Foreword: I wanted to describe him as the "hidden pasta granny" in Bangkok, but chickened out in the last second! The soulful Italian chef works too I guess, just not as well😂.
I couldn't allow 2020 to fly by without blessing you guys with a Bangkok-based addition to my "Follow the Chef" series could I? It hadn't been an easy process in my search, but I am proud to write about Chef Gabriele Luna of About Eatery as the latest one on my brilliant (if I may say so myself) list.
|Chef Gabriele Luna with his Spaghetti Carbonara|
Pasta is something close to my heart. Even though I am not Italian, it's probably the 2nd most-cooked food group in my personal cooking repertoire (after my mum's cuisine), and that is also why not many restaurants (even specialty pasta restaurants) can truly impress me with their pasta dishes, until I was invited to About Eatery last year by dear friend and fellow foodie Rosalind.
In fact, my first impression of Gabriele had nothing to do with pasta. I sat at the kitchen counter at About Eatery watching Chef Gabriele prepare his Locale tasting menu for me, which was quite memorable as I seldom see a chef show passion and attachment to his food in his every demeanour so naturally.
During my subsequent visit though, I tried his signature Strascinati, which convinced me that there is a whole new world of pasta Gabriele knew that I didn't. It's a world Chef Gabriele spent all 36 years of his life understanding, eating, making, cooking, and now, blessing all foodies in Bangkok with.
|Strascinati, the first pasta shape Chef Gabriele made as a little boy|
I grew up manipulating plasticine, my kids grew up kneading Playdough. Chef Gabriele, on the other hand, had a childhood in his native Basilicata surrounded by real pasta dough. His nonna (grandmother) made and sold hand-made pasta everyday, and by the time he was 6, Chef Gabriele was already making his first pasta shapes sitting under the kitchen counter. His first shape? Strascinati, the exact shape (with his fingerprints and all) he wow-ed me with, and also the dish he chose to showcase during his feature video on Iron Chef Thailand.
|One of his proud signatures at About Eatery|
Even though he spent a few of his younger years studying Computer Science Engineering in University, Gabriele's lived his life with cooking in his blood, learning in professional kitchens and eventually graduating from cooking school and working this way through around 10 restaurants in Italy, ranging from Michelin Star kitchens to high-volume restaurants (4 cooks serving 200 covers every service). A period of note, must definitely be his stint with "King of Carbonara" Luciano Monosilio, one which honed his skill to making the best version of this world-famous dish, one that you must not miss at About Eatery (not the set-lunch version!!).
|Maybe the best Spaghetti Carbonara you will ever eat.|
Ultimately, his love the culture and people (😄)of Indo-China brought him to Bangkok. Starting off at the recently-closed former Italian food powerhouse L'Opera, Chef Gabriele is now completing his 3rd year as executive chef at About Eatery, a restaurant more known for owner/sommelier Giulio Saverino and his catalogue of hand-picked natural wines. It's also a place that allowed Chef Gabriele to spread his wings and express himself. A place where he can scour Italy for the best ingredients to serve his customers on his intricate cold-cut boards and pasta dishes.
I would like to end off by mentioning a dish he prepared for me that touched my heart deeply. This Trittico Lucano (made of 3 different shapes of hand-made pasta served in a rich ragu and chilli oil) was the same pasta he ate every Sunday from young till he left his hometown at 26. While I chewed on it, I was imagining myself sitting at his family table in Basilicata. It was a moving moment, and an honour to have had the privilege to enjoy.
Then again, it would be thoroughly unfair to leave the final impression of Chef Gabriele as plainly a pasta expert. Even if his pasta dishes are out of this world, he is an accomplished chef who gives equal love to all the dishes he creates, pasta or not.
Let's just hope he continues to stay in Bangkok, or move to anywhere I may go in the future 😍, as having him around is certainly a huge blessing from the Italian pasta grannies. I will leave you with a video of him making pasta at his dedicated pasta corner at About Eatery.