Samui Wining & Dining
Come into my Parlour

Revealing the secrets of Il Salotto – a hidden gem in Fisherman’s Village.

 

7You’re on a trip out for the evening to look round the shops. You’re planning to eat later, so you’re keeping an eye out for a place that looks nice. You’re taking your time, wandering, shopping, comparing prices and enjoying a haggle. You’ve spotted several really nice looking little eateries and added them to a list. You’ve strolled in a circle and by now are getting hungry. And so it’s time to eat. Thus, immediately, you’ve got a problem, ’though you might not know it.

      Few people actually stop to ponder on what makes up a good dining experience. It’s one thing to fill a gap and grab a sandwich when you’re busy. But on holiday you don’t want this. You want a leisurely meal in attractive surroundings – but that’s just a part of it. If you were to sit and make a list it would also include quality food with a good range of choices, individual attention, friendly and attentive service, a beachside location, your own bubble of privacy, realistic and affordable prices and a good overall atmosphere. Diminish any one of these and the feel-good factor lessens. And picking a restaurant just because it looks pretty from the outside rarely allows you to tick all these boxes.

      Fisherman’s Village is one place on Samui that almost everyone visits during their stay, and nearly everyone goes there at night. There are perhaps 20 or so eateries in that one long street and all of them are appealing. Thus, logically, you have a moderate chance of being disappointed! But there are a handful of restaurants here which are first class in every respect. It’s just that you need to know which ones to go for. We can help you with this – one of them is Il Salotto.

      Il Salotto isn’t what it seems at first glance. It looks like an Italian restaurant – which it is. It looks small and cosy – it is, but it’s bigger than it appears. It doesn’t look like there’s a lot of staff – there aren’t. But they all speak excellent English and have been handpicked, having been trained and previously worked at 4-and 5-star hotels – most unusual for a small restaurant. Some of the food-stops around here are surprisingly pricey – this one isn’t. And a few don’t even overlook the sea, or even have a view at all. This does. And that’s not counting all the positive points behind the scenes, things you can’t see or know, which when taken together make this place a bit of a gem.

      One of the key elements at Il Salotto you’ll often not see at all. And that’s the man behind it all, long-time Samui resident, personality, and food-fanatic, Chef Luigi Fadda. He’s not only a highly experienced chef, having worked in top hotels all over Asia for the best part of 30 years, but also has the distinction of being a member of that elite group of gourmets known as ‘Chain De Rotisserie’. Wherever he has been in residence he’s attracted hordes of ‘people in the know’, many of them also Italian and in search of authentic southern-Italian cuisine. In his pursuit of culinary perfection, over the years Luigi’s established a chain of regular supplies of real Italian specialities which he imports every month, such as black truffles, St. Peter’s fish, Parma ham, sun-dried tomatoes, ricotta, cheeses, creams, herbs and spices. Talk to him about using similar items from Thai importers and he’ll burst into streams of rapid Italian, go red and start jumping up and down.

      Another of the key elements here is Khun Nui, the lively restaurant manager. She speaks excellent English and has a pedigree almost as impressive as Luigi, having previously worked in several 4-and 5-star restaurants, including, most-recently, Samui’s prestigious Nora Buri Resort & Spa. Plus the fact that she seems to have been Luigi’s floor manager partner, working in parallel with him, at several venues over the years. They were teamed at Olivio in Chaweng, Punnpreeda Hip Resort in Bangrak, and then finally here at Il Salotto. “The quality of the service is just as important as the quality of the food,” she explained to me, “they complement each other. We usually don’t take new staff unless they are already established, and then I spend quite a while overseeing them and helping them fit in.”

       You’ll notice that so far I’ve talked about the people here, simply because it’s the calibre of the staff which makes everything come together. But it’s food that people come here for, not résumés. Thus you’ll discover that the menu is sectioned into the usual appetisers, soups and salads, noodle and pasta dishes, seafood items, pizza and desserts. The pasta is made in-house, fresh every morning and the fish and seafood is brought in from the market at the same time. Pizzas are made on the spot in the wood-fired oven and are wonderfully thin and crispy. The classic lasagne Bolognaise is virtually a signature dish here, as is the ‘ravioli with ricotta and spinach in tomato and cream’ (costing just 200 baht and 220 baht respectively!). The wine list is modest, but varied and affordable, with eight labels coming in at well under 1,000 baht. But be prepared for the desserts. The superb tiramisu is Italian-style and almost like a cheesecake. However, the gorgeous hot chocolate cake occasionally disappoints. Why? Because it’s cooked on the spot, takes 20 minutes, and sometimes people don’t want to sit around waiting. Order it at the same time as your mains!

      Actually, there are times when you’ll see the unforgettable silhouette of Chef Luigi. And that’s on Fridays, when the village comes alive with all the fun of the weekly Walking Street. He’ll haul his cookware out onto the street in front, in order to lure you inside, and onto the broad back deck that overlooks the sea. Overall, the dining experience here is about as good as it gets outside of a gourmet eatery. And if you still have any niggling doubts, then take a look at the comments on TripAdvisor. This year Il Salotto was awarded a winner’s Certificate of Excellence, which makes it a gem in anyone’s book.

         One final word. Il Salotto is on the smaller, secondary street of Fisherman’s Village and not right on the main strip – the street to the right that isn’t as long. It’s impossible to miss. It looks just like someone’s living room or parlour. Which, oddly enough, just happens to be the translation of the Italian phrase, ‘il salotto’!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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