DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

La Gondola

As Italian as the Trevi Fountain

This week the Dining Out Team descended on La Gondola Restaurant, in the Rim Ping Condominium building. Even that is not quite correct. The kitchen may be in the building and an air-conditioned private dining room, but the rest of La Gondola is either on the lawn under lights, along the boardwalk beside the Ping River or in the ‘parachute’ roofed Atrium building in the garden. From the outset it becomes obvious that this is no ‘ordinary’ restaurant.

We chose the Atrium, where we were the guests of Stefano Roncoroni and his wife Suwannee, chef and manager respectively. The glass and high tent roof imparted a very airy atmosphere, and just outside, two guitars serenaded the diners.

The menu is a large one and is in Italian with English subtitles (explanations) and also in Thai and Japanese. Being Italian, of course there is a page of pizzas (120-220 baht) starting with the classical Margherita (the very first pizza) through to such variations as Siciliana (and not served by the Godfather), and even a true vegetarian pizza.

Antipasti (Appetizers) range from B. 30-260 with garlic bread at the low end at Italian Parma ham and melon at the top end. Soups and Salads are next with the soups generally around B. 60 with all the usual favourites - minestrone and onion or mushroom; and the salads are between B. 50-90, and yes there is a Caesar salad, and yes, Caesar was Italian!

Pastas were up next, generally between B. 120-180, with a choice of five types (spaghetti, spiral macaroni, penne, fettuccini and gnocchi). There was a choice of 12 vegetarian pastas, 8 meat varieties and another 8 seafood styles. Next up were 6 risotto dishes (B. 160-200) with a couple vegetarian and the rest seafood.

Mains were next. Meat dishes? Yes lots, ranging between B. 140-260 with breaded chicken Milanese at the lower end to pepper steaks and fillet mignon at the top. Seafood? Yes lots, (B. 170-320) including trout (from the Royal project). The mains all come with a choice of potato styles and vegetables or pasta.

The next sections were Thai and Chinese specialities, generally B. 100-200, with ‘chilli’ indicators to show the degree of spiciness, followed by desserts and a drinks list (local beers are around B. 50-60 for a 33 cl bottle). Wines range from B. 750-4,000 and house red or white is only B. 90 per glass.

The first different, and really nice, touch was the cutlery which arrives wrapped in linen with individual flowers on each one. A small item, but again something to lift the restaurant in the minds of the diners.

Stefano suggested that he would make some representative dishes for us to sample, and why would one ever argue with the chef? We started with chicken rolls with ricotta and spinach in cream sauce and ravioli stuffed with fish and crabmeat in a scampi cream sauce. These tasted even better than the way they read. Very subtle creamy flavours which were quite captivating.

Next for us to try was a brilliantly presented (on the shell) baked scallops and shrimp in salmon cream. This was simply sensational! With this came a lasagne, all six layers, said Stefano. Now I have never been a lasagne fan, always considering it too heavy - till now. This was smooth and light and fabulous.

We finished with a panzarotti filled with sliced mushrooms and cheese and then a most incredible, melt in the mouth, baked breaded eggplant parmiggiana, which almost defied description, it was so good. Now, if you think this is a ‘rave’ review, then you are quite correct!

Chef Stefano comes from Northern Italy and his food shows the regional influence. If you are expecting handfuls of garlic and bucketloads of olive oil, you will not find that here. The food was delicate and flavoursome and probably some of the best Italian food I have had this side of Italy itself. Truly a sensational restaurant. This is one establishment that will have the Dining Out Team returning regularly. Very highly recommended.

La Gondola Restaurant, Rim Ping Condo, 201/6 Charoenraj Road, Chiang Mai, telephone and fax 053 235 942.