Pizza Perfection – And a lot more besides at Ciccio Ristorante & Pizzeria.

Ciccio

A lot has been written about pizzas and how to make them. Probably most of us have had a go ourselves at some time or another, with mixed results. It pays though to ask a fundamental question before even thinking about what kind of dough to use – is pizza-making an art or a science?

For most us, the answer tends to be – an art. But ask a true professional like Chef Lorenzo Belloni, who runs Ciccio, at Royal Muang Samui Villas on Choeng Mon’s main road, and he’ll tell you that it’s both art and science. And the science part comes first. He knows what he’s talking about, as he grew up around traditional Italian food before deciding to become a chef. Not content with that, he also undertook a special course to learn how to make the perfect pizza. He’s been working at Ciccio for four years, specifically in charge of preparing and making pizzas, and in that time he’s certainly perfected his skills.

CiccioHe explains the science part of the preparation, “Everything in the pizza has to be perfectly balanced. If not, it may still be okay, but only that. One of the essential things is to get the maturation and leavening process correct. Maturation means keeping the dough inside the fridge at exactly the right temperature. You need a leavening fridge for this so you can guarantee the temperature is kept constant. Leavening means taking the pizza dough out of the fridge at the right time and at the right temperature, and then waiting for it to expand.” Lorenzo therefore makes the dough 48 hours beforehand. “This results in it being light, soft and digestible. A lot of pizza makers, even in restaurants, don’t bother to do this; many will make the dough in the morning and then make the pizzas later on that same evening. Customers don’t realize this is far from being the best way – and that’s putting it mildly.” He goes on to say that the cook has to know his or her oven, as no oven is ever identical; they all have individual characteristics. The one Lorenzo uses is a purpose-built round ceiling one that’s fired by both gas and burning wood. It’s perfect for the job. Each pizza goes in for between two and three minutes – Lorenzo judges the exact time not by a watch but just using his eyes. “The oven is between 370 and 380 degrees Centigrade. I can therefore rely on the results.”

CiccioThe dough he uses is actually a blend of three different flours (one is wholemeal), all from Italy, that he mixes together himself. Then there are all the many other ingredients and toppings, also mostly brought in from Italy, unless they’re available in Thailand. So you’ll find salami and cheeses that come from prime Italian suppliers, while herbs and vegetables tend to be from Thailand. Both authenticity and freshness are therefore guaranteed; you’ll realize this as soon as you tuck in to one of Lorenzo’s creations. They’re absolutely delicious.

CiccioCiccio is a dedicated pizzeria; you’ll see it has its own separate kitchen, housed in a small separate building that overlooks the terrace where you can eat al fresco. However, don’t worry if pizza isn’t for you as Ciccio shares the same terrace with its sister restaurant, Samui Sailor Grill & Restaurant. You can ask for menus from both places, see what takes your fancy, and order accordingly – no matter where you’re seated.

The two restaurants (open daily from 1:00 pm until 11:00 pm), and Muang Samui’s third outlet, right on the beach, Spice Zone, are all managed by executive chef Thomas Schneider. While Lorenzo’s busy making all manner of pizzas, Thomas is in charge of all the other dishes that diners enjoy. At Samui Sailor he oversees Mediterranean-Western dishes along with a selection of Royal Thai treats. There’s plenty of seafood and more Italian dishes. You might see him flaming a steak for a romantic dinner on the sands for a honeymoon couple or simply casting an eagle eye over a freshly-prepared tiramisu just before it goes out to an appreciative diner.

CiccioHe’s also in charge of the various theme nights that the twin restaurants provide not just for their guests, but for anyone who cares to join in with the fun. They start at 6:30 pm and end at 10:30 pm. On Mondays, there’s a seafood night with fresh Canadian lobsters as the stars of the show. Your dinner will be cooked to perfection, with the lobster either steamed, barbecued, grilled or prepared thermidor-style. It’s up to you to let the chef know how you’d like it. Accompany it with a sauce and a side dish – there are plenty to choose from; you might have, as sauces, lemon & butter or orange or béarnaise, and then for sides, you might have fried rice and vegetables, spaghetti or grilled mixed vegetables. This is an exceptionally good deal.

The other nights are no less spectacular, and offer the same excellent value for money. On Wednesdays, the resort holds a kind of floating market right out at the front of the property, dovetailing with the weekly night market. You’ll find plenty of Thai food – all the mouth-watering favourites you’d expect. On Thursdays, it’s Thai Night, where you’ll be presented with a wide triptych of a menu; open its panels and you’ll find three different Thai menus, each filled with goodies. On Fridays, you can partake in the steak night, an extravaganza of great-tasting grilled meat, but the dishes include other steaks too – try the moreish salmon steak. There are nine different types of steak for you to choose from and you can accompany them with various side dishes and sauces. If that’s not enough, there’s also a salad bar and a soup of the day. So come hungry!

Surf ‘n’ turf is the theme for Saturdays, and you can expect to find dishes such as classic tenderloin served with a half lobster. Or, as many diners do, you can opt to choose either fish or meat.

It can be quite hard to make a choice at either of these two restaurants as there’s so much on offer, but whatever your reason for coming, you can be sure that you’ll receive not only excellent food, drink and service, but you’ll be a delightful setting in which to spend an afternoon or evening.

Dimitri Waring

For reservations or further information telephone 0 7742 8700.
www.muangsamui.com