The royal city of Hua Hin is known for its spacious white beaches, the excellent climate and a relaxed atmosphere, which have made both the king of Thailand and an impressive amounts of foreigners selecting to settle in the city southwest of Bangkok. But even though numerous eateries fill the small streets of Hua Hin with hungry tourists and delicious smells from all over the world, it would be a major exaggeration to state that the city is a gastronomically Mecca.
A passion for Italy
However, this little insignificant piece of information does not stop the Danish businessman Peter Kirketerp. In the last five years the long-time Thai resident has owned the Italian gourmet restaurant La Grappa in the centre of Hua Hin.
Now the food-standards of the restaurant probably is about to get raised a bit after the employment of the native Italian top-chef Andreas Bonifacio as the new partner of the restaurant and head of the kitchen.
“Authenticity of the food is very important to both Andreas and myself, it is definitely not enough that our dishes look a little Italian. They must be like the dishes you get in Italy”, Peter Kirketerp states over an authentic plate of North Italian tapas in the fresco-decorated restaurant.
His love for the South European country can be dated almost three decades back, when he and his family still lived in Denmark – and it started as a pure coincidence.
“My wife worked for SAS back then and Rome was by far her favourite destination, so after a while she managed to talk me into going there. I quickly fell in love with Italy, and especially the food culture. Since then we have gone to Italy almost every year, also after we had moved to Thailand” he says.
Not just Spaghetti Bolognaise
As an expat based in Bangkok Peter Kirketerp and his family often went to Hua Hin for the weekend. During these visits they meet Lugiano, an Italian who owned a small pizza-eatery named La Grappa. When Lugiano faced some economic difficulties, Peter Kirketerp steps in and became partner in the restaurant. But the ambitions of the Dane with the Italian soul reached longer than that, and soon after begun the transformation from a pizza-place to a gourmet restaurant.
“I wanted to make food like I knew it from Italy, and show the people in Hua Hin that Italian food are much, much more than pizzas and spaghetti bolognaise – like delicious bread, real Italian coffee, sautéed spinach or lamp cutlets with rosemary rosemary”, Peter Kirketerp states.
The urge to establish a fine Italian eatery in the city also led to a massive extension of the selection of wines, champagnes and –off course – Italian Grappas along with the engagement of Andreas Bonifacio, who previously has been working three years for Italian restaurants in Bangkok. Despite the fact that there are about 25 Italian restaurants in Hua Hin Andreas is actually the first and only Italian chef in the city.
“It is a little odd that all gourmet restaurants are located in Bangkok. But we can have the same ingridiences here, so why shouldn’t we have fine cosine here in Hua Hin? Both local and foreign connoisseurs come here on vacation anyway” Andreas Boneficio says.
An ambition of high quality cosine causes obligations to the staff, so now Andreas teach the local waiters about wines and Italian food culture, so they can guide the customers to the best possible menu – but until they are fully skilled Andreas does most of the guiding himself.
“The right guidance is a big part of a fine dining experience. It is not about making the customers buy the most expensive wine in the restaurant, but to fine the right one there both matches their dishes and their budget ” Andreas Boneficio ads.
A match for every wallet
The ambition to match the budget of the variety of customers has also led to dishes in various economic categories.
“It is important to us that everybody feels welcome here, from the charter guests to the sophisticated gourmets. Happy customers tend to return. So we serve both exquisite seafood and affordable homemade pizzas in la Grappa” Peter Kirketerp says.
The pizzas is still Lugianos domain, and they have actually become quite popular in the city, perhaps because they are baked in an authentic Italian outdoor wooden-oven – the only of its kind in Hua Hin – which gives the original Italian taste to the pizzas according to the Dane and his two Italian chefs.
Peter Kirketerps’s passion for fine cuisine doesn’t stop here. Today 75-seat restaurant imports and sells wines, Cuban cigars and Italian delicacy directly from the restaurant.
“We would like to disseminate the knowledge of fine Italian cosine, and off course also our restaurant, for example though wine- and grappa tastings and other arrangements so the people in the area can see that there is much more to the Italian culture than pasta with tomato sauce”.