Mazzaro Boutique & Restaurant is a Thai-Italian eatery where classic selections from Thai and Italian cuisines are the main attractions, but the surprises don’t stop there.
By Percy Roxas
I went to Mazzaro not expecting much. To be honest, before now I didn’t even know it existed. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this restaurant has been open for four years now. Of course, the Bangrak area is not one I commonly associate with great dining experience but personal alibis aside, it’s great in a way to visit a place you don’t know much about beforehand. That leaves your mind open to possibilities and enhances your joy of being surprised. For Mazzaro, probably one of the most underrated Thai-Italian restaurants in town, is full of surprises.
Located on the small road leading to Shangri-La Hotel, it is easy to miss the restaurant. For, very much like its owner and manager Rompho “Pin” Phothisoontorn — a 29-year-old Product Design graduate who later decided he loved cooking more — Mazzaro is not flashy. Although in fact the restaurant’s frontage looks different from the line of clothes shops that share its building, there is not much to suggest to passersbys that the restaurant promises fine dining. More to the point, it does not instantly blind one with elegance or sophistication. But go inside and you will find a sleek eatery that could have been instant phenomenon in hubs like Thonglor, Langsuan, or elsewhere.
The boutique and restaurant – as it calls itself – is divided into four sections: a dark-colored dining room with a lofty ceiling and exposed board walls, a sunny back room punctuated with plants and a small veranda area, and two private rooms upstairs for exclusive special occasions. All in all, it can only accommodate something like 100 persons — 70 to 80 people in the lower levels and 20 in the upstairs section.
If you happen to be hungry and you’re in the area, you might be content to sit on the streetside section as many tourists are wont to do, but this will deprive you of discovering the inner sanctum of the restaurant, which I prefer. Once you’re inside, it doesn’t feel like Bangrak anymore.
I took a seat on a table under a canopy of bulbs (decoration) over my head, surrounded by abstract paintings in bright colors and décor and design set in mix and match fashion that somehow looks effortlessly pretty. The table settings are classy, and the ambience is great – as even the music seems to have been carefully chosen. For sure, much thought had been given in decorating the premises and creating its atmosphere, but it is not pretentious at all, again much like Pin. And much like Mazzaro’s food.
Pin styled his restaurant as a Thai-Italian restaurant where classic selections from Thai and Italian cuisines are the main attractions. No it wasn’t fusion, but Pin says he makes sure his creations are original, and with the Italian dishes given a unique Thai twist and the Thai dishes spiced up with a Western flair.
Pin, a scion of a well-to-do business family in Bangrak, grew up in a family where everybody gets to cook somehow and love eating, he says, because his grandmother used to own a restaurant. When he was sent to San Francisco to further his studies, he worked in a restaurant and there realized his passion lies elsewhere than just product design. He even told his mother that he wanted to open a restaurant there, but she said “No.” It was not until one day that he got a call his mother, complaining about not getting a seat in a restaurant she loves to eat in Chiang Mai so many times, and when she finally did she was already angry, told her son to come back, and open his own restaurant in Bangkok, but not before finishing studies at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School.
“It’s really home-style cooking served in a home-style atmosphere,” says Pin. “My recipes are from traditional recipes, classic menu: pasta, pizza, those kind of stuff — but they differ in ingredients and taste. I put the Thai taste into all of them. When guests eat here, they see a simple menu but the taste, the smell, and the other sensory elements are rich and full. Food is really like art, you just change the colors into the ingredients.”
Pin served us three dishes that he says are signature house dishes. First off was phad Thai tiger prawn, which he said was the “the best in my restaurant,” based on his grandma’s recipe. His personal favorite is seafood pasta.
The presentation was delightful. The head of the tiger prawn was resting in the middle of a banana heart, with the noodles, prawn meat, and other ingredients cleverly spread in the shape of the prawn’s body, up to the tail. Two little green stems of fresh shallot leaves were tucked on top, giving the dish a more balanced color. On the side of the dish condiments were artistically smudged to complete the ravishing look. Amazing indeed: the best phad Thai we have ever tasted in a long while, with the delicate tiger prawn meat flavor blending perfectly with the distinct sauce obviously made from his grandma’s secret recipe.
Next was pasta Thai tai, another much-ordered dish. Here, one gets a better sense of what he means when he said putting a Thai taste in a dish. It was hot, as only the Thais can make it so, but not fiery hot as to burn your tongue. It was deliciously spicy with every bit of flavor: bits of bacon, asparagus, mushroom, etc., coming up together like a symphony of flavors in your palate giving the lowly pasta a special zing. Yummy.
Third was foei gras, my eternal favorite. There it was in front of me, sitting on a bed of red tomato, topped with sliced lemongrass and greens, resulting in a fantastic mouthful with the herbal taste “orientalizing” the very Western staple; my kind of dish indeed. Of course, there are more than just these three in the menu but you get the idea. The colors, the shape, the texture, the smell, and the flavor – I just hope the quality of food is consistently this good and the service consistently warm as they are fast and slick.
But perhaps no need to worry as Pin says, “I love Italian food, and I want my guests to share my love for that cuisine. I want them to feel like they are eating at home with a warm atmosphere, with the best of Mama’s cooking. Everything is important – taste, presentation, and little twist of Thai and Italian. Even the monthly specials that I am creating will certainly reflect that.”
And the price of the food? The food isn’t particularly cheap – but depending on the dish you want to order, average cost of a meal can be as measly as Bt300 (without drinks) certainly a good value of money for the quality you get and overall satisfaction. Oh, there’s something like 100 labels of wine, mostly Italian, to complement the meal if you’re up to it. And the restaurant is available for private party bookings – at the back room and upstairs areas – just make sure you make a reservation three days in advance.
We didn’t have time to check the parking area or the restrooms, but if Pin’s personality is any indication – he is a stickler for details – guests will know they’re in good hands.
Mazzaro Boutique & Restaurant
Charoen Krung 42/1 (road going to Shangri-La), Bangrak