One of the best restaurants in ‘Little Italy’
A year or 18 months ago, I wrote about a then new
Italian restaurant in Rachamankha Road and looking back on
that review I see that whilst it was fairly complimentary,
it suggested that the place was congenial and serviceable
rather than a ‘must visit’ eatery.
This was obviously a pity since the area it is in, within a
few hundred metres’ radius of Thapae Gate, fairly bursts
with Italian places. These range from little back-street
pizzeria to well established favourites such as Pulcinella
and La Latterna and many others. Well, I’m happy to report
that the previous restaurant has for a while been under new
management and ownership and is renamed La Fontana. It has
had something of a face lift – not just on the surface but
importantly in terms of an expanded menu, which is both
larger and better organized. Sebastiano, the new owner,
keeps an eye on the running and takes the orders, which
contributes to its success.
La Fontana is only a short distance from Thapae Gate and
runs more or less parallel with Walking Street, but it is
surprisingly calm, being situated on a one-way street
boasting a nice leafy garden atmosphere. Tables are well
spaced and can accommodate about forty customers should they
be so lucky in such a low season. There is pleasant Italian
music in the background and the service is both friendly and
quick, though not rushed.
Although the menu holds few surprises, (sadly ‘fine’ dining
with Italian food is reserved for only a couple of places in
Chiang Mai and they are pricey), but its clarity and range
is admirable. It divides –as memory serves – into the
following: a range of salads, from the simple ‘green’,
through fancier versions such as Caesar right up to the
really excellent walnut and gorgonzola with baby tomatoes
and grapes at the top of the range, (220 baht), then offers
at least half dozen soups, some quite substantial, and a
good choice of antipasti.
These include tasty potato and cheese croquettes and a
rather solid variation on the ubiquitous eggplant
Parmigianna, through to plates of meats and salamis. There
are half a dozen risottos, of which the most expensive and
very rich tasting is the one with Italian cheeses, (220
baht). As always there are vegetarian options with the
pizzas and pastas.
No less than two pages of pizza are on offer, from the basic
Margarita, (95 baht), through to much fancier meat and fish
options. The pizzas come with a light base, midway between
the doughy so-called Chicago variant, which I personally
dislike and the thin crispy base which is the currently
favoured style. They are generously sized with good
The pastas are too numerous to list; you name it and you can
almost certainly have it with five variations in the actual
pasta, some of them home made. Naturally, apart from this
standard fare there are meant and fish dishes, the latter
including salmon and trout.
The puddings include traditional ‘favourites’ such as
tiramisu and decent ice cream. (40 baht), and the list of
drinks is quite formidable, ranging through coffees,
(espresso 40 baht), to fancy cocktails and a few good wines.
The house wine is 110 baht by the glass and is also sold in
carafes. On a very recent visit my companion and I took a
half litre carafe and found that towards the end it was not
nearly cold enough. If there are two or more of you a much
better option would be to sport a couple of hundred baht
extra for one of the excellent wine ‘promotions’ and make
sure of an ice bucket.
Thanks to the ridiculous tax on wines this will cost around
700 baht. This is because wine is designated as a luxury and
subject to a high rate of government tax. Since all alcohol
is essentially a ‘luxury’ in that it is not a necessity,
(well not quite!), linking it with, say, expensive perfumes
is nonsense. Complaint over!
Anyway, in summary, La Fontana is a pleasant unpretentious
restaurant and it deserves a visit since the menu as
mentioned is cleverly arranged so that one can eat there
casually and on a ‘budget’ or quite fancily if so minded.
The word I would use first to describe it is ‘professional’.
It can be relied on to deliver what the menu suggests,
piping hot and fresh from the busy kitchen at the rear.
Above all, the ambience makes for a pleasant dining out
experience. Try it and see.
La Fontana is open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. and is located
at 39/7-8 Ratchamankha Road T.Pra Singh. Phone: 053 207 091.
Garlic Chicken Stir-fry
Garlic is one of the most adaptable ingredients in the home
cook’s kitchen. This recipe calls for two cloves of garlic, but if you have some
‘garlicky’ guests you can add another two, but remember you also increase the
spiciness of the dish. The real secret is in the preparation, and allowing
yourself enough time for the chicken to stay in the marinade for a couple of
hours before stir-frying.
Ingredients Serves 4
Chicken breast, boneless, skinless,
cut into strips
Garlic minced 2 cloves
Soy sauce 60 ml
Water 60 ml
Honey 60 ml
Vegetable oil 2 tbspns
Cornstarch 1 tbspn
Green onions chopped
Combine garlic, soy sauce,
water, honey, 1 tablespoon oil, cornstarch and pepper. Stir chicken
pieces into marinade and mix to coat. Place in Zip-lock bag and
refrigerate at least two hours, turning over once or twice.
In the wok, heat remaining oil. Using slotted spoon, transfer
chicken to wok and stir-fry for about five minutes. Add marinade
that was left; continue to cook and stir for about 30 seconds until
thickened. Place on serving dish. Garnish with green onion. Serve
with snow peas, if desired.