Dining Out at La Casa

La Casa is one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Chiang Mai. Conveniently located on Chonprathan Road, known to most expatriates as the Canal Road, the restaurant is easy to locate. Parking is available on the street, and plentiful. The simple wooden structure is easy to spot in a neighborhood of concrete apartment buildings. Inside, the differences continue. Everything is wood, even the wine racks. And if you’re a non-smoker in this country that often fails to divide smoking from non-smoking dining areas, you will appreciate the glassed in smoking room down one side of the building.

The Dining Out team was pleased to note that Her Majesty the Queen has also dined at La Casa. Photographs of this very special event hang just inside the entrance to the building.

The menu at La Casa is quite large, so it would serve you well to have a general idea of what you’d like to eat before you even open it. There are, for instance, about twenty-five antipasti listed, ranging from 75 to 350 baht. You will find items such as garlic bread and parma ham, of course, but you will also find spicy squid – apparently a favorite of the chef – served with chili, garlic and lime sauce. The Dining Out team enjoyed shrimp, fresh asparagus and boiled quail eggs attractively served in a Parmesan cheese cup as our appetizer. The presentation was lovely.

Salads follow the appetizers on the menu, and there are about twenty of them listed. Most are priced at 130 baht. We found the salad and vegetables to be quite fresh. Ours was served with Gruyere cheese and a yoghurt sauce. There are about a dozen soups listed on the menu, including a lobster cream soup. We were served fresh pumpkin and bean soup, thick and hot. This is a hearty soup priced at 120 baht, and is substantial enough to serve as a light supper with a salad and bread.

No Italian restaurant menu is complete without a good selection of pastas, and La Casa lists over forty. Most cost about 190 baht per serving, and include fusilli, penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, fettuccine, gnocchi, lasagna, ravioli and tortellini. I’m sure that other pastas exist, but this list seemed to be really comprehensive. Combine these pastas with a wide variety of meats, vegetables, seafoods and sauces and you have almost unending possibilities. Our calamari fettuccini was served with black olives, a stylish black and white combination that conjured up visions of coastal Italy.

If pasta isn’t your choice, then look at the page of risotto options. Most are priced at about 200 baht, and there are ample choices for vegetarians in this section. La Casa has long been known in the expat community for their reasonably priced pizzas, establishing their expertise long before fast food pizza came to Chiang Mai. Never worry. Your La Casa pizza will not be served with little packets of catsup on the side. They also offer calzone.

For diners who prefer fish and seafood, an entire section is devoted to the various specialties. Pan-fried red snapper with black olives, peppers and orange slices is priced at the low end for 250 baht, while the high end item is king prawns flamb้ed with brandy at 530 baht. Grilled meat dishes follow, with imported Australian beefsteak featured at 640 baht. We enjoyed a tender lamb stew filled with fresh vegetables and topped attractively with a beautiful single lamb chop. Many meat dishes follow, and the menu continues with fondues, cheeses and desserts.

Of course the wine list is extensive, and of course the wines are primarily Italian. There is also an impressive list of special coffees and teas. The cappuccino is highly recommended.

Our jelled dessert was quite tasty, and is part of the September-October special promotional menu. I won’t give it away, but do try it if you get to La Casa this month. If you miss it, don’t worry; the restaurant will be featuring a new special menu each month.

La Casa, 5 Kunklong Cholpratan Road, Moo 1, T. Changpuak, Chiang Mai, telephone 053-215-802. Open daily at 10 a.m. for lunch, and again at 5 p.m. for dinner.