Big Mama’s Pizza is not serving up just your everyday, ordinary pies.
Oh, if you’re timid, the (very, painfully) young staff at Big Mama’s will bring you a four cheese, a margharita, or a spicy salami pie pretty much like the ones you can get at Ammazza or Antico in Atlanta. But, at the moment, I’m looking down at a larb gai pizza — a perfect cracker-thin, crispy crust topped with red sauce, a generous layer of mozzarella cheese, and about eight ounces of juicy, stir-fried ground chicken. Lazy wisps of steam perfume the air with the fragrances of fresh mint, tangy fish sauce, pungent garlic, and crisp green onions.
I first heard of Big Mama’s in 2015, when my father-in-law (who travels the world alone well into his eighties) celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday here with a gaggle of local friends. The photos made the place look fun and lively — and it is, from the huge, quirky paintings depicting overfed cats and vaguely Frida Khalo-esque models to the enigmatic chickens in the logo. The crowd trends young (well, except for my young-at-heart father-in-law), and, if you come early, you’re likely to see the teen-aged staff gathered around the courtyard tables, slurping down communal bowls of hot and sour soup before starting their long dinner shift.
But having had Thai pizzas before (which tend toward soggy crusts, gummy cheese, and stingy toppings, no matter how fancy the pizzeria is), I dismissed the idea that Mama’s pizza might actually be good. That was a mistake. Mama’s is worth the eight minute walk from the Asoke BTS (SkyTrain) station for the larb gai pizza alone.
And my good experience wasn’t a fluke: Clyde’s tom yum pizza, laden with shrimp and calamari, packed all the flavor you’d expect from a pie based on the classic Thai seafood soup recipe, including notes of lemongrass, kaffir lime, and galangal:
I love the fact Mama’s offers familiar favorites alongside pies that turn tradition on its head, fusing the best Italian/American ideas with the distinctive flavors of the Big Mango. If you’re going to eat a pizza while in Bangkok, make it a pizza from Big Mama’s. Dress casual, arrive by five or six p.m. to miss the crowds, or later if you like to see and be seen.