reviewed by : Ken Barrett
28 January 2020
About: Twenty-four years ago, in those far-off days when there were only a handful of Italian restaurants in Bangkok, Gianni Favro opened Gianni Ristorante in Soi Tonson. Presenting genuine Italian food prepared by Gianni himself, the restaurant was an immediate hit and has continued that way ever since, despite the fact that there are now almost as many Italian restaurants as Thai restaurants in Bangkok. A change in policy by the building owners however has meant that Gianni had to move out of his long-term home, and he has now reopened in Athenee Tower. The Athenee Hotel is in the same complex, and to reach Gianni from the hotel, all you have to do is pass through the doors to the rear of the lobby, and there is the restaurant. There is no working relationship between Gianni and the hotel, but as the hotel has just remodelled its entire third floor into a multi-restaurant epicurean hub, and is promoting it vigorously, Gianni and the Athenee are both going to benefit.
Decor: The interior is reminiscent of the original, with dark red upholstery, wrought iron partitions, and big abstract paintings that adorn the walls. The most distinctive element is Gianni himself, the perfect, genial host.
Menu: This is wholesome authentic Italian cooking made with high quality ingredients, supported by a list of Italian wines that include some of the family-owned labels that are seldom heard of here. From Gianni’s appetiser listing we chose a tartar of red prawns (1,190 baht), delicate and moist, topped with Oscietra caviar and gently coated with lemon, the chef himself appearing at the table to add a dash of very fine olive oil. Our ravioli was stuffed with crabmeat (690 baht), the volume of crab about equal to the volume of pasta, with a lobster sauce and spears of green asparagus. The grilled lamb cutlets (1,190 baht) were served in a rich lamb gravy, fragrant with rosemary and garlic. We had a grilled Argentina striploin (990 baht), with a crust made from bone marrow and herbs, and a sauce created from nebbiolo wine. Dessert was a Sicilian-style cannoli (320 baht) filled with sweet ricotta.
Evaluation: This was a Monday evening, yet every table was taken. Clearly, Gianni’s devoted following has indeed followed him, and also we suspect that he has gained a whole new audience, because Wireless Road has a real mix of embassy people, upmarket tourists, and upscale shoppers. Most of Gianni’s staff have moved with him, and the service is just about perfect. The atmosphere is lively, friendly, slightly hectic, and is enhanced by the presence of Gianni himself, continually appearing from the kitchen to ensure his guests are having a good time.