BANGKOK — A guidebook published Wednesday by the Thai-Italian Chamber of Commerce lists a couple dozen restaurants out of the approximately 1,000 nationwide that have passed strict authenticity criteria.
The “Guidebook to Italian Cuisine in Thailand,” unveiled on Wednesday, lists 44 restaurants countrywide that meet the requirements of Italy’s tourism branch such as use of 100 percent imported ingredients, layout and chef competency.
“The restaurants here are not adapted to local taste, but it’s the real, authentic taste, even if it’s not spicy or doesn’t have a strong flavor. Take your time to enjoy it, and the history and culture behind it. I do the same with Thai food,” said Lorenzo Galanti, Italy’s ambassador to Thailand.
The second edition of an annual guide is part of the Ospitalia Italiana Project, which certifies authentic Italian restaurants worldwide based on metrics set by Italy’s National Institute of Research on Tourism.
However, it’s not an Italian Michelin – the criteria don’t include taste, but rather authenticity. The 10 requirements include having a good restaurant layout, grammatically correct Italian menu names, an extensive wine selection and Italian extra virgin olive oil. Of the 44 chosen restaurants, all have Italian chefs – although that’s not a criterion.
“We did an X-ray of every part of the restaurant: warehouse, the fridge, the storage of the wine, he kitchen, the stove,” said Michele Tomea, secretary general of the Thai-Italian Chamber of Commerce. “Two restaurants did not pass because their kitchen didn’t look organized.”
The guidebook is devoid of restaurants with “fusion food” such as pizzas topped with tom yum, crab sticks or, most infamously, durian.
“It’s like if we put spaghetti in tom yum. It’s not Italian anymore, it becomes something else,” Galanti said, laughing at the mention of the pizza toppings.
There are about 1,000 self-identified Italian restaurants in Thailand, approximately 200 of which are in Bangkok, Tomea said.
“It’s not easy to know which restaurants are really authentic. So this initiative lists restaurants that voluntarily accept our protocol. It lets foodies know in advance if a restaurant is authentic or not,” he said.
Most of the restaurants in the list are in the 400 baht to 500 baht range per dish, although places such as La Scarpetta on Charoenkrung Road and Ciao Pizza in the Silom area are more affordable.
“It’s not about luxury; it’s about authenticity. A place doesn’t have to be fine dining to have authentic mozzarella,” Galanti said.
Of the 44 restaurants, 26 are in Bangkok, 11 in Phuket, two on Koh Phangan, two in Hua Hin, and one each in Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Koh Samui.
Here’s the full list:
Antonio’s the Italian Experience, Appia, Attico, Calderazzo on 31, Ciao Pizza Ristorante, Ciao Terrazza Restaurant, Da Vinci, Enoteca, Favola, Galleria Milano, Gianni Ristorante, Il Bolognese, IO Italian Osteria, La Bottega di Luca, La Scala, La Tavola & Wine Bar, Lenzi Tuscan Kitchen, La Scarpetta, Opus Wine Bar, Peppina, Prosecco, Rossano’s, Sensi, Terrazza Italian Restaurant, Vino di Zanotti and Zanotti Il Ristorante.
Acqua, Bocconcino, Da Maurizio Beach Side, La Carbonara, La Dolce Vita, La Gaetana, La Scala, Leo & Mas, Plum Prime Steakhouse, Portofino, Rossovivo
Da Mario, La Grappa
Fabio’s, Valentino Restaurant & Wine Bar
Piccola Roma Palace
The book also features helpful guides to enjoying Italian cuisine, wine and recipes for each restaurant’s signature dish. It sells for 380 baht at Kinokuniya Bookstores, OpenHouse, some branches of Tops Supermarket and will be available at Asia Books soon.