to scratch that pasta/pizza craving itch I frequently get. But I didn’t realize that Italian cuisine is not all the same and the menu can vary greatly between Italy’s regions. This discovery happened when my gal and I recently visited L’OLIVA (official Facebook page), an “Italian oasis” restaurant which specializes in traditional dishes from Abruzzo.
The region of Abruzzo lies east of Rome and is bordered by an Adriatic coastline and the rugged Apennine Mountains. Abbruzzese cuisine draws from the bounty of the sea and the pastoral valleys. They also make pasta a little differently using a Chitarra, a pasta cutting board frame that uses guitar strings to cut the noodles.
The menu L’OLIVA offers is HUGE. What we enjoyed during this visit was just a taste of what they have to offer. I’m a fan of Italian cuisine, but after this visit I’m a HUGE fan of Abbruzzese cuisine!
Let me show you why…
A nice start…
Once seated we were offered a complimentary tray of homemade slices of bread with tapenade and a saucer of olive oil infused with fiery chilies. We began the meal with a couple of antipasti. The first antipasto was this Parmigiana Di Melanzane (380 baht).
This lasagna-like dish is made with layers of thinly sliced eggplant, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and basil which is baked until all the flavors meld together and the cheese is slightly chewy and stringy. It’s suitable for sharing for two persons and does exactly what a starter dish should do…kickstart your appetite!
The second antipasto were these lamb skewers, Arrosticini Abruzzesi (390 baht). Lamb and mutton are quite popular in Abruzzo as herding is still a way of life around some of the mountainous areas. This dish comes with five skewers of tender grilled Italian lamb meat inside a ceramic jug. It’s also served with 5 slices of crunchy garlic bread. You can season it further with the black salt served on the side.
There’s plenty here to share for a couple, but since it’s five skewers you have to be quick if you want the last one. I won this round…and dodged a skewer.
Abruzzo’s famous pasta
After the starters, we moved on to the pasta. For me, there is nothing finer than freshly made pasta. This was my first experience with “Chitarra” pasta. Wow!
The Chitarra, also known as a “pasta guitar”, originated in the Abruzzo region. To make the Chitarra pasta the dough is first rolled by hand into sheets. Each sheet of fresh pasta is then laid on the guitar strings and pressed through the wires with a rolling pin. Trust me, the result of this single guitar is a symphony of flavor.
L’OLIVA imports the flour for their pasta direct from Abruzzo so you can be assured you’re getting authentic flavor here. This Chitarra Al Ragu’ Abruzzese (420 baht) is cooked al dente with springy noodles and a hearty tomato ragù of veal, lamb, and pork. Because the guitar strings give the noodles a rough cut, the sauce sticks to them well. So every bite is perfect.
This is the one dish I regret sharing as I’d have happily enjoyed it all to myself! If you’re a pasta fan I highly recommend this dish.
L’OLIVA offers several pizza options on their menu, but for this visit, I accepted the chef’s recommendation and strayed way outside my red sauce and pepperoni comfort zone.
The hand-tossed sourdough crust has a nice chew. But what made this pizza so different from the American style pies I’m used to were the toppings.
The Mortadella E Pistacchio (520 baht) is made with a zucchini cream sauce, Fior di Latte Mozzarella (a sweeter, stringier cheese), slices of Mortadella, and topped with dollops of creamy mascarpone, crushed pistachio nuts, and arugula leaves.
Not only is this a great mélange of flavors, but it’s also a nice mixture of textures. The salty silkiness of the Mortadella, the sweet creaminess of the mascarpone and zucchini cream sauce, the bitter crunch from the arugula, are a delicious combination.
Whatever pizza hangups you may harbor, this is a pie worth trying!
Pro Tip: Try this pizza with a little of the fiery chili-infused olive oil. It’s a game-changer!
A sweet finish.
This Cannoli Abruzzesi (280 baht) dessert is made with tubes of crunchy fried pastry dough stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese and mascarpone. It’s also served with fresh fruits, crushed pistachio nuts, preserved orange peel, and a dusting of powdered sugar.
This was a wonderful finish to an excellent meal and introduction to Abbruzzese cuisine. As full as we were (especially after the pizza!) this dish was proof that if a dessert is good your stomach will find the room for it.
Forget about tiramisu, instead, try finishing an Italian feast with cannoli!
A bit about drinks…
L’OLIVA has a very well-stocked glass-encased wine room visible from the dining area. If you’re like me and feel a tasty meal deserves the company of good wine you’ll appreciate the many options they have on their wine list.
We decided to keep the evening focused on Abruzzo and had this wonderful (and wallet-friendly) red wine. Of course, if you have a Ferrari parked outside your mansion, their RISERVA SPECIALE wine list is worth a gander. I looked because I like to dream.
If cocktails are more your thing, no fear here. L’OLIVA has a full-service bar and is happy to whip up your favorite libation for you!
A chat L’OLIVA’s founder
During our visit, I had the opportunity to chat with Nicolino Pasquini, the co-founder of L’OLIVA. Nicolino hails from the countryside near the town of Lanciano in the Abruzzo region of Italy. He fell in love with Thailand after his first visit in 1989 but settled in Bangkok in 2005 accepting a senior executive position with Nawarat, a longstanding construction firm.
Growing up around farms, vineyards, and olive groves (where L’OLIVA gets its name) he was instilled with a philosophy that you “don’t stick with only one business“. Watching his grandmother cook for their large family also instilled him with a passion for cooking. He was fascinated with how she could combine different ingredients to produce such incredible flavors.
His philosophy of branching into new business opportunities led Nawarat to create Tastemaker (well known under the Bua Restaurant label), and his passion for cooking led to him having carte blanche approval to open L’OLIVA.
Home away from home…
Launched December 11, 2019, L’OLIVA is Nicolino’s home away from home, and that’s a feeling he wants guests to share. The seating was designed with comfort in mind so that diners would feel welcomed to settle in rather than rushed. The concrete walls adorned with his wife’s art, rustic brick, and hanging hand-painted ceramic lamp plates exude a warm “modern trattoria” ambiance. But what truly makes this restaurant homey is the food itself. That’s because many of the recipes are from his grandmother.
Every other day they have a live pianist performing for guests. We were fortunate to visit while he was there. My gal appreciated that I’ve matured to remember a wine bar is not a karaoke bar. Seeing the “Piano Man” sure was tempting to forget that, though.
L’OLIVA calls itself an Italian oasis in Bangkok, and surrounded by such Italian hospitality, warmth, and comfort it is easy to understand why. Visit and I bet you will almost forget you’re where you’re at, too.
I’m hungry. Where is it?
L’OLIVA is a 6-minute walk from the Thonglor BTS station (exit 2) down Sukhumvit Soi 36, then right on Sub Soi 2. There’s ample onsite parking available if you’re mobile (which is pretty rare for restaurants in the Sukhumvit area). You can’t miss the glass frontage and olive trees around the restaurant.
We went on a Tuesday and it filled up quickly. I highly recommend making reservations which you can do on their FB page or via LINE.
Not only is L’OLIVA an excellent place for an intimate dinner, but it’s also a great place for groups. While we were there we ran into a friend who was having her office party in one of the private dining rooms offered. Classy!
Now that the weather is cooling, L’OLIVA is a great place for al fresco dining on the second-floor terrace. As there are no skyscrapers surrounding the restaurant guests can enjoy the cool evening breezes rare in Bangkok.
If you’re looking for an amazing Italian dinner and a temporary escape from Bangkok I highly recommend a visit to L’OLIVA!
I want to hear from you!
Should you decide to experience L’OLIVA I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section below, directly to me, or via message on either the Chow Traveller Facebook page or Chow Traveller Instagram (and feel free to like/follow these pages if you want to learn about more foodie gems). However you choose, I’d love to hear from you!