DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

Pum Pui

‘Francotastic’ Italian!

We literally stumbled across this restaurant, tucked away down the small soi leading to Top North Guest House (not Top North Hotel). You run the gauntlet of some small bars and Pum Pui is right at the end. Was it going to be worth the walk? was on our minds. Let me tell you right from the start, it certainly was.

The entrance, set in the high walled compound, says plainly Pum Pui Italian Trattoria, and there will probably be an Italian Vespa or Lambretta outside. It just goes with the place.

Inside there is a ‘bistro’ garden, with umbrellas over wrought iron tables and chairs, and towards the rear is a wooden house with a kitchen on ground level and an upstairs veranda dining area complete with red checked tablecloths and red curtained windows. It says “Italian” through and through. Last time I saw something like this it was a piazza in Torino! Just to remind you that you are actually in a small part of Italy, there are bottles with olive oil and Balsamico on the table as well.

We decided to eat out in the terracotta tiled courtyard and have a beer while we took in the menu which owner Franco brought over. We made that a couple of beers when we saw Pum Pui’s huge menu of more than 15 pages.

Bruschettas are the openers with 10 choices all under B. 80, with an eggplant and cheese sounding very interesting (and only B. 55). A dozen Antipasti follow ranging between B. 120 through to B. 290 for the Pum Pui large plate of many different starters. I always like antipasti and there are Carpaccio’s including veal with Gorgonzola and rocket lettuce and other examples with green mussels, scallops and cheese.

Franco’s salads are next with the vast majority under B. 100 with again interesting combinations such as roast beef, gouda cheese and lettuce or artichokes with potatoes, parsley and olive oil.

These are followed by pastas of every shape, size and form, with a handy explanation of the various types, for those unfortunate people who were not born in Italy. The pastas come with three pages (three!) of the various sauces that can go with them - vegetarian, seafood or meat. Prices range around B. 100-190 for a simple pasta or B. 140-220 for a stuffed variety with salmon, vodka with pink sauce at the top end.

Yes there’s risotto (B. 180-240), yes there’s lasagne (B. 130-140), yes there’s vegetarian items (B. 50-130), with innumerable choices in each section (I said it was a large menu)!

There are soups (B. 60-70) including a minestrone with pesto, veal dishes, steak dishes, pork, lamb, chicken, fish and then many, many pizzas (B. 95-220). Gigantico!

We began with several starters including Parma ham with parmesan and basil and a bruschetta with scallops and garlic and some sliced tomato with mozzarella. By this stage we would not have been surprised if Berlasconi himself walked by with a plate of spaghetti. This was Italy!

A spaghetti dish arrived with Franco behind it (rather than Signor B), an “Al Cartoccio” seafood baked in aluminium foil which was excellent, and then a Saltimbocca alla Romana, which was flavoursome and tender.

By now we were ready to capitulate, but Franco hadn’t finished with us yet, we hadn’t tried his pizza. A Pum Pui Special Pizza arrived, with the crispest, thinnest crust, not at all ‘heavy’ but just loaded with succulent taste. Mama mia!

When the Dining Out team finished, we agreed on the fact that it is easy to see why Italian is one of the world’s favourite cuisines. Franco regaled us with a myriad of flavours, textures and aromas. It was superb, or more correctly, Franco’s food was superb. When we then looked at the prices, it was sensational value. In fact, as I wrote at the beginning, it was a “Francotastic” experience. If you like Italian, do not miss this restaurant. Very highly recommended. And yes, Franco does have Grappa, and yes, I enjoyed that as well!

Pum Pui Italian Restaurant da Franco, 24/1 Moon Muang Soi 2, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 278 209, fax 053 247 346.