PHUKET: What is the secret of great, Italian cuisine? It’s all in the quality ingredients.
“In Italy they say that a good chef doesn’t need to use more than three or four ingredients. It’s about freshness,” says Jana Sasikova, co-owner and manager of the DaVinci restaurant.
Jana is the wife of the restaurant’s supervising chef and deli manager Claudio Pivotto, who adds: “If you start with high quality produce you can achieve great results.If you start with low quality, you’d have to be a god to achieve anything.”
And he takes his own words very seriously. I’ve never met a man who talks about olive oil as much as him. He personally chooses all the olives used in the restaurant for different reasons – a separate kind in the kitchen, separate kind on the tables – all of the highest quality, imported straight form Italy.
Same goes for the meat, cheeses and mushrooms. And when he presents a flask of 25-year-old Acceto Balsamico Classico (7,000 baht for 100ml) he does it with the care and attention you’d expect form a man holding a newborn baby.
“Our ingredients are the freshest of fresh, shipped to us by plane from Italy. Our food is of higher quality than what is served in restaurants in the North of Italy, where the ingredients are delivered with road transport,” says Claudio.
But you don’t have to take his word for it, the food speaks for itself. A childishly simple dish of Caprese is elevated to a whole new level thanks to the fragrant Mozzarella di Bufala – original Italian buffalo milk cheese and perfectly paired virgin olive oil (the tomatoes come form Chiang Mai and are as good as you get in Thailand).
Octopus replaced beef in DaVinci’s Carpaccio but the Italian connection is kept alive with the addition of bottarga, “the caviar of the South” – salted and dried fish roe, one of the most traditional ingredients of Sardinian cuisine. The porcini mushrooms in the risotto are perfectly crunchy, soft and aromatic and the whole thing melts in the mouth. The list goes on.
But you’d be mistaken to think that a supply of fresh ingredients would suffice. Claudio proves his and his staffs skills when he serves us a plate of spaghetti carbonara, a dish born in the last days of World War II when the Italian cooks turned the American soldiers’ food rations consisting of dried bacon and powdered eggs, into what is now a world famous classic.
Try to mix the ingredients in the wrong temperature and you’ll end up with an omelet. Do it the right way and you’ll make jaws drop. But what is the right way? When I ask Claudio for a recipe, he answers with a question “Can you keep a secret? Well, so can I!”.
Luckily Jana is more willing to spill the beans. And the laid back atmosphere of DaVinci seems to have much to do with her warm, friendly character. I’m under the impression that she personally knows every single customer on the floor as our conversation is frequently interrupted by cordial welcomes and farewells she offers to other guests, often in their native tongue as she speaks seven languages.
Maybe this is what convinced the investor and restaurant’s major shareholder David Philip Roberts to join forces with the Czech-Italian couple to make DaVinci the place it is today.
So what is the secret of a great restaurant? Claudio firmly claims that it’s all about food. “And food is only about taste,” he adds. But restaurants aren’t. Take great food, skilled staff, picturesque setting and pleasant ambiance – serve it at the right price nicely paired with wine and you might have a winner.
To see how it works in real life, pay a visit to DaVinci.
— Maciek Klimowicz
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