Acqua goes really Italian

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Following an invitation to an Italian Wine Dinner at the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort, to be held at their Acqua Italian restaurant, and knowing the passionate Italian Chef Alberto Bruni, we could only say “Yes!”

Everybody in Pattaya must be aware of just where the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort is situated, but for the ‘newbies’ this huge property is accessed by going down Soi 18 from the Pattaya-Naklua Road (opposite the Coffee Club). Go right to the bottom of the soi and turn right and the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort is on your left (watch out for the speed hump). The entrance is a little hard to spot, but once there you will find plenty of secure parking. Go in the main lobby and Acqua is on your right, complete with welcoming staff.

Chef Alberto.Chef Alberto.

Now, Acqua is not only well known for its food and ambience, but is notable for the fact that it is under the apron of Chef Alberto, a man who enjoys life and living it, but keeps his feet firmly on the ground, encased in red shoes.

Alberto’s wine dinners certainly have produced a very loyal group of supporters, and Acqua was certainly filled that evening with more than 70 attendees. Amongst those were Jose Cohen (Au Bon Coin) and Dr William van Ewijk.

Steamed white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and Parma ham.Steamed white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and Parma ham.

With Alberto in charge of the menu, the wines were under the charge of Dott. Ermes Scardova, another proud Italian who let everyone know that those famous Italian cars Ferrari and Maserati were just down the autostrada, so to speak.

The wines were an interesting collection, starting with three Lambrusco’s, very young, and all with a slight ‘fizz’. Ermes explained just how the bubbles get there, through a tank fermentation before bottling. This is known as the Charmat Method (as opposed to ‘Methode Champenoise).

The three Lambrusco’s were all DOC and the first was the reception wine, a Quercioli Lambrusco Grasparossa Amabile DOC, Medici Ermete. Since most of the diners were unaware of the wines at that stage, to be served a chilled red ‘frizzante’ took most somewhat aback! However, this rather sweet wine went very well with the salami and condiments. At least 85 percent Lambrusco Grasparossa comes from vineyards around the town of Castelvetro, south of Modena (Ferrari country).

Not any old risotto, this was one made from Alberto’s seven year old Acquerello rice with colonnato lard and Italian sausage, and served in cast iron dishes.Not any old risotto, this was one made from Alberto’s seven year old Acquerello rice with colonnato lard and Italian sausage, and served in cast iron dishes.

So with everyone seated, the first course came out, a steamed white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and Parma ham. This combination, which was slightly sweet, was paired with the Quercioli Reggiano Lambrusco Secco DOC Medici Ermete which was definitely not as sweet, and with little nose or finish, was not to my taste, but as always, wine appreciation is very personal.

The second course was a risotto, but not any old risotto, this was one made from Alberto’s seven year old Acquerello rice with colonnato lard and Italian sausage, and served in cast iron dishes. The wine with this was the Concerto Lambrusco Reggiano Secco DOC Medici Ermete. Now this was a much better wine, complete with nose, body and finish, and went well with the risotto.

Dr William van Ewijk and Sonia sample the wine.Dr William van Ewijk and Sonia sample the wine.

This wine carried over to the next course, a braised Australian lamb shank (10 hours slow cooking), on baby spinach (which had 10 seconds of blanching), with cannellini beans and smoked pancetta. This was universally popular.

A gourmet cheese selection was next, with honey walnut and fig jam. Some of these were very strong flavored, and a ruby port was served with the cheese. However, the port could not match the cheese.

Alberto was not done with us, and we were presented with an apple crumble dessert, complete with vanilla sauce and Croccantino nougat ice cream. A white wine was teamed with this, being a Malvasia Dolce DOC Dei Colli Piacemtini (Italians do like long names for their wines).

For those with a sweet tooth, there were also some Baci Perugina, those wonderful Italian “fortune cookies”, tea and coffee, to round out a very interesting Italian Wine dinner for Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort, Ermes Scardova and Alberto Bruni.

Acqua Italian Restaurant, Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort Pattaya, 277 M5, open daily, 6.30 p.m. until 10.30 p.m., telephone 038 301 234, www.centarahotelsresorts.com, secure parking in the resort car parks.