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Successfully Yours

Pattaya Inquisition

Joe Parlati

What Italian food comes first to mind? In addition to Pasta and Pizza now add “Parlati”. Joe Parlati is the owner of Ciao Italian restaurant in South Pattaya and is probably one of the most passionate Italians you will ever meet, and yet he has only been back to Italy twice in the past thirty six years!

Joe was born in Verona, the younger son of a grape farmer. Their mother died when Joe was five years old and life was not easy for the Parlati household. This was probably one of the reasons that both brothers ended up in the hospitality business. “Italy was very poor in those days, and the only place you were sure to get a meal was in the restaurant/hotel business.”

After High school, Joe had already begun work in a hotel that catered for Norwegian tour groups. His next step in life was serendipity - he was invited to go to Norway for a holiday. It was there, at age 17, the young Joe “Met a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes and then we made three.” Now with family responsibilities, Joe had to knuckle down and work. The holiday was well and truly over. He began in the well known Norwegian Saga Hotel Maritim, where Joe lined up at the sink as a dish washer.

Diligence has its rewards, and Joe was rewarded. He progressed from the sink to the creative side of the kitchen after the hotel sent him to cooking school. From there it was to the bar and cocktail mixing with Joe saying proudly, “I won first prize in cocktail mixing in all of Norway.”

Joe really did knuckle down in the Saga Hotel Maritim - he progressed through the reception areas and the front offices, ending up as the Assistant General Manager. In that time, the holidaying dish washer had married, had two children, divorced, learned English and Spanish on top of his native Italian and the French he learned at school, and yet was still as Italian as he had been when he first arrived in Norway.

Holidays really do seem to be the turning points in Joe’s life. In 1985 he came to Thailand for a holiday and fell in love. This time it was not with blonde hair and blue eyes - this time it was with Pattaya.

He returned to Norway, and three years later, when his two children were no longer dependant upon him, he left Norway for good. “I had worked very hard, but I left everything. I have to start a new life in Pattaya.”

That new life was an Italian bar in Walking Street. Three years later he moved slightly northwards and crossed the street and opened the La Laguna Restaurant (Italian of course). Then in 1997 he moved back across the street and down Soi Samsaeran to open Ristorante Ciao. There the innate “Italian spirit” comes to the fore, with framed old and faded Italian newspapers, dating back to the late 1800s on the wall, and the Italian national colours everywhere.

I asked Joe how he could remain so passionate about Italy and he replied enthusiastically, “I’m proud to be Italian. When you are outside your country you think about how it was before, but not how it is now. Your attitude changes, you become more cosmopolitan, but I’m still Italian. I love my country.”

However, he is truly settled here, with his Thai lady partner who helps in his restaurant. “The Thais are like the Italians. They smile a lot, they got sunshine, they use their hands when they speak, and you have everything you need here in Pattaya.” You get the feeling that wherever Joe Parlati would live, he would turn it into “little Italy” somehow!

I asked him about his hobbies and he sat back and laughed. “Hobbies? I work 18 hours a day in Ciao. I look after my wines and my kitchen and take care of my staff, that’s why some of them have worked for me for ten years.” However, he did admit to watching football, the Italian league, before you ask, and likes music, especially Blues and 70’s pop.

For Joe success is, “Having an ordinary, nice life without anyone breaking your balls - and you can have it here in Pattaya. I have nice people as friends, and the tourist police are fantastic. I would hate to wear a white shirt and a tie. I like my blue jeans and a T-shirt. You don’t have to pretend you are ‘someone’, like people do in Europe, and life is not so stressful.”

I asked him if he would recommend his hospitality lifestyle for someone who had just left school and he said, “It’s fantastic work. You have to use your imagination all the time. You never finish to learn!”

So would Joe Parlati change any part of his life if he had it over again? “I would not change anything - unless I was born as the son of Agnelli (the owner of the FIAT organization),” and Joe laughed again.

Now in his 50s I asked him if he had any forward plans for the next twenty years. “Twenty years! I hope I have more than that! I want a nice life.” As part of that ‘nice life’ he now gets a telephone call every week from his children in Norway, one of whom is an accountant, and the other, the assistant general manager of Joe’s own hotel, the Saga Maritim!

Joe Parlati is very much his own man, laughing, likeable and inimitably Italian, and a man who deserves his ‘nice life’. Enjoy it, Joe, while Pattaya enjoys you and your company.

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Pattaya Inquisition: Ken Sly

by the Pattaya Interrogator

Ken Sly is the current Principal of Garden International School. A New Zealander, he was brought up on a farm in New Zealand, went to boarding school at an early age (hated every minute of it) and then to Massey University where he graduated with a BA in Agricultural Economics, and a Cert Vet Sci. In 1972 Ken represented New Zealand as a swimmer. His other sporting achievement was to be number 1 rugby referee in Spain, which gave him time on the International panel. He has lived in England, France and immediately prior to coming to Thailand was living and working in Spain.

PI: How are you and the world getting along?

KS: About the same. The world gets larger day by day – a result of too much sex, and too many people. I get larger day by day – a result of too much food and too many beers.

PI: How long have you known Pattaya?

KS: When I got my present job, I hadn’t even heard of Pattaya. Na๏ve aye? So you can imagine my astonishment when I arrived here three years ago. Living further south in Ban Chang, I actually don’t know Pattaya all that well (except for Shenanigans of course).

PI: Where is your spiritual home?

KS: I’ve lived in five different countries, and hold dual nationality. The good test comes when the rugby is on – who you root for is a bit revealing, especially if two of “my” countries are playing one another. And I’m afraid in my case it’s always the All Blacks who get the cheers.

PI: What CD are you most proud of in your collection?

KS: “Rock Follies” with Judy Covington and Rula Lenska. It’s now a collector’s item, so few were made, but I’ve got one, and I’m not lending it to anybody!

PI: How are you at cooking for yourself?

KS: I’m a pretty dab hand in the kitchen. When I have guests to dinner I’m in my element – real cordon bleau stuff. Trouble is I’m so messy in the kitchen, the maid always has an apoplectic fit when she comes in the next morning.

PI: Are you happy in your career?

KS: Would you be happy faced with several hundred teenagers every day who have just a. broken up with their boy/girlfriend, b. partied too much over the weekend, c. had their pet dog run over, or, d. are seething with aggressive hormones? I thought not. But they are still nice, and I do enjoy working with them very much. It’s the adults I work with who have just (a) had a row with their husband/wife, (b) partied too much over the weekend, (c) had their mother-in-law to stay, or, (d) are going through a mid-life crisis who are more trying.

PI: If you had to take over somebody else’s life, who would you pick?

KS: Saint Peter – and then I could make the final decision at ‘The Gate’ on all those people who have been making decisions about my life for the past many years. Pay back time would be sweet!

PI: What are you like in the bathroom?

KS: Not too happy – there are mirrors in the bathroom that constantly remind me that I am well out of shape, and going bald. It’s definitely not a room to dally in.

PI: What is it about you that is the most controversial?

KS: My continued refusal to referee regularly for the Pattaya Panthers. (The Pattaya Panties haven’t asked me.)

PI: When was the last time you cried at a movie?

KS: Listen, I’m the world’s worst crier at movies – anything which is an emotional tear-jerker is bound to get me going.

PI: If you could have a dinner party with 4 people from the present or the past who would you invite?

KS: Like all men, I want Julia Roberts there. Though I’m not sure how she would get on with Mother Theresa, one of my heroes (whose birthday was on the same day as mine). Judy Covington (singer), and just to even up the party a bit, Hans van Damme (Dutch swimmer from the 70’s) for his ability to open the wine by slicing the neck of the bottle off with a sharp kitchen knife!

PI: Where are you coming from and where are you going?

KS: I was brought up as a good country lad, on a farm. Nice law abiding citizens all, who got on with life and took the good with the bad. Boringly conservative, and at peace with the world. Did you know that most countries won’t imprison anyone over 90 years of age? So where am I going? I’m waiting until I’m 90, and then I’m going to do all the things I would love to do, but daren’t – like rob a bank, steal a Mercedes (top of the range) and wildly joy-ride, gamble with other peoples money, and other things I haven’t thought of yet!

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