Dinner in Detail: Riviera Life
While Pattaya does have an extraordinary array of international eateries, it is surprising how few Italian restaurants there are. There are plenty of pizza restaurants and most generally European places will have a few pasta dishes on their books, but there are surprisingly few purely and solely Italian joints and even fewer good ones.
Valentino Restaurant, close to Foodland on Pattaya Klang Soi 4, isn’t one of the good ones. It’s one of the great ones. While it seems to take its name and its bright yellow branding from the racing legend Valentino Rossi, it takes its cuisine straight from Italy, with no stops along the way. The experience of eating there is one you could only otherwise get in the boot-shaped country.
The décor and styling are quite unlike any restaurant in Pattaya, least of all one so close to the centre of the city. Only a couple of hundred metres from Pattaya Klang, a quiet little garden dining room has been created. The only thing missing is the view rugged cliffs into the warm Adriatic Sea or a cool lake, but you can’t have everything. The wood awnings, paving stone floor and neat little garden, the effect is convince the dinner that they are, in fact, about 9,000 km west of where they think they are.
What is genuinely impressive is that, despite being essentially an outdoors restaurant, it not only feels quite private thanks to its location, but it also surprisingly cool thanks to its design. Even on a blazing hot day, the atmosphere doesn’t get any more uncomfortable that a warm day on the Italian Riviera.
It is not the atmosphere, however, which makes this possibly the finest Italian restaurant in Pattaya. The food is simply beyond comparison, being expertly prepared from excellent ingredients. Even the complimentary bread basket is properly Italian. Instead of conforming to expectation and providing you with a few single-serving pats of butter substitute, you are furnished with a olive oil and balsamic vinegar, enabling you to mix up your own dip, Italian-style.
The menu - which is written first in Italian and then English - consists of all of the usual interchangeable pastas and sauces, a first-class lasagne and one or two oddballs, but there are also several offerings which are not what you would ordinarily consider to be canonical outside of Italy itself. There are also plenty of top-notch anti-pastas and appetizers.
What is really quite remarkable about it all is the price. A shrimp cocktail will set you back 200 baht, the lasagne is 320 baht and that best know of Italian foods - Spaghetti Bolognese - is 220 baht. For the quality of the food being served, this is a staggeringly low price. It is also fairly gratifying to see that the portions are quite generous and filling.
Despite its unusual location, it would be easy to see Valentino being used as a romantic retreat as well as a good place to have a relaxing lunch. The seating is comfortable, the atmosphere relaxed, the food and service both brilliant - it is an excellent place to escape a hectic workplace for an hour. If your colleague or date happens to favour Thai food, that is available on the menu, too.