Pasta Paradise: By Epicurean

While Italian anti pasta challenges any other cuisine, with its delicate preparation and elaborate sauces, nothing can compare with spaghetti, lasagna and pizza. These dishes must rate as among the most popular worldwide, but unfortunately, multiple outlets have enhanced the misconception that this traditional diet is fast food. Italian chefs rightly argue that, unlike the burger or that famous fried chicken, pizza and spaghetti are wholesome and healthy.

Pasta dishes are among the least expensive European food found in Chiang Mai. Large pizzas are available in small bars and restaurants at little over Bt100 and spaghetti can cost half that much. But you might expect to pay a bit more in establishments that provide a full Italian menu.

Take a short stroll down the narrow sois off Chiang Mai’s Moon Muang Road, and in a village atmosphere amongst small shop fronts and tiny guesthouses you will come across Pum Pui – a traditional restaurant that offers a very wide range of Italian comestibles that can be eaten inside a Thai wooden house or alfresco in the garden.

The moment you sit down, waiting staff bring a complimentary pot of garlic butter to spread on a variety of homemade bread, which is a meal in itself. Order an aperitif from a long list of beverages and settle down at your table to study the menu.

Why not start with a minestrone soup or fagioli with garlic bread. There are salads from Ceasar’s to Greek, anchovy pate or be daring and go for sun-dried tomato with feta cheese.

The list of main courses is the size of a novel and when it comes to pasta you’ll be spoilt for choice. Sauces for spaghetti are grouped in vegetarian, meat and seafood, with walnut sauce, Parma ham in cream, egg, bacon, cream and cheese or Siciliana – olives, eggplant, garlic, capers and fresh tomatoes. Of course, there is also lasagna, and 22 types of pizza that must include your favourite.

For anti pasta, you can tuck into a T bone steak or tenderloin, rack of lamb or veal in tuna sauce with boiled vegetables. There are escallops of veal in wine sauce, fried chicken cutlet – Milan style, breaded sole and sea bass baked in salt.

No Italian restaurant would be complete without Italian ice cream to finish off, and at Pum Pui there are 16 flavours to choose from. And if you can still find space, vodka and lemon cocktail, chocolate mousse and apple pie and ice cream are on the menu.

Happily, this impressive list of food comes at very affordable prices. Starters range from Bt30 to Bt80 and pasta dishes from just Bt105 to Bt220. Anti pasta meals begin at around Bt150 up to Bt540 and desserts are between Bt60 and Bt90, with a scoop of Italian ice cream only Bt30.

Pum Pui also boasts a comprehensive wine list that includes a Valpolicella at Bt680, Tocai “S. Caterina for Bt1,490 or the pick of the cellar – Barolo Preve 90 at Bt16,500 a bottle. House wine is Bt70 per glass, with carafes of different sizes available, and there’s a good selection of liqueurs and grappa to help the digestion.

Pum Pui is open from midday to 11 pm, and can be found at 24/1 Moon Muang Soi 2, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai. Telephone 053 278209 or email [email protected]