Strictly speaking, enoteca is Italian for a shop that sells wine, and you will certainly find that Enoteca Great Fine Wine has an extraordinary selection of wines from all over the world, from the famed Gaja of the Piedmont to the great wines of the Australian Yarra and Barossa valleys to 1964 Dom Perignon.
Thousands of bottles are displayed floor-to-ceiling in this attractive, minimalistic shop with awnings over its wide glass front. But this enoteca also prides itself on being the purveyor of some of the finest Italian and European produce, and the bon vivants of Chiang Mai are rejoicing.
Just inside the entrance, customers are greeted by an Aladdin’s cave of meats, cheese and other antipasti, all beautifully displayed in a chilled glass-fronted cabinet: Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, gouda, brie, speck, salami, mortadella, coppa, parma and wonders such as truffle oil, mostarda di Cremona candied fruit with mustard, onion jam, and, in little wooden boxes: bottles of the magnificent Acetaia Montale Rangone DOP balsamic vinegar from Modena.
It all brings back memories of being a kid in a candy store, and it really is hard to decide what to have, but a good place to start would be the antipasti misti board with its selection of cold cuts, cheeses and a warm basket of house-made bread.
Look for the lardo di Colonnata – this scented pork lard, made only in the tiny village of Colonnata, is an ambrosial morsel of Italian culinary history, and its translucent whiteness echoes that of the marble of the nearby Carrara quarries, where Michelangelo once sourced the stone for his sculptures. Of course, a bottle of wine to go with the antipasti is highly recommended. It would be remiss not to, with such fine cheeses as salva cremasco and tallegio on the board.
Your main course will also be a pleasant dilemma of choices – the ebony fettuccine al nero di seppia with salmon and Italian green asparagus, the ravioli of black truffle and ricotta with a porcini mushroom cream sauce, or the slow-cooked lamb shank that falls off the bone?
And what is a good Italian meal without dessert – try the salted caramel ice cream with balsamic vinegar: the sweet-saltiness of the caramel is wonderfully complemented by the profound umami nuances of the aged vinegar.
The unbaked cheesecake with mascarpone and cream cheese is equally sublime, drizzled with a luscious blueberry sauce. It’s best to visit with a convivial group of friends, if only so you can share their desserts.
Owner and manager, the affable gastronome Sergio Canale, is a native of Genoa who has made his home here in Chiang Mai. In true Italian style, Sergio is passionate about good food. “I am a traditionalist,” he says. He does not believe in trying to improve on the standards of cooking of generations of Italian mothers. “Look at this,” he says of the rich crimson sauce of the bucatini All’Amatriciana on the table. “Who am I to try and improve or change how an Amatriciana is made?” And he is absolutely right: time-honored traditions, time-tested methods and the freshest, finest ingredients are what makes the food here so very, very good.
E-Table Asia Chiang Mai