La Dolce Vita : By Brian Baxter

Recommended Italian Restaurants in Chiang Mai

After last week’s suggestions of a few Thai restaurants that might appeal to any visitors here during the high season - should it arrive - here are a few of the many Italian places in town. There are more, of course, since it is probably the second most popular cuisine here, adapting as it does to Thai taste quite well. Also it has the advantage of being fairly inexpensive – though this is not always true, especially where wine is included. What is lacking in the city is a restaurant offering the robust regional food that makes traveling in Italy such a pleasure. The tendency here seems – as with so many high-end hotels – an attempt to appeal to conservative culinary tastes. Anyway most of these will offer you a perfectly decent meal at sensible prices, with only one – La Gritta – from the luxury end of the market where elegance and comfort come at a price. La Gondola is omitted since they are relocating soon and concentrating on their sister places, Pulcinella di Stefano and Il Girasole. The list is alphabetical.
Arcoba’ Leno
Spacious, slightly impersonal décor, with crisp white tablecloths and unobtrusive service. This is a well established business and offers classic Italian food, with excellent home made pastas, sauces, dressings and ice creams. It has a devoted clientele and is consistent in atmosphere and quality. Ample parking, reasonable prices and a good wine list make this an attractive proposition for those not seeking music or ‘excitement’ in place of quality. Open daily, lunch and dinner. 60 Nawatket Road Tel: 053 306 254.
They recently relocated to a very large space and an ambitious menu, at least in size. Service is skilled, the white house wine good value and for many people the main attraction is the atmosphere and the superb quartet which can be heard on some nights (check first). A place to go with jazz-loving friends who are after reasonably priced Italian food in a casual outdoor atmosphere. Open daily. 425 Chareoraj Road Tel: 053 853 098
Among the busiest of the Italian restaurants in town, thanks to a prime location, the efficient and friendly service and authentic, slightly up-market food. Not the cheapest, but ingredients and ambience assure value for money with an interesting range of dishes. Relatively small and no outdoor dining area. Booking ahead might be advisable, or you could go for a drink in the new Shangri La Hotel across the road if you have to wait for a table. 2/6 Prachasamphon Road, Chang Klan Tel: 053 818 236
Il Girasole
No need to change my review written soon after it opened as an offshoot of La Gondola, with much of the same menu, cleverly adapted to some vegetarian versions and a specifically vegetarian section. It is a conveniently placed city centre eatery (not far from the AUA). There is a dedicated pizza area, an air conditioned inner section and a garden. A very wide drinks menu makes it useful in daytime as well as for evening meals. Their decade old Pulcinella di Stefano is to be found the other side of the square from Thapae Gate at Chiang MoiKao Road. Girasole is at the Kad Klang complex, Rajchadamneon Road. Tel. 081 603 0294
La Gritta
On the first floor of the Amari Rincome Hotel, this is where to go if your guests decide to treat you. A well-established restaurant, with a comfortable room offering superlative ingredients and (usually) impeccable service. Classic Italian dishes with some extras and a chance to go ‘off menu’. They also do special month long ‘events’ and offer daily pasta specials. The wine list offers quality rather than quantity. Open for lunch and dinner. 1 Nimmanhaeminda Road Tel: 053 221 044
Da Mattia
The solicitous staff, well-spaced tables and bright lights make this a welcoming place down the Chang Klan Plaza. They have a terrace and interior dining area. The large menu offers plenty of pasta and pizza options as well as more unconventional dishes and they serve Prosecco by the glass and even ask if you like your pasta al dente. Yes please. Reasonably priced food and relaxed atmosphere. Closed Sundays. Open for lunch and dinner. Chang Klan Road. Tel 053 274 062.


Spicy Tuna Salad

This is one recipe that not only provides your family with a nourishing salad, but can help with future health. Tuna fish has the essential Omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy heart. After all, 10 million frozen Eskimos can’t be wrong!

Cooking Method
Quickly cook the tuna meat in the wok, or use tinned tuna after draining for a few minutes. Mix sugar, lime juice, chilli powder and fish sauce. Then add ground rice, fresh shallots, tuna meat and mix well. Add coriander, roasted garlic, kaffir lime leaf, and mix and toss gently. Top the salad with fried lemon grass. Serve with fresh lettuce leaves and other seasonal vegetables such as string bean, cucumber and basil leaf.

Ingredients Serves       3-4
Tuna meat, cut in cubes    200 gm
Lime juice                        1 tbspn
Chilli powder                      1 tspn
Sugar                                1 tspn
Fish sauce                       1 tbspn
Roasted ground rice grains 1 tbspn
Shallots, fresh, chopped     5 bulbs
Lemon grass, sliced and fried 3 stalks
Garlic, chopped, fried        2 cloves
Coriander, chopped           1 tbspn
Kaffir lime leaf, chopped     1 tspn