No, I’m not a fan of Italian food as because I’m one of those who are afraid of carbs (hence pasta and focaccia) and fat (hence cheese). And I mean I tried a few chain restaurants that are said to be quite upscale but pasta is pasta and pizza tastes just like one another. (Sorry I’m just not the enthusiast so I couldn’t say much about differences among them)
Cantina didn’t excite me at first because the photos we saw before the visit didn’t tell the dishes here apart from the ones we tasted before. When we sat down, however, we started to feel the difference. One was the attentiveness of the caretaker. The casual talks, the jokes, the story of the restaurant, the origin of the recipe, and the smiles of the people waiting to help us. Second was the menu. Yes, there was definitely Bruschetta there, but the variations offered here made me smile, thinking “finally, there’s something more than tomato and basil…” We went for the mixed selection of everything (290 Baht).
Cantina introduced an interesting combination of the texture of different ingredients, which was kind of a nice surprise.
First variation: San Danielle Ham, Stracciatella, Tomatoes and Fresh Basil. Although quite normal, the tomatoes were fresh and cold, refreshing. Second one was the white beans (or cannellini beans to be fancy) and gorgonzola cheese. Third was the Artichoke, Black Truffle Paste, and Fontina Cheese and the last was the Avocado, Feta Cheese, Arugula, and Fresh Tomatoes. They were hearty; all the ingredients were merging into one satisfying bite. In the end, we didn’t even know what we were eating but kept on munching them. My favorite is the white beans, though, as it was truly new and flavorful. The one I’ll pick for my next visit.
Then we’re on to salad: Cannellini & Spinach (200): baby spinach, white beans, red onions, celery, mustard, and balsamic vinegar. Simple food made well. It was the first dish we finished. To go into details: beans were intact, not breaking apart. Red onions were sweet, soaked well with the vinegar dressing, and the celery just added up the crunchy texture this simple salad needed. The baby spinach was fresh and well coated with the oil, making each bite easy to eat. Overall, just go with this salad if you wish to have something nutritious to share. Never go wrong.
We were arguing quite a lot on what to order for pasta. I had my eyes on the angel hair, just because it seemed to contain the least carbs. (Haha) However, after being pointed out that the best dish in the pasta category was the Mother Maria’s Recipe’s Home Made Lasagna (280), we decided to give this notoriously carby menu a chance. It turned out to be the B-E-S-T lasagna I’ve ever had in my life; I could go even further to say it was the best pasta dish I had. Not the most extravagant, the most decorated, the fine-dining pasta; just humble, homey, simple, and authentic. Came in a small bowl was a two-layer lasagna with meat sauce (a mix of pork and meat so not to be too oily) and grated parmesan on top. There was no melted cheese covers of the usual lasagna…No think flour layers, no oily trail left behind on the dish after eaten. This lasagna brought me home, to an Italian dining table eating a dish made by an Italian mother. I urge you to try. Actually, you ‘must’ try and you will go home smiling feeling like you have really visited an Italian friend’s house.
Then came the pizza. Oh Pizza is such a forbidden word for many girls. Similar to the lasagna, Pizza is supposed to be loaded with cheese, melted hot with fluffy bready crust. At Cantina here, there’s nothing resemble that generic image of pizza. The counter where the chefs made pizza from scratch was just right behind us. Watching them kneaded the dough, flattened it, painted them with simple tomato sauce, and topped with grilled eggplant slides was nothing but pure pleasure. It’s so good to know exactly went into the food, and especially when there was no butter or melty cheese involved. The pizza was then put under hot oven before sprinkled with salted caramel drops and basil leaves. Again, just like the other dishes I explained here,the ‘Norma’ – pizza with tomato sauce, deep fried eggplants, salted ricotta, and fresh basil (320) – was simple and respectful to the ingredients. We ate the whole thing up shamelessly because of the crust. The crispy crust. Never before in my life that eating pizza felt so healthy.
Cantina in a nutshell? Simple, Humble, Authentic and Homey. It goes to show that a dish, even with a few ingredients, if made well, could actually top the complex visually enticing eateries.
We will go back again and this time, I’ll order Tiramisu.