Billy’s Italian Restaurant

A new and larger location for this successful ‘pizzeria’

Mark Whitman
Size, we are assured, is not everything. But let’s face it, some things – diamonds for example – need to be of significance to be a ‘girl’s best friend’. Other things need to be big enough to be practical. And so it is with kitchens. Billy’s original restaurant was a tiny affair, with perhaps 20 covers. That was not so bad, since it was often full and ‘buzzing’ and one seldom had to wait long for a table. The problem was in the cooking area, so tiny and over-heated that our charming chef-patron was in danger of passing out in his endeavours to feed his customers.
Earlier this year, he and his lovely wife took the brave step, given the present economic climate, of moving a couple of hundred metres along Kampaengdin Road (nearer the night bazaar) from the ‘hole in the wall’ eatery into larger premises.
They have kept the name Billy’s but subtitled it Pizzeria Italiana, which does it less than justice. Don’t be misled into assuming that it has gone down market or is just another pizza parlour, as pizzas are but one tiny part of the menu. It offers an excellent and wide ranging choice at very reasonable prices, especially considering the quality of the ingredients – and the good news is that when Billy appears from the kitchen, his smile is not encased in perspiration from his labours. Cooking is hard enough work at the best of times. Working as though one were inside the pizza oven itself is a step too far!
On the recent Tuesday evening that our ‘quartet’ dined there, he was displaying a notice for the forthcoming ‘buffet special’. The sad news, folks, is that you have just missed that event, June 14. But this is a monthly happening and the next one is scheduled for Sunday evening July 12, beginning at 7 p.m. Of this, more a little later in the column.
Enough of forward planning. What about the meal in question? To cut to the chase, it was – throughout – never less than good and at least three dishes were memorable. Added to which, portions are generous, prices sensible and the service charming. The venue itself lacks character and personally I could do without a non-stop background of Italian tenors, but these are minor criticisms and the latter is easily changed.
The three super dishes were a large, steaming bowl of home made minestrone, which would also make for a super lunch along with some crusty bread and perhaps a glass of ‘vino’. Another great success was the wafer thin beef, or correctly named, ‘carpaccio classico’, served with a drizzle of olive oil, parmesan shavings and milled black pepper. Thais are not usually fans of beef, with reason if it is local and served too promptly after the creature has been dispatched. However, my companion had no such reservations, as the clean plate testified. My starter was memorable: a selection of thinly cut, grilled vegetables rolled around a tuna based filling. It was light and crunchy on the outside, with a moist and tasty centre.
We opted for pasta/pizza for the main courses. A crisp-baked pizza Napolitano. A baked spinach and cheese variation on a lasagna, though slightly less dense. And two spaghettis: one puttanesca and the other bursting with sea food. More cleared plates all round and barely enough room for a small ice cream and the bracing espressos which followed. The real Mc Coy, too. Bread was served on the side and iced water flowed freely. It would seem impossible to leave either hungry or without one’s taste buds brightened. Three of us drank the house wine and the bill worked out at around 400 baht a head, although it would be simple enough to be less indulgent and reduce that to half or, of course, move up to the slightly pricier meat and fish dishes and nudge 600 baht. I’d budget at around 300 baht a person including well deserved service.
And that brings me neatly to the monthly ‘buffet’, which is priced at 299 baht, excluding drinks. And here, thankfully, there is no plus, plus. The buffet may vary, but the one I took a leaflet for had three first courses, mixed grilled vegetables, Greek salad and the carpaccio served with a gorgonzola sauce. Save room for the range of main courses, which include a veal stew, roast pork, a mixed grill of chicken, sausages and pork and a veggie dish of eggplant parmigiana. When you are through with those, temptation follows in the house ‘signature pudding’ – home made tiramisu. Plus a choice of coffees or tea.
You’ll find Billy’s at 42 Kampaengdin Road and you can contact them on either 081-288-1460 or 086-653-0962. Meanwhile let me say it’s nice to be eating out – and reporting on it – again in Chiang Mai. Happy eating!


Pork with ginger

This is a mainland China recipe and though similar to the Thai Moo Pad Khing uses more ingredients and some different flavors with the use of rice wine, honey and sauces. Sherry can be used in place of the rice wine if difficult to procure. Use the lean pork fillets or you can even substitute chicken breast.

Cooking Method
Cut the pork into thin strips and dry on paper.
Heat the oil in the wok and add the onions, stir-frying until transparent. Add ginger root and garlic and stir. Now add the pork strips, rice wine, sugar, honey, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Bring to the boil and cook until the liquid has been reduced 50 percent.
Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with the chopped scallion and serve with steamed rice.

Ingredients                          Serves 4
Pork fillets                               500 gm
Sunflower oil                          2 tbspns
Large onion chopped fine                   1
Fresh ginger root, grated        2 tbspns
Garlic, chopped                       1 clove
Chinese rice wine                     150 ml
Sugar                                     2 tspns
Honey                                   2 tbspns
Light soy sauce                     2 tbspns
Dark soy sauce                       1 tbspn
Scallion, chopped as garnish             1