Rossini and the Godfather’s favorite

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Following a refurbishment two months ago, the Royal Cliff’s Rossini restaurant is back, bigger and brighter than ever, complete with a suitably passionate Italian Chef de Cuisine, in Massimo Gullotta.

According to the Oxford History of Western Music, “Rossini’s fame surpassed that of any previous composer, and so, for a long time, did the popularity of his works.  Audiences took to his music as if to an intoxicating drug – or, to put it more decorously, to champagne, with which Rossini’s bubbly music was constantly compared.”

A cheese board to whet your appetite.A cheese board to whet your appetite.

Calling the restaurant Rossini is actually very apt, as Rossini had been a well-known gourmand and an excellent amateur chef his entire life, but he indulged these two passions fully once he retired from composing, and today there are a number of dishes with the appendage “alla Rossini” to their names that were either created by or specifically for him.  Probably the most famous of these is tournedos Rossini, still served by many restaurants today.

Crusted rack of NZ lamb.Crusted rack of NZ lamb.

We managed to get the hyperactive Massimo to slow down for five minutes so we could understand what drives him.  He comes from Rome and his family has been involved in the hospitality business for over 100 years, including a famous Trattoria in Rome.  It was here that he had his first contact with cooking, and following study in Switzerland, the US and Canada he took his portable skills and his wicked smile and arrived in Thailand 27 years ago, and now here in Pattaya.

Chef Massimo Gullotta.Chef Massimo Gullotta.

There is a dedicated wine list, but there is also a single page of “budget” wines between B. 1,300 and B 1,800.  (You won’t go far wrong with the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.)

The menu begins with an explanation of the direction of Massimo’s modern Italian kitchen.  The ingredients are the most important aspect of his cooking.

Prices range from around B. 350 (Caesar salad is B. 330 for example) to around B. 600, with a couple of dishes for two being B. 1,600.  The menu is also in Italian and English, with the Italian version so much more romantic than the English.  Take the Risotto Manticato ai Funghi di Bosco e Tartufo Nero which in English is creamy risotto with wild mushrooms and black truffles.

Musical duo sang Italian melodies.Musical duo sang Italian melodies.

Adding to the Italian flavor, a young couple entertained with music, some of which were well known Italian melodies (though not from any of Rossini’s operas)!

Rather than order by ourselves from the very comprehensive menu, we invited Massimo to suggest dishes he would like to make, and he enthusiastically rushed off to the kitchen, after sending over a cheese board to keep us happy in the meantime.

An Antipasto then arrived with a lobster carpaccio, tuna, black mussels done with vodka and chilli, a tartar of avocado and salmon and a scallop wrapped in Parma ham.  These were superb and the tartar was my favorite, though Massimo looked disappointed I didn’t put the lobster carpaccio as the top.  But his disappointment was only momentary and the smile was there again when he proudly brought out a duck ragout on Pappardelle pasta, the large, very broad, flat pasta noodles, similar to wide fettuccine, and all his pastas are made in house.  This dish had a little bite in it, but not at all overpowering.

We were next regaled with a snow fish wrapped in Parma ham, sitting on a bed of spinach accompanied by mashed potato and a saffron-basil sauce.  I am particularly fond of snow fish and this was excellent.

Our (almost) finale was a crusted rack of NZ lamb using pistachio nuts and Dijon mustard.  The lamb was cooked to order and mine was very tender.  The red wine sauce was good for the lamb.

Even though we were full, Massimo insisted we have dessert and then Limoncello, an after dinner drink that is simply “more-ish”.

We can certainly recommend the new Rossini and one can see why the Godfather liked it!

Rossini Restaurant, Royal Cliff Beach Resort, 353 Pratamnak Road, Pattaya, hours 3.30 to 10.30 p.m. last order pizza, telephone 038 250 421, email [email protected], website www.royalcliff.com.  Secure parking within the resort.

The fine art of baking an authentic Italian pizza.

The superb Antipasto.

The snow fish was excellent.