Pizza Pala Romana
Asoke's grab-and-go pizza institution.
Asoke’s institution for Roman-style pizza (thicker, crunchier and square) is the cause of much love-hate conversation. The near-underground setting and uncomfortable bar-stool seating do nothing to put fans off the delicious, meter-long slabs that come out of the oven. The 72-hour-cured dough forms a very thin, crisp crust, while the half-inch above is an aerated miracle. San Marzano tomatoes and artichoke add zing to the capricciosa, while the cinque formaggi is a cheesy delight.
Located beneath the walkway connecting BTS Asoke, Terminal 21 and MRT Sukhumvit, Pala’s large bay windows offer near-subterranean views. Throw in uncomfortable bar-stool seating, a cramped kitchen-slash-deli packed with cold cuts, a loud crowd of expats and tourists munching on pizza slices under harsh neon lighting and you’ve got a space that practically begs that you order takeaway from their outdoor counter. So why is it always packed? Pala’s pizzas are a play on flavors and textures verging on the sublime. Roman-style, they’re cooked as one-meter-long slabs cut up in squares (B40-95 for a roughly 6-by-6-inch piece). The major difference from the classic Neapolitan pie is that the dough here is left to rise much longer, so that it achieves a bread-like quality. The bottom forms this very thin, super crispy crust with beautiful char marks, while the half-inch above is this aerated, slightly sour miracle. The quality of the toppings, from artichokes in the capricciosa to sharp cheeses in the cinque formaggi, does the rest. Pala isn’t just a pizza oven, though. The amicable chef whips up a mean selection of pastas and specials (B190-230) that seem to never repeat themselves, serving up rare ingredients for the Bolognese-weary: gnocchi with pumpkin or blue cheese and walnut sauce; a risotto with rocket, Caprino di Fossa cheese and pine nuts; or perhaps a simple plate of mussels with saffron and salicornia. Subtle, perfectly balanced, cooked just right (even the risotto stays al dente, as opposed to the creamy mush you usually get), these are not flavors for the chili-addicted palate—or for those who think Italian food is sweet and sour. Even a dessert we’d given up hope on, tiramisu (B120), is reborn here: bitter, barely sweet, with fluffy dollops of rich cream and liquor-soaked biscuits that have retained some firmness. Style and comfort aside, Pala puts a lot of genuine Italian restaurants in town to shame, and does so for a fraction of the price, with efficient, clued-in service to boot. But be warned this isn’t one for the After You and Wine I Love You crowds: the textures are grown-up—crispy, chewy—and the flavors—neither excessively spicy nor sweet—can be pretty subtle depending on what you order. Corkage charge B200.