When did you come and live in Phuket?
I came here 22 years ago from my native Sardinia, in Italy after living in The Hague, the capital of Holland, for four or five years where I opened an Italian restaurant, Costa Smeralda, and a pizza/takeaway. Previously I’d undertaken a hotel management course at the Hotel St Michel for three years in Lausanne, Switzerland, before going to Holland. I visited Thailand four or five times on holiday before deciding to come and live in Phuket. I liked the place.
When did you decide to become a chef and open your own restaurant?
About 38 years ago while working in Holland I decided I liked the job of being a chef. When I came to Phuket I opened three restaurants in Patong: Marco Polo in 1990, my first Cassanova in 1991 and the second Cassanova in 1995. Ten years ago I opened Salvatore’s Restaurant in Phuket Town.
What changes in the business environment on Phuket have you noticed?
The last year business was down by around 25 percent but I’m optimistic that this year and next year will be better. Seventy percent of my customers are Thais and around 30 percent a mixture of locals and tourists. Thai customers have become more open over the years. They trust me and will ask me to choose one of the five set menus we offer each day.
What other trends have you noticed?
In the last 10 years I’ve noticed that Thai customers now almost always order wine rather than whisky or beer; they like the expensive wines which suit us as we stock mainly Italian and French wines. Their favourite dishes are seafood and New Zealand lamb. I must be careful as Thai customers are very particular about everything being very fresh.
Why do you think Salvatore’s Restaurant has been successful?
Hard work. I do everything myself. I go to the market every day to buy fish and meat and my wife and I buy all the vegetables and other ingredients ourselves.
What is your favourite dish?
I like a simple dish of spaghetti, fresh tomatoes and basil with some olive oil. I cook only with olive oil. No butter. Many of my dishes come from my 80-year-old mother’s recipes. I go home to Sardinia every year to see her and my two brothers and three sisters and bring back some of her recipes to serve in the restaurant. The recipes have a lot of fish, vegetables and also some specialist Sardinian dishes such as sardines, pork, rabbit and duck.
Where do you live on Phuket?
We’ve lived in Kathu near the golf course for 15 years in the same house. I like it there. There are only 30 or 40 villas. It’s quiet. We have a very good life there.
What about your family here in Phuket?
I’ve been married to a Thai, Sombon, for 17 years and we have a 16-year-old daughter, Monica, who’s been at high school in Italy for two years and has another three years to go. She’s learning Italian but is also very interested in art of all kinds. I hope she’ll go to university in Italy but she wants to go to America after finishing high school. I hope she changes her mind…
Is your family involved in running the restaurant.
Yes, Sombon helps out with many things in the restaurant.
What type of car do you drive?
I have a Toyota Fortuner, although I’d prefer a Ferrari, of course. I like Formula 1. Sombon also has a Toyota.
What do you like most about living on Phuket?
I like the Thai people. This is now my home. And I like the weather – it’s great!
How old are you and how long do you plan to keep working?
I’m 60 years old. I plan to work for another five years in the restaurant business. I will definitely stay in Thailand but instead of going to Italy for one month a year, I’ll go for two or three months to see my family.
So what do you do in your spare time?
I don’t have much spare time. I once played golf but not any more. Now I intend to start going to the gym to lose some weight.
Are you involved in any charitable work?
Not directly, but each year I give a voucher to the Phuket International Women’s Club and I’ve helped poor Thais who need food with some food from the restaurant from time to time.
With an Italian and two Thais in your family you must speak a number of languages.
Yes, I speak seven languages: Italian, Thai, English, German, Dutch, French and Spanish with some Portuguese and Greek. My daughter speaks Thai, Italian, English, French and some Japanese and my wife speaks Thai, English and Italian.
What do you think the future holds for businesses like yours on Phuket?
I think business will improve over the next couple of years. I hope the next year will be better for everyone.
For more information contact:
15, 17 Rasada Road, Muang District, Phuket Town.
Tel: +66 (0)89 871 1184 Website: www.salvatorestaurant.com.