For many of us who have lived some time in Thailand, we undoubtedly shy away from the multitude of ‘farang’ Thai restaurants, serving up a vast array of dishes, all with an abundance of cream and lacking several if not all of the five key flavours; sweet, sour, salty, creamy, spicy – heat sitting on top of the previous core, and finally bitter; all harmoniously balanced. Other country cuisines have also over the years been adapted to appeal to the non-national palate, and even feature dishes which don’t exist in that cuisine, such as Chinese Chop Suey and Italian pasta carbonara, often being prepared with lashings of cream – a big no-no from any true Italian Chef.
Invited by Mario and his partner, Anna, to try out Little Roma, their newly opened restaurant located in Porto de Phuket, Cherng Talay, it was with a hint of trepidation that I entered this elegantly furnished outlet, unsure of what was in store for me. Whilst their other restaurant, Little Paris has established itself as a firm favourite with both locals and expats; it was only opened in 2016, however I cannot truly remember a time without, so with such a pedigree, I really should not have worried.
In one corner of the room is a pizza oven, imported to create the most stellar Neapolitan pizzas. The restaurant itself is comfortable, slightly rustic with a classy wooden floor and even has table seating on an outside terrace for those somewhat rare sunny days. The menu is a lesson in authenticity oozing traditional Nonna recipes from Sicily and other regions, the home-made pastas and pizzas, made with natural yeast finished off in the gargantuan wood-fired oven are the reason to visit.
Mario suggests a risotto, a lasagne and pizza, of course, finished off with a tiramisu. I am immediately brought a home-made focaccia and douse it in high-quality olive oil and aged balsamic whilst nibbling on olives to whet my appetite. I begin with a truffle risotto, perfectly cooked, decadently creamy, the rice grain clearly visible, the mark of a premium product. Following closely behind, a wonderfully rich lasagne bolognaise, the ragu, meaty, the bechamel perfectly partnering and not too creamy as to overshadow the beef. The piece de resistance or pezzo forte arrives, a stunningly classic prosciutto and burrata pizza, straight from the 350-degree-plus oven. In itself, an achievement!
I did notice that the menu indicates, red, white and signature green pizzas, for those not “in the know”, the red, with a tomato sauce base, the white, no tomato and the green usually with eggplant or zucchini. I don’t really have room for dessert but the must-try tiramisu does not disappoint; biscuit, coffee, mascarpone and chocolate. A mouthful of joy!
I remember when Little Paris opened; it was clear to me that both Mario and Anna took huge pride in using only the finest quality ingredients to ensure exceptionally tasty dishes. This same maxim is clearly apparent at Little Roma.
Visit this corner of Italy as soon as you can! Authentic Italian cooking is alive and well!
Chris is a former Michelin Guide Inspector who following an international career in hospitality spanning 30 years in both the Middle East and Asia, has now settled in Thailand and contributes a monthly restaurant column.