Cantina Wine Bar & Italian Kitchen
The casual pizza and pasta house Ari has been waiting for.
Soho Hospitality (the group behind Above Eleven, Charcoal and Havana Social) fills the Italian gap in Ari with a casual pizza and pasta house. Themed after an Italian wine cellar, the wood-and-brick-heavy restaurant features hundreds of wine bottles, which are sold at rock-bottom prices. Food-wise, the kitchen matches the cozy vibe with simple dishes like bruschetta with San Daniele ham and stracciatella cheese, smoked burrata salad with heirloom tomatoes, pasta and Neapolitan-style pizza. Don’t miss their mascarpone e tartufo pizza which features mascarpone cheese, mozzarella cheese, truffle paste, rocket leaves and San Daniele ham.
Ari Samphan’s quaint pizzeria and wine bar, Cantina, is a big hit with the neighborhood. Even on a weeknight, getting a seat in its rusticated, raw brick and wood interior demands reservation long in advance (in the past, we’ve been unlucky four hours before service).
Our tip: make your reservation for the second floor, where the vibe is cozier, in full view of the pizza-making kiosk, and detached from the resonant buzz of downstairs. One of Cantina’s strongest draws has to be the wine list. Sommelier Mathew Milotich has been the head man here since the day it opened in late 2016, and his huge, stunning wine rack straddles two stories with over 60 labels. By the glass, things start at B250 and by the bottle at B950 (Edi Simcic Pinot Grigio 2015). Last time we visited, Milotich was also on-site to guide us.
The pizza (B280-B520) is good, but not in the same league as the best in town. Our main issue is with the 24 hour-raised pizza dough, which just doesn’t have the texture and crispiness we’d hope for, but the tomato sauce is also so freaking salty we’re not sure if it’s a strategy to make you order more wine. Still, the toppings showcase some excellent produce, like a tantalizingly creamy burrata and excellent parma ham (B490).
The kitchen could also do a better job with its over-salted pasta, which, in the case of a squid ink tagiolini (B420), lacks al dente bite despite the fresh, firm seafood. Elsewhere on the menu, things read more like an Ekkamai brewpub than authentic pizzeria. The kurobuta pork steak (B490) is not only expensive, but also accompanied by dehydrated spinach and cold, bland mashed potato. Dressed in an acidic-and-sweet pineapple sauce, the flavor is actually quite pleasant, if not in keeping with the Italian vibe—which elsewhere really shines.
The service is professional and helpful, and willing to dish out a complimentary digestif of limoncello. We’d advise against finishing things off with the tiramisu (B200), which is too heavy on the mascarpone, but Cantina definitely has its place. As a wine bar, it’s the best in the neighborhood, and enough reason alone for us to someday return.
This review took place in August 2017 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.