Gianni De Burchio: by Mark Whitman

Quality and originality at an Italian Restaurant

We all – I guess – have our small snobberies and prejudices and this excellent restaurant nearly became a victim of one of mine. I had often parked directly next to it at Somptech Gold Place since I use the travel agent at the back of the square and occasionally call in at the TAT offices there. It looked immaculately clean with its crisp white tablecloths and almost regimented seating but somehow the location put me off.
No friend had said, ‘you must try…’ and there seemed a lack of something ‘extra’ in the building and the surrounds. Somehow I did not get round to trying it. My mistake as I found when I did eventually go there with two friends last month and again a couple of weeks later. It is a real find and the owner–chef runs a highly professional kitchen, sourcing his main ingredients from his native Italy and ensuring that their quality is high.
Gianni de Burchio has entered a difficult market, since there are countless Italian restaurants in Chiang Mai and many of them offer good food. Happily this place can compete with the best of them, offering a very comprehensive menu allowing one to eat either cheaply or at the high end of the market depending upon mood and budget.
For example there is a special buffet on Wednesday evenings at just 149 baht, a choice of pasta with a beer at a similar price throughout the week or a large basic pizza and a soft drink at just 130 baht. Alternatively there are many ‘up market’ choices and fine wines on offer. But the house wine at just 350 baht a liter represents the best value I know. The Chardonnay is o.k. but the red is quite exceptional for the price. The ice cream is the best I have tasted in Chiang Mai but there are only two flavors on offer and it is 70 baht a scoop. At this restaurant you can certainly make choices to suit yourself.
You might be tempted by the Fiori di pomodoro di bufala and pay 200 baht, but at least you will know that the Mozarella is the real thing. Whatever you order make sure that you do so carefully because if I have one criticism of the restaurant it is the slightly chaotic service, which, though very charming and attentive, can lead to confusion.
Any Italian restaurant stands or falls on the quality of its pasta: staple fare but still something which can rise to sublime heights. A friend on one occasion chose the ravioli with black truffles and declared it was as good as any he had tasted. On a second visit he was offered half portions of the two variations of this dish – heaven in black and white!
I opted for the spaghetti piccanta on my first visit and the pasta was perfectly al dente with a really rich and ‘rustic’ sauce, a style I prefer, with a thick and earthy texture. Just short of the spiciness I would have anticipated (and made myself) but thoroughly ‘moreish’. On another visit I went for the scallops, lightly cooked and finished off with a dash of brandy and served with a simple salad. Again, first class. It is difficult to suggest a price level since the large menu covers so many choices and for example some pizzas and pastas are quite expensive because of the topping or sauces. Allow anything from 150 baht a head to a thousand plus with a full scale meal and wine. Prices are clearly marked and there is no plus plus to worry about.
For starters there are most of the classic dishes which seem simple to prepare: tonno con fagioli or a plate of very thinly sliced tuna or salads and soups. They are, as we know, also easy to mess up if the ingredients are not up to standard or the dressings are poor. No problem here. For the pudding we were urged to try the tiramisu and this was shared by friends so I tasted only a little of it. As good as that in Da Mattia and possibly Favola: no higher compliment that that in Chiang Mai. As for the ice cream, well the chocolate may have the edge over the vanilla, but it is hard decision. A little expensive but if you are feeling flush try both.
Plenty of bread and other tempting side orders with dips are offered on arrival and local mineral water is readily available alongside a large drinks menu at sensible prices. The coffee has had good reports from friends too. So, all in all, this is a new addition to my list of regular places to visit. I still don’t find the location that appealing, especially late in the evening but if you finish eating before 11p.m. then that is fine. The restaurant opens very late on some evenings to accommodate a bar which opens in the square. But if you are a ‘dinner at eight’ type person, then no hassle. You will find Gianni de Burchio at Somptech Gold Place, which faces the Somphet Market. It faces the moat and is directly opposite the wooden foot bridge just a few hundred metres along from Tha Pae Gate. They are open from 11.00 in the morning for lunch and very late on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Telephone: 053 234 003.


Khrong Moo Sam Rot (Sweet Sour and Salty Spareribs)

Spareribs are a favorite in most cuisines and can be done in many ways. However, spareribs are also seen in Thai cuisine, with one of the main differences being more in the size of the ribs, with the Thai preference being for much shorter pieces, than say in the Cajun varieties. This recipe gives you an alternative to try one weekend, and you can leave the ribs at ‘western’ lengths if you wish. All supermarkets have spareribs so you don’t even need to chop them yourself.

Ingredients        serves 4-6
Spareribs                            1 kg
Flour                             3 tbspns
Salt                                2 tspns
Pepper                             1 tspn
Pineapple juice                  cup
Light soy sauce              1 tbspn
Brown sugar                    1 tbspn
Vinegar                         2 tbspns
Pineapple chunks bite-size      10
Cooking oil

Cooking Method
Chop spareribs into 5 cm lengths. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper and roll the ribs in the flour mixture then fry until golden brown, and drain.
Place spareribs in a pot with the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, and light soy sauce and cook over low heat until the spareribs are done, stirring to prevent sticking.
Place the spareribs on a platter with pineapple chunks and serve with rice.