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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
Updated every Friday
Copyright 2001 Pattaya Mail Publishing Co.Ltd.
370/7-8 Pattaya Second Road, Pattaya City, Chonburi 20260, Thailand
Tel. 66-38 411 240-1, 413 240-1, Fax: 66-38 427 596
Chinnaporn Sungwanlek, assisted by Boonsiri Suansuk.