Ristorante Italiano Piccola Roma Palace - yes, it’s Italian!

The Dining Out Team went Italian this week, with food cooked by the most passionate Italian you will ever meet, and I am not referring to the Rudolf Valentino style of passion. Ristorante Italiano Piccola Roma Palace is owned by Executive chef Angelo Faro, a man who has not tired of cooking his native land’s dishes, and who is not backwards in coming forwards in making sure you understand that there is more to Italian food than pasta and ravioli.

The restaurant is large, set on the corner of Charoenprathet Road and Sridonchai Road and has several dining areas. You can dine al fresco on the terraces on two sides, or inside in the high-roofed main dining salon, or upstairs in a more private dining room for 80 persons on the 1st floor. The table settings are up-market, with heavy linen tablecloths. The interior areas are lined with wood, with an array of wind instruments festooned around the walls, as well as some of Angelo’s ‘plates’ of honour and a few of his chains of office from the Chaine des Rotisseurs for example. He describes himself as a ‘Chef par Excellence’ and wants you to know it.

The menu is large at almost 130 Italian items, and is bilingual - Italian first and English underneath. Naturally. It begins with Antipasti, ranging in price from pizza bread with olive oil and Rosemary at B. 70, through several dishes around B. 260 such as shrimp cocktail to Mozzarella, tomato, Parma ham and mushroom porcini with olives at B. 350.

Ten soups are up next, generally around B. 120, many of them cream vegetable style, plus an interesting sounding tortellini in meat broth at B. 200. Three pastas at B. 240 lead you on to two pages of the mains ranging in price from B. 160 for a garlic spaghetti, through to B. 750 for a Linguine with lobster, prawns, red caviar and cream, but the majority are between B. 300-400.

Filled pastas are next, around B. 300 for assorted ravioli, tortelloni, cannelloni and cappellacci, followed by Risotto (rice) dishes B. 320-380.

Seafood items are generally priced by the gram with the price dependant upon the seafood itself - B. 1.2 for snapper up to B. 1.8 for king prawns, though a mixed grill with 900 gm of seafood is priced at B. 1000 (plus 7 percent VAT, as are all the menu items). Seafood can also be had deep-fried or stir-fried, B. 220-300.

Almost finished! Meat dishes are also in the per gram formula, around B. 2.4, then a page of vegetable dishes and cheese and then Italian desserts and coffees or tea.

The theatre begins before you order, with a large trolley of seafood being brought to your table, to show what fresh items are available that night. We began with scallops in a cream sauce with red and black caviar, the saltiness offsetting the smoothness of the sauce. We also tried a seafood pasta with pepper and Sicilian Ricotta cheese and a seafood spaghetti with squid, mussels, baby octopus and clams. Each dish, which come on large platters, received the final ‘Angelo’ treatment at the table. The right flourish with the pepper grinder, or the correct splash of Balsamico.

An evening (or lunch) at Ristorante Italiano Piccola Roma Palace, is more than just eating. It is education. It is theatre. It is a man supremely confident that he has Italian food under his command. It is Angelo. He is at every table, present to add that final dash of Italian - that final dash of Angelo, ‘Chef par Excellence’.

The dining out was an ‘experience’ and if Italian food is your passion, like Angelo’s, then you will get along famously! Just don’t look for Fish and Chips, or Tom Yum Goong. If it’s not Italian, it’s not on the menu. You don’t have to wear a black suit, white shoes and white silk tie, but it wouldn’t be out of place!

Ristorante Italiano Piccola Roma Palace, 144 Charoenprathet Road (near Chiang Mai Plaza hotel), Chiang Mai, telephone 053 820 297, email [email protected] Secure parking outside, but don’t run over Angelo’s dogs - he has several everywhere.