La Gritta truly delivers the best in Italian: By Brian Baxter
I am totally hooked on Italian food,
which ranks alongside Thai as my favorite national cuisine.
Although I have eaten many times at La Gritta at the Amari
Rincome Hotel over the past few years, the visit for this
article was somewhat ‘orchestrated’, in that chef Stefano
wanted to offer a selection of signature dishes (all
available on the current menu) in smaller portions so that
the Chiang Mai Mail’s photographer and my guest from India
could sample a cross section of dishes. This was an
exception to the ‘paper’s policy of arriving unannounced.
Since the November theme is sea food we were more than happy
to have a meal devised for us. There are four key aspects to
any worthwhile eating place, so I judge La Gritta by the
highest standards on all of them: the quality of the
ingredients, the skill (and the passion) of the head cook,
the service and support given by his staff and that
indefinable thing we call ambiance. The last is, like love,
the only thing that money cannot buy.
A top chef can be poached from another restaurant (or
country), staff can be recruited and trained and ingredients
can be sourced from the best local suppliers with a firm eye
on seasonal availability. But the welcome which is conveyed
and says sit back, relax and enjoy yourselves in comfort
cannot be so readily acquired. A great orchestra has a
special sound, just as a fine restaurant has a special feel
– one that is never self-conscious or pushy.
Chiang Mai has an increasing number of five star hotels and
smart venues, with trendy décor, plush walkways, gleaming
pools and lighting as dim as the architects who think of
appearance above function. After several decades, the Amari
offers confidence and warmth and a determination not to rest
on its laurels, with monthly changes to its menu, special
events to reflect holidays and festivals such as
Thanksgiving, Loy Krathong, Christmas and my favorite their
Valentine’s Day special. The menu reflects seasonal
specialties (currently avocado among others) and market
So we are talking about dining out with all its attendant
pleasures. Not pit stop eating, filling up with a bowl of
tasty noodles before a disco or a steaming dish of pasta
after a concert but a leisurely evening with good food and
hopefully entertaining conversation.
On to the table with its elegant cutlery, gleaming glasses
and immaculate linen where on a recent Sunday we began the
meal with a salad as the base for four mini starters,
offered attractively on individual side dishes.
Surprisingly, the salad was not from the excellent Royal
Project but was sourced from local producers, who also
proudly showed off the rich purple basil, its aromatic green
sister, the spiky rosemary and other herbs which gave off a
heady scent that was as good a stimulant as any fine
With the salad came salmon smoked on the premises, prawns
lightly poached in wine, scallops on an avocado bed and
finally marinated finely chopped zucchini with a Parmesan
crepe. Only the last signaled a slightly wrong note, with
its intensity slightly overpowering the delicacy of the fish
The main course was almost as good, which is saying a lot
since the salad with its orange and rendered Balsamico
dressing was a triumph. We enjoyed a duo of delicate filo
pastry parcels holding chunks of perfectly baked cod and
salmon, served on porcini mushrooms and leeks with a light
cream sauce. Delicious!
And finally an over indulgence. A sample quartet from the
dessert menu - the palest green pistachio ice cream, a rich
chocolate mousse a slice of (rather heavy) tiramisu and -
best of all - a tiny soft centered warm chocolate cake. All
surrounded by a light raspberry sauce. An intense espresso
cut through the sweetness and rounded off a memorable meal,
which had been accompanied by plenty of mineral water and –
far more excitingly – by an Australian Shiraz, with enough
fruit and depth so as not to override the seafood dishes.
Many locals and tourists take advantage of the specially
prepared pasta dishes, or a chance to eat ‘off the menu’ or
come for the monthly events ranging from Oktoberfest to
‘national’ months. But for me it is the main menu which
attracts, alongside the fact that it is a cozy place to
enjoy a leisurely meal alone if the mood suits. Among
personal favorites are the lettuce leaves with gorgonzola
cheese and walnuts in a sherry vinaigrette dressing (240
baht) and the luscious risotto (280 baht). From the pasta
selection, I prefer the fettuccini with olive oil, chili,
garlic and fresh herbs (280 baht) and from the main menu the
delicate snow fish with asparagus (500 baht).
That chocolate cake served with frozen Grappa cream at 230
baht also beckons on occasion. A short, well chosen wine
list starts at around 300 baht a glass and there are
naturally plenty of other drinks on offer, including superb
Not then, an inexpensive place to eat. How could it be,
since it sets itself standards on all four fronts listed
above and offers high comfort and quality service, plus that
extra element of passion all creativity needs. There are
plenty of excellent Italian restaurants in Chiang Mai and
certainly many offer more robust food at more affordable
prices. But, put at it s most simple, La Gritta offers the
best Italian inspired food in the city.
La Gritta is located in the Amari Rincome Hotel at 1
Nimmanahaeminda Road in Chiang Mai. Tel. 053-221-044. Open
daily for lunch and dinner.
This is another way to present chicken starters for your guests. Select
chicken breast or chicken thigh fillet, skinless. The marinade is important and
best done in Ziploc bags inside the refrigerator.
Chop the chicken fillets into large, bite-sized
pieces. Combine lime juice, salt, curry powder and ginger in a small bowl. Add
chicken pieces, then place in Ziploc and refrigerate for at least two hours. To
prepare coconut coating and beer batter, lightly toast coconut on cookie sheet
at 375 degrees for three to five minutes. Set aside. In another bowl, mix beer,
flour, white pepper, sugar and paprika to make the batter.
Now heat oil in heavy pan or deep-fryer. Dip chicken pieces in batter and fry
until pale brown in color. Remove quickly (do not overcook) and roll immediately
in toasted coconut. Serve with skewers or fondue forks and any dipping sauce of
your choice as an appetizer.
Malaysian curry powder
330 ml (1 tin)
Skewers or fondue forks