Billy’s Italian Restaurant
A new and larger location for this successful ‘pizzeria’
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
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
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