Piccola Roma Palace: five star cuisine and authentic Master Chef, in the North of Thailand.


Master Chef Angelo Faro: a man who has lived

«These memories, or recollections, are disrupted and get lost at times because such is life… My life is a life made of all lives: the poet’s lives».
Pablo Neruda: I confess I”ve lived

A character, in a few words, who has probably eschewed insidious identity crises. Those that can hit one who leaves the benchmarks of a safe harbour to choose, in a certain measure audaciously, the ‘open sea’.
Before landing in Thailand, Angelo lived for various years in Amsterdam where he took over the restaurant of a friend, who ended up entangled in the Dutch bureaucracy and penalised to a great extent by the fact of being, simply, Italian.
Angelo soon came to his aid and, vis-à-vis with a ginger and racist official, he swiftly took a decision: bringing his catering activity in the Dutch capital.
That’s water under the bridge now, it followed the meeting with his second wife, Marisa, from Chiang Mai and the relocation in the ‘land of free men’: the old, rich Siam.
A relocation that has been immediately constructive, in its literal sense, made of purchases of land and construction of buildings. He would not have wanted to work anymore, after being subjected to thefts and armed robberies in his Italian restaurant, after having suffered the cold of Dutch winters, after coming to the  — legitimate — conclusion, of having worked enough.
But his art, his qualifications as Master Chef of the very ancient Chaîne des Rôtisseurs (whose story dates back to the 1248) or as Sommelier, would have gone “waste” and therefore, in his 50s, he decided to restart, by opening the first Italian restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Today that restaurant is still there and in good health and Angelo, despite suffering from diabetes since his youth, and his legs not being in the best conditions, keeps being its genius loci.


Generous portions and vintage wine

Food and wine quality at Piccola Roma Palace can easily pass the five star cuisine exam. But there is more to it! Aforesaid cuisine, against an unquestionable finesse and, hopefully, excellent quality of ingredients, risks to tumble on an essential problem: it’s easy that it won’t be filling.
Angelo himself told me about a high catering training that he had attended in a Bavarian castle. The food, obviously, was not lacking but, he told me, the portions were so moderate that, when the class bell rang, the defendants departed cautiously…
to then meet all again at the weinstube of the neighboring town to “eat for real”.
In this regard, he has chosen to combine the exquisite quality of the ingredients and the deep professional expertise that befits a Master Chef of his level with the traditional Roman culinary culture, according to which “when it’s time to eat, let’s eat!”
The portions at Piccola Roma Palace are therefore, almost royal, and served in the best Thai jameshallison casino manufacture porcelain platters (Royal Porcelain).
The restaurant’s wine cellar offers vintage wines that, in Thailand, can cost hundreds or so much as thousands of euros. Angelo, furthermore, has not neglected his craze for collecting throughout his life. This is why, over the decades, he has collected, for instance, bottles of whiskey that are over a century old.
One evening I myself, as a guest with two friends in his restaurant, had the privilege of tasting a 75 year old whiskey.
All this, however, shouldn’t scare potential customers because, if one decides to drink beer or a wine at affordable prices (the restaurant’s wine cellar doesn’t lack them), one can enjoy an excellent dinner and spend less than one would spend in an average Italian restaurant.


Prestigious guests

Angelo’s litmus paper competence (that marries with a peculiar veracity and the cocktail, for people who know how to live, can esily be winning) can be found immortalized on the walls of the restaurant. With time indeed, members of royal families, Hollywood stars, politicians, diplomats and not only followed one another at Piccola Roma Palace.
In particular, Angelo had the incomparable honour, in the hosting culture (traditionally monarchic), to receive a few times for lunch or dinner the queen, the princess and several members of the Thai royal family, the king of Bhutan and other important members of the Bhutanese royal family.
Time ago after all, in Europe, he didn’t miss the chance to offer his art to to the British and Dutch royal families.
Hollywood stars, passing by Chiang Mai, are regularly his guests (and he did not discard being immortalized while “grabbing” Angelina Jolie).


Voluntary work with dogs and the sangha blessing

But that’s not all. Angelo isn’t a gentleman, although authentic, only in his restaurant. He maintains a commendable stature also in his little free time (the restaurant is open seven days a week and Angelo doesn’t like to entrust the management to somebody else) that he tends to spend with his dogs.
What’s unique is that these are not three or four and not even seven or eight. Angelo takes care of, altogether, about 150 dogs. Megalomaniac, as usual!
In Thailand strayism is not as dramatic as, for instance, in the nearby India but there is still the problem of many poor animals that do not have a caretaker and that could easily have it bad.
Buddhist monasteries, in compliance with the principle of compassion taught by the Buddha and by enlightnened kings like the Indian Ashoka – whose missionaries spread buddhism for the most part of Asia and who still represents the model of the exemplar monarch- take care of them, not without Angelo’s help.
He certainly doesn’t skimp on the costs of food and, especially, medical treatments.
His dogs reciprocate him with a touching devotion and several monks and abbots of the sangha (Thai monastic community) have a relationship of an unusual familiarity with Angelo, often reducing those physical distances with lay people that the tradition prescribes to them.
Angelo has decided that, on the day of the plunge, he will want to rest (finally…) on the land of a buddhist monaster, in Chiang Mai, without renouncing to his Catholic faith though.
But we: VIP, common men and stray dogs, would do well to wish him a long and genuine presence in his restaurant, behind his cart of fresh pastas, delicious mushrooms, refined steaks, or in his Asian, especially Chinese, antique shop.
Yes, because Angelo other than being a Master Chef has also half a century of experience as an antique dealer but this is another story, to which we will probably return.

Manuel Olivares (translated by Romina De Angelis)







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