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Phuket Italian restaurants make the grade



PHUKET: The Thai-Italian chamber of commerce brought their Ospitalita Italiana project to Phuket recently, awarding five Italian restaurants the ‘Q’ certificate of authenticity.

The ‘Q’ for ‘quality’ award judges the restaurants genuinely Italian if they meet 10 criteria concerning the training of their chefs and their use of genuine recipes and Italian products, such as wine and olive oil. Not only cuisine is examined – the restaurants must also have menus which offer courses in the traditional Italian style, in correct Italian and have Italian-inspired decor. There are even criteria concerning tableware and linens.

The goal is to support restaurants that use real Italian products and invest the time and money in training their staff to cook traditional dishes, said Giovanni Quaratesi, Secretary General of the Thai-Italian Chamber of Commerce.

“We have no problem with fusion restaurants, but we want to support the ones that promote traditional Italian food,” he said.

“We want real Italian restaurants to stand out, to be known as real,” said Elia Righetti, the Chamber’s Trade and EU Project Manager.

“We are not trying to increase the number of Italian restaurants in Thailand, the number is already high – maybe 250 in Bangkok and 1,000 in Thailand,” Mr Righetti said.

“The goal is to allow people around the world to know which restaurants are genuinely Italian. They can check online or use an iPhone app to find authentic Italian restaurants, marked with the ‘Q’, Mr Quaratesi explained.

Not only ‘hi-so’ (refined) restaurants receive the award. “Some of the restaurants are at 5-star hotels, some are medium or cheap,” Mr Righetti added.

The winning Phuket restaurants were: Salvatore’s, Acqua, Maggie and Marios, Da Vinci and Da Maurizio.

“In the world there are a lot of fake Italian restaurants,” said Allessandro Frau, the executive chef and owner of Acqua.

“This award is important for us, because it’s worldwide. Everyone on holiday can search online for Ospitalita Italiana,” he said.

This year, besides the five restaurants in Phuket, seven in Bangkok and two in Pattaya will receive the award. Next year, restaurants in Samui, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Phuket have been nominated. 14 ‘Q’ certificates were awarded in 2011, including one to La Capannina in Phuket.

“Right now there are 28 restaurants, maybe next year we’ll reach 40,” said Elia.

“We’re planning to expand all over Thailand,” said Mr Quaratesi.

“We want to give certification so people can eat with confidence,” he said.

“The Chamber of Commerce also supports Italian brands, like San Pellegrino, the Italian water that is getting more and more popular, and Auricchio, a cheese company that is investing a lot in Thailand.

“Thai people don’t have a tradition about cheese but nowadays they are starting to like it and starting to buy it.

“We want to teach the customer the difference between a mozzarella made in New Zealand and one made in Italy. You should not be tricked by Italian sounding products. You need to know what you’re paying for,” he said.

— Leslie Porterfield


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