With nine outlets opened in major tourist districts across Thailand over the past few years, Limoncello Ristorante has raised questions as to whether the fast-growing Italian restaurant brand is connected to the time-honoured Pizzeria Limoncello, on Sukhumvit Soi 11.
The answer is yes. In 2007, Bangkok-based banker Roberto Ugolini and veteran restaurateur Gianmaria Zanotti of the Sukhumvit pizzeria to open the first Limoncello Ristorante Italiano in Phuket. Zanotti subsequently sold his shares to Ugolini.
Under the helm of Ugolini, a 20-year resident of the Kingdom, the restaurant has greatly expanded, with outlets in the capital, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Phuket and Koh Lipe, the country’s southernmost island in Satun province.
The five-month-old Bangkok location occupies the premises once home to Watermark restaurant.
The two-storey establishment provides a casual restaurant feel, with an al fresco dining courtyard, an attic-like chamber and a homey chef’s table room that can accommodate a private group of up to 20 diners.
Our dinner, during which we were attended to by an English-speaking staff, started off with a complimentary bread assortment including bread sticks and hot-from-the-oven focaccia, made from the restaurant’s highly cherished pizza dough, to be enjoyed with artisan balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
As we were hesitant on which appetisers to order from the 100-item menu, a service staff member offered a helpful suggestion.
The mixed appetiser platter (1,000 baht for a two-person serving) proved a great decision. Exhibited on a large plate were Caprese-style mozzarella salad, Italian sausage with rocket salad, pan-fried foie gras with fruity balsamic reduction, deep-fried battered calamari rings with tartar sauce and freshly sliced Parma ham with sweet and juicy melon.
You should not miss trying some of the restaurant’s two dozen pizza options. Made with imported organic flour and lots of water, the pizzas here boast crispy, bubbly crust that reveal an extraordinarily light interior.
That evening we passed the likes of — and planned to return for — Sandro’s pizza, featuring mozzarella and Pecorino cheese with rolled bacon and a touch of honey; Pizza King, with lamb ragu, artichoke and mozzarella; and the signature Limoncello pizza, with mascarpone and mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms and basil.
The Ugolini pizza (490 baht) that we instead settled on was a scrumptious creation made according to the Ugolini family simple recipe, with creamy burata cheese, fresh Italian tomatoes and sprinkles of rosemary. Yet its heartfelt taste was evidence of fine culinary preparation.
Limoncello’s artisanal pasta — both imported and house-made — is another treat you don’t want to miss.
Of the 20-dishes on the menu, the spaghetti lobster (1,800 baht) is one of the restaurant’s highlights. It showcased a gigantic lobster accompanied by a generous portion of linguine pasta, smothered in arrabbiata sauce, the flavours of which were enhanced by the crustacean’s springy and flavourful meat.
Another pasta dish worth having is Pasta King (500 baht), a scrumptious unification of caserecce pasta, Australian lamb ragu, Italian black truffles, artichoke and fresh cream. The salty ragu lent a rich meaty base to the dish, while morsels of artichoke and carrots provided light, tangy and sweet up top.
We were at first a bit disappointed to find the restaurant offering a collection of very common desserts — tiramisu, panna cotta and chocolate lava cake (the latter was only mediocre).
Then a friend pointed out Pizza Nutella (400 baht), on the pizza menu, which turned our frowns upside down.
Arriving was a freshly baked white bread crust, supple and slightly buttery, topped with a lovely combination of mascarpone cheese, Nutella and roasted hazelnut crumbs.
The not-too-sweet dessert served as a wonderful finale and wrapped up our meal memorably.
The 250-seater is always packed, especially at dinnertime. Reservations are recommended