My education in Italian food continues. If you’d asked me a week ago to name something from Emilia-Romagna cuisine I’d have drawn a complete and total blank. I’d never heard of Emilia-Romagna cuisine. But who hasn’t heard of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di Parma, or bolognese sauce? All of these are well known around the world and they all hail from this region.
When I learned that Andrea Bernadi, the former General Manager of Il Bolognese, was teaming up with Chef Stefano Merlo (formerly from Sensi) to bring authentic traditional Emilia-Romagna cuisine to Bangkok with the opening of Via Emilia (official Facebook page), my gal and I were very eager to check it out. Knowing it would be an epic feast we asked a friend to join us.
Andrea enthusiastically guided us through the menu so that we received a whirlwind tour of the region’s cuisine, paired with delicious wines. We also discovered how some of the cultural icons of the area influenced Via Emilia’s menu, decor, and identity.
Not atypical when an enthusiastic Italian leads you through a dining experience of the menu from their homeland, there were many, many dishes. Fortunately, the dishes were suitable for sharing and we were all pretty hungry. But even so, when it was done we pretty much had to roll ourselves away from the table.
Andrea recommended we stoke our appetite with something small, a simple flatbread sandwich sold by street vendors that are popular in the region. This was how our feast began…
A quick primer on Emilia-Romagna…
Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region is located in the southern part of Northern Italy below where the Alps meet the Apennine Mountain range. The Po River weaves through the middle of this huge valley, nourishing the soil which feeds the farmland, livestock, and population, before meeting the Adriatic Sea. Thus the region’s cuisine pulls from a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, as well as plenty of seafood.
Emilia-Romagna is two distinct areas but is always referred to as one. The area of Emilia sits to the north and west and includes the cities of Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Ferrara, and the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna. Romagna includes Ravenna, Forli, Cesena, and Rimini. Many of the ingredients coming from this region of these two areas have shaped Italian cuisine. Many of its recipes are known throughout the world. Who hasn’t heard of Bolognese?
Via Emilia gets its name from the ancient road Via Aemilia which was built over 2,000 years ago in 187 B.C. This vital Roman route originated in the Adriatic coastal town of Rimini. For 260 km it weaved its way across the entire Emilia-Romagna region to end at Piacenza. Though there isn’t much left of the ancient roadway, modern Italian State Road 9 is still officially called “Via Emilia” and its path follows closely or overtops the original ancient road.
So knowing this tasty bit of trivia, it seemed very appropriate to begin our culinary journey with this popular street food, Piadina (320 baht).
A piadina is a simple flatbread sandwich that is a popular street food for snacking or quick dining in the Romagna area. This Piadina (320 baht) is filled with rocket leaves, thin slices of Prosciutto Di Parma, and creamy Stracchino cheese. It should be eaten with your hands while the bread is still warm!
A coastal experience
L’Insalata Di Pesce Alla Romagnola (320 baht)
This L’Insalata Di Pesce Alla Romagnola (320 baht) is one of the best seafood salads I have experienced. It’s a classic bounty of Adriatic seafood such as mussels, shrimp, and cuttlefish, which is steamed, marinated, and tossed with parsley dressing.
I highly recommend this dish for seafood lovers. Diving into this dish will make you feel like you’ve been instantly transported to a seaside Mediterranean cafe. This feeling was shared by all of us at the table with that very first bite. Try it and experience that feeling for yourself.
Originating from crisis…
Cotechino is a fresh sausage made from pork, fatback, and pork rind. Its origin dates back to around 1511 when the city of Mirandola located in the Modena province was under siege. During this time of crisis, the besieged people of the city had to find a way to preserve meat and also use the less tender cuts. A few hundred years later this “crisis cuisine” surpassed all other sausages in popularity and was being mass-produced.
On the menu as Il Cotechino Di Modena Con Crema Di Patate (290 baht), this succulent sausage is served with creamed potatoes and a green parsley sauce. The perfect bite is inspired by the Italian flag, a little green, a little white, and a little red.
Seafood part due!
This Le Sardine Alla Griglia (320 baht) is proof that you can have an amazing dish with just a few quality ingredients. It consists of skewers of grilled sardines lightly crusted with herbed bread crumbs. As a bonus, it’s served with a mixed leaf salad. These sardines do not have a strong fishy taste/smell. You can also eat it all (bones and tail fin, too).
Switching gears now…
One pasta unique to the Emilia-Romagna cuisine is Passatelli (230 baht). This unusual pasta is made from bread crumbs, eggs, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, that is seasoned with lemon zest, and nutmeg.
It is served in a capon broth which makes this very light comfort food. I recommend this dish to reset your palate and transition your meal from starters to pasta dishes.
This Tortellini Artusiani (350 baht) is the best tortellini dish I have ever had. The recipe originates from Forlimpopoli native, Pelligrino Artusi, author of the 1891 cookbook, “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene” translated as “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”.
This expansive catalog of recipes is also known as “The Bible” for modern Italian cooking. The perfectly cooked tortellini shells are filled with roasted pork and smothered in creamy Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese sauce. Following Artusi’s recipe makes a pasta dish that tastes heavenly!
Twisting the night away…
Another unique pasta to Emilia-Romagna cuisine is the hand-twisted short noodles called strozzapreti. This Strozzapreti Con Le Canocchie (320 baht) dish features this fresh pasta with a creamy tomato sauce with tender chunks of mantis shrimp meat.
The large mantis shrimp crowning the noodles is hollow and for decoration. The meat has already been removed and is in the sauce!
Pure Emilia-Romagna flavors!
To say that this dish is substantial is an understatement. It is massive. This dish from Bologna, Cotoletta Alla Pteroniana (990 baht), features a large tender cutlet of breaded veal which is topped with 36-month aged prosciutto di Parma and melted Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
My friend noted that this dish perfectly captured the flavors of Emilia-Romagna cuisine, the tender meat, bread crumbs, prosciutto, and parmesan. Served with mashed potatoes and a side salad, this large meal is best shared!
A dream dessert…
No one can say for certain where this dessert dish originated from. One longstanding theory is that it was created in the kitchens of the Duke of Este who ruled over the city of Ferrara in the 16th century. The story is that this dish was created when their cooks were challenged to recreate a dessert that resembled the English trifle the family had experienced while visiting the Elizabethan court. Hence the name Zuppa Inglese (260 baht) or “English Soup“.
But this is only one origin story. There are many, many more. As a result, recipes for this delicious dessert vary greatly, and trying it at one restaurant may be a different experience from another.
Chef Merlo’s interpretation of famous Italian director/screenwriter and Emilia-Romagna native Frederico Fellini’s “dream dessert” combines whipped chocolate and vanilla custard which is layered between sponge cake soaked with sweetly spiced Alchermes liquor. Though it looks really rich, it’s actually very light and flavorful.
I highly recommend this dish as a fantastic finish to an Emilia-Romagna feast.
An ancient recipe…
This dessert looks similar to a creme brûlée or flan, but the Latteruolo Al Carmello (190 baht) is much more delicate.
This pudding cake follows an “ancient recipe” discovered by Pellegrino Artusi which results in a creamy consistency delicately scented with vanilla pods. If you have a sweet tooth add a little of the caramel drizzle to your spoon!
A bit about drinks…
The Via Emilia wine list focuses on the vintages of wines produced in the Emilia-Romagna and neighboring areas that retain a strong connection to this cuisine. Make sure to read the “fun facts” from the wine list.
One unique feature that separates Via Emilia from other Italian restaurants in Bangkok is that they feature a selection of Lambrusco wines. Should you ever be fortunate to find yourself sitting in one of the Trattorias in Emilia-Romagna, more than likely you would follow the lead of other diners sipping Lambrusco. It virtually pairs well with the entire complement of Emilia-Romagna dishes. Why not enjoy it in Bangkok, too?
A chat with the owner…
Our visit was guided by my long-time friend, now owner/founder of Via Emilia, Andrea Bernardi. Andrea originates from the coastal town of Rimini which lies on the eastern border of the Emilia-Romagna region. He moved to Bangkok in 2007 to manage the Bacco Restaurant. After 4 years he moved to Il Bolognese on Sathorn which is where I met him.
A visit to the restaurant was just as much to see Andrea as it was to eat the food. So I was a little disappointed when I learned he was departing. That disappointment quickly turned to excitement when I learned he was leaving to start his own restaurant.
Via Emilia opens!
Andrea’s goal is to bring the flavors and feeling of Emilia-Romagna cuisine to Bangkok. He says, “Our regional cuisine is extremely genuine and popular, and it has been the same for generations. The way we prepare our Bolognese sauce is the same way our grandmothers did it for us when we were kids. I was taught by memory and by feelings. These women with their love and passion carried around a vast knowledge that I am replicating today in my restaurant, making it a memory of my youth and a tribute of my region.”
Andrea also strives to share a bit of his culture with guests, which you may note with some of the artwork and background music. Movie buffs may also notice that the cartoonish woman in the Via Emilia sign is inspired by the vivacious tobacconist character played by Maria Antonietta Beluzzi, in Federico Fellini’s 1973 hit movie, Amarcord.
Relax and enjoy…
With Via Emilia’s menu and Chef Stefano Merlo in the kitchen, guests can expect a great meal. But with Andrea attending to the dining area, they are also assured of a great time. Fans of Emilia-Romagna cuisine will find that Via Emilia is an excellent place in Bangkok to experience the flavors and feelings of this amazing region. But for those who have never experienced this cuisine, you’ll find Andrea to be a welcoming and charming host.
I’m hungry. Where is it?
Via Emilia is located in the Sathorn/Naradhiwas area. The nearest BTS station is Chong Nonsi. But your best bet is to just grab a taxi or drive (there is ample parking on the street available).
There’s ample dining space inside with seating available by their pizza oven (a 72-hour fermented, natural leavened dough makes a fine pie!). For groups wanting more privacy, there’s a semi-enclosed dining space that affords a view of the kitchen action. There is also a wide-open dining space that can accommodate groups large and small.
During our visit, Via Emilia (official Facebook page) was still in a “soft-opening” stage. The interior pictures we took from our visit do not include recently added wall decorations.
For a Thursday night, it was already buzzing with guests. I would highly recommend making reservations in advance especially on weekends and especially if you have a large group!
PRO TIP: If you love lasagna, visit on a Sunday. That is when it’s fresh out of the oven!
I want to hear from you!
Should you decide to experience Via Emilia, 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 to reach out, I’d love to hear from you!
Great article Paul. Getting hungry by reading. Must be Italian as its best. So tempting.
Thank you, Agneta! We visited this past Sunday to try their lasagna. It’s absolutely amazing! Give in to the temptation and enjoy their delicious food and wines! 🙂
Hi Paul, I am Kriss, Italian in Italy at the moment but previously in Bangkok. I am a Stefano’s friend ( my sister is engaged with Stefano’s brother Antonio.) You’ve submitted a real great description of italian history. There is a small thing you should revise about “Romagna “ eastern side of the region. Bologna city stands in the other section ( western Emilia). Furthermore, for bologna’s citizens being considered as “ romagnoli” ( from Romagna) wouldn’t be so pretty at all! Chill out. Have a nice time.
Thank you for taking the time to let me know about this error in the article. I have corrected it. I sincerely appreciate you keeping my writing honest! 🙂
I hope you and your family are well in Italy and that you get a chance to revisit Bangkok soon!