One of the most loved Italian restaurants in Walking Street is Don Joe, run by the ‘Don’ himself, Joe Parlati. Over the years, Joe has enlarged, added to and expanded his restaurant, and since our last visit has added a coffee bar, a Choco-River fountain, and a room for private functions, fitting these all into the restaurant as well as the air-conditioned dining section and the sea view section out over the bay. Take your pick. We chose the sea view, as there is something magical and romantic looking out into the Gulf of Thailand.
While the new additions are all designed to offer more for the diners, some things have remained the same – and one is Joe’s love of Verona, his home town. Another is the direction of the Italian food. This is traditional Italian cuisine, just like Mumma used to make. That Italian cuisine which now is one of the most popular in the world. The staff is also dressed as before with the short black skirts and white shirts and most wearing the golfing cap. And of course, Joe is the same, welcoming and effusive.
Usually, when reviewing a restaurant we spend much time reading the menu and the wine list, and although Don Joe has a menu and a wine list, ordering from it is probably not the best way to enjoy this restaurant. Again with traditional Italian hospitality, the host will ask you what you like and the preparation begins there. Don Joe is just the same, tell Joe what you might like (fish, meat, seafood, etc.) and be guided by him as what is best that day. You can let Joe advise on the wines on offer too – mind you, they will all be Italian, and for us he recommended a Marellino from Tuscany (San Giovese grape), a smooth red and good drinking at B. 1,200 a bottle. Well worth quaffing.
Joe wanted us to sample his antipasti, and it was really amazing how different the hams tasted, depending upon the anatomical region of the pig, as well as the pig’s diet and the curing of the ham.
However, no matter how tasty was the antipasti (and it was), the next dish was something neither of us had tried before, and it was prepared at the table by Joe as well. This was a carpaccio of veal, fresh lime juice drizzled all over it, then some extra virgin olive oil and sliced Parmesan cheese and some ground black pepper over the lot. This was simply sensational. The veal just fell apart and the taste was divine. This truly was the situation where Don Joe makes you an offer you can’t refuse. Tell Joe to make you one too!
We had said we wanted fish for our main course and Joe brought us his mixed seafood platter, which was actually a dish for one person (Joe delivers very generous portions) and featured a red snapper, cuttlefish, prawns and mussels, all for B. 500.
I asked Joe how he managed to get such fresh seafood, to which he replied, “You get up early and get to the Naklua Markets by 5.30 in the morning.” I shouldn’t have asked, should I!
We politely refused Joe’s entreaties to have an Italian dessert, but I was talked into an Irish coffee (which did not need much talking), whilst Madame decided a grappa would be the perfect end to our Italian dinner, and it was.
After a wonderful meal, we walked across Walking Street to the Hot Tuna Bar and listened to the live music, while also watching the tourists passing by. If you enjoy heavy rock, it is a fun place.
Don Joe, Ristorante Italiano, 112/2 Moo 10, Walking Street, South Pattaya, telephone 038 710 733, open 4 p.m. until midnight (last orders 11 p.m. as Joe won’t be hurried).