No, it was nothing to do with the football World Cup, or the Eurozone crisis, but it had everything to do with enjoying great food and fine wine in the traditional Italian manner. I could have written ‘Italian manor’ because Joe Parlati’s Don Joe restaurant is like Joe himself, very Italian, complete with pictures of Verona on the walls, Joe’s home town, of which he is very proud. Well, after all, Romeo and Juliet came from there as well as Joe.
On the other side of the lake from Verona is Lugana, about 50 km only, Joe assured me, and there is where you find the Provenza wine company, run by the third generation of the family, in whose hands the vineyard has been since 1710. Representing the company was Massimo Marai, the export manager, and Massimo was as strongly Italian as Joe Parlati himself. And talking about exports, the Provenza wines are exported to Japan, China (a growing market), Thailand, Australia, USA and Brazil.
Joe Parlati and Massimo Marai.
Joe’s wine dinners are different from anywhere else (and if you know Joe then you would understand – Joe does everything his way!) There is no matching of wine to food courses, you do that yourself. Joe lays on a buffet spread with about everything Italian you could imagine – and even spaghetti is not forgotten amongst the salmon, Parma ham and melon, Italian cheeses, roasted eggplant, salads and more, believe me. Joe Parlati knows his food, after all, he selects the ingredients and prepares it himself.
While we began picking our buffet items, all the while Massimo is floating around the tables, advising on the grape varieties and discussing his favorite topic – his wines, with the jewel in the crown being the ultra smooth Fabio Contato, with 14 percent alcohol so drink it with gusto, and with caution.
Now I know we should have started with the very easy drinking whites like the Ca Maiol Spumante, but Massimo insisted we begin with his best, the Fabio Contato, and believe me, this is a very drinkable, smooth red wine, well balanced with a nice long finish. The grapes (Goppello, Sangiovese, Barbera and Marzemino) are taken quickly to the cellar and put into tanks. In contact with their own skins the grapes are allowed to ferment for fifteen days and the wine is then poured into new French oak barrels where it remains for 24 months. After a further six months of maturing in bottles the wine is then ready for consumption. This is a well-structured wine of great expression. It has a long-lasting taste and is ideal for consumers who require a wine that is reserved for connoisseurs, where the care taken by the wine-producer is given the appreciation it deserves. Grapevine: If you see a bottle anywhere (ItalAsia are the local agents), buy it. You will not be disappointed.
During the very relaxed evening we did manage to sample the other bottles such as the Giome Cabernet/Merlot blend. Giome is a fictitious name, linked to the ancient Roman word ‘giomelle’ which means the union of two things. In actual fact, the Giome wine is a blend of two important grapes from Lake Garda’s hinterland area, more precisely Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These two grapes are fined for six months in barrels, controlled by constant tasting from the cask and brought to the right point of aging.
The other Provenza wines on offer that evening included their Prestige Trebbiano DOC, Molina Trebbiano , Gropello, Giome Cabernet Merlot (50/50) and a Negresco. It was a very fine example of Italian wining and dining. I suggest you drop in to Don Joe’s some evening and try both the food and some Italian wine.
After saying good night to Joe and Massimo we strolled across Walking Street to the Hot Tuna bar, and listened to the band playing numbers from the 60’s and 70’s until the warm glow from the Fabio Contato waned and we felt ready to drive. A wonderful wine dinner, done as Don Joe decreed and a wonderfully enjoyable evening.
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).