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Although Samui is part of Thailand its international residents and visitors have made it something of a melting pot of culture, which of course is part of its charm. With hungry dinners coming from every corner of the globe the culinary scene in Samui is varied and dining options are endless. Each nationality is represented on this small island and many dining establishments offer dishes from many different countries to temp your taste buds. One of the most popular cuisines to be found here, other than Thai of course, is Italian. Italian dishes are probably the most popular non Thai option and dishes such as spaghetti can be found in even the most local of Thai restaurants.
The first Italian restaurant to ever open its doors on this Thai island was the Vecchai Napoli Restorante & Pizzeria back in 1994. The tastes and flavors of Italy were first created in the heart of Chaweng before it even had a heart, a concrete road or a one way system for that matter. Tucked away among palm trees this eating house was run by two traditional families of Naples and Florence. Today, twenty years on it is still going strong under the watchful eye and culinary enthusiast Alessandro Curto of Florence, a chef with more than thirty five years experience both in Italy and around the globe. Here he works his culinary magic and passion to promote true, authentic, Italian cuisine and produces dishes that cannot be found in other Italian restaurants and a taste of home for the local Italian community who can be regularly found dining in this fabulous homes style dining establishment.
Today called the Pane e Vino, the restaurant is still in the same location, however the view from its windows could not be more different, happily however this little street in the heart of Chaweng is quiet and while you dine it is hard to imagine you are only one hundred meters from the chaos of the busy main street. You can find Pane e Vino by taking a short stroll along the street that runs alone the side of Solo Bar towards the new stadium.
The restaurant has three dining areas to choose from, street side where you can indulge in a little people watching, on the covered outdoor terrace where you can take in the heavenly aromas emanating from the wood fired pizza oven or indoors where thanks to some powerful air conditioning the temperature is more fitting of Italy.
The restaurant is very homely and puts you in mind of a ranch in Tuscany with its large tables waiting for a family style feast, arched windows, brick walls and terracotta floors as well as nick knacks and Italian memorabilia that can be found in the nooks and crannies. The staff are well presented, well versed in Italian dishes and offer a very warm welcome.
As well as the usual drinks found on the menu Pane e Vino offer a fine range of Digestivi, a must if you are to enjoy a relaxed few hours indulging, as the Italians do, in dish after dish of superb cuisine.
As soon as you are seated some incredible homemade breads and mini pizzas arrive at the table with a tangy Arrabiata sauce. There is a great temptation to fill up on delicious bread sticks that simply melt in the mouth having been rolled and baked by Alessandro who puts leaves a little of his heart and a little of his sole in all of his homemade goods. As well as the breads Alessandro makes his own cheese, salami, pasta and Italian sausages.
Croquettes are a great way to start your journey into the very heart of Italy. These light and fluffy delights can be enjoyed stuffed with Bolognaise sauce and green peas, Ham and cheese or Mushrooms and spinach. If you are a lover of cold plates that you will be in seventh heaven here, you can choose from mixed cheese, cold cut or a combination of the two served with olives and more of that heavenly bread.
For those who enjoy some healthy dining options you will be delighted to find a wide range of salads including Insalata di tonno with fresh mixed green leaves, tomatoes, onions, carrot, cucumber, black olives and tuna, a hearty Cesar Salad, a crunchy and fresh Greek salad, Insalata di rucola with rocket salad, cherry tomatoes and indulgent slices of parmesan, a hearty Insalata della casa of mixed green leaves, tomatoes, carrots, ham, mozzarella fresh cheese and mushrooms.
Other options include Antipasto Italiano, misto di mare, Insalata di mare, cocktail di gamberi and temptations such as Baked eggplant with mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil, Mozzarella caprese and an incredible dish called Vitello tonnato which combines two ingredients most would never dream of putting together, veal and light tuna fish dressing, if it sounds strange I can assure you it is still worth ordering as it is one of the most delicious dishes I have ever tasted. Carpaccio di manzo with sliced beef fillet, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, parmesan and rocket is another dish worthy of even the most discerning diner, as is the Prosciutto crudo e melone a delightfully light dish of paper thin slices of parma ham with melon in season. For fish lovers the Marinated salmon, Italian seafood soup with garlic bruschetta will not fail to delight and vegetarians will not fail to be impressed by the Mixed vegetable soup with garlic croutons and parmesan cheese.
Heading onto the mains the pasta menu is far to vast to mention each dish, but suffice to say there is something for everybody here. Every tried and tested favorite features on this menu along with some traditional favorites such as Spaghetti with basil sauce, green beans, potatoes and parmesan cheese, Spaghetti with clams, garlic, chili, wine and parsely and a devilish Linguine al cartoccio baked in the oven in foil with noodles, seafood and white wine sauce. The traditional lasagne is to die for as is the vegetarian version with basil and cheese sauce, the cannelloni and gnocchi are both worth of winning prestigious awards and the Fettuccine comes with a wide range of temping sauces such as Salmon, cream and vodka, and Pork sausage, mushroom s and piquant tomato sauce.
Other less well know dishes that more than deserve to find their way to your table include Paccheri con sugo d’antra – homemade sort pasta with duck ragout and Paccheri al pesto asparagi e gamberi – homemade short pasta with basilica sauce, asparagus and prawns.
The homemade ravioli is cooked to perfection, the Lobster stuffed ravioli black-ink with cream prawn sauce is delicate, bursting with falovor and wildly delicious. The pizza and calzone menu is equally impressive and can be seen being pulled fresh out of the pizza oven.
The fish menu includes a delicately put together Seabass fillet with lemon sauce, white wine sauce and zucchini and asparagus, this stunning dish is a great option for those who like their perfectly balanced dishes rather lighter than traditional pasta and pizza dishes. The light and flavorsome calamari melts in the mouth, the mixed seafood deep fried and served with lemon and tartare sauce delivers a taste sensation as well as a heavenly crunch and the Pan fried prawns with Cognac cream sauce offer a five star dining option to enjoying seafood.
For carnivores the Chicken breast cooked in foil with ham, mushrooms and cheese offers a hearty and uncomplicated way off enjoying fine and well chosen ingredients. The Pan fried pork escalope with parma ham and a reduction red wine sauce is another superb choice alongside Italian escalope Milan style and Rouleaux farcis avec du jambon a la sauce tomate. The delicious steaks come with a choice of mushroom, green pepper or spicy sauce choose from Australian grass fed tenderloin fillet, New Zealand T-bone or Thai prime A grilled tenderloin fillet. The homemade grilled Italian sausages are the stuff culinary dreams are made of as is the Sliced tenderloin with rocket , parmesan and balsamico sauce. Sides include mixed grilled vegetables, Spinaci Saltati, Mixed salad and French fries.
If you have not left enough room for dessert then you will simply have to return the next day for it as it would be ridiculous to miss out the opportunity of indulging in homemade Tiramisu, Pannacotta alla fragola o al cioccolat, Affogato al caffe, Torta di mele calda con gelato, Coppa di gelato artigianale, indulgent profitterols, the cool and tangy Sortbet al limone e vodka or the slightly less than Italian Banana Split!
This incredible home style restaurant is a real taste of traditional Italy, it is unpretentious, warm, welcoming and more than worthy of taking your time over, this is not simply eating, it is a dining experienced to be savored, enjoyed and mixed with superb wines and good company. Take a step back in time and follow in the footsteps of twenty years worth of happy and satisfied diners and create your own lasting memory in Samui’s very own little slice of Italy.
The menu at this incredible restaurant is also available for outside catering along with other catering options, for more information contact Emanuele Maltoni via either page listed above.