The Mediterranean Blue walls with white trim were immediately striking as we entered Dorigo Café & Bistro. That colour blue takes me to small harbours on the east coast of Italy I visited when much younger – the little blue fishing boats, the ocean and the sky – all in different shades of that colour I call Mediterranean Blue. It’s as if I’ve been taken back in time. What a positive first impression.

Friendly staff welcome us, and we are seated in the bright, air-conditioned dining room. Other guests are sitting on the covered open-air terrace the fronts the restaurant. Outside early evening traffic whizzes past but we are surrounded by a calm, as the staff serve our drinks.

Dorigo’s menu starts with Pizza, some 21 of them, and all sounding authentically Italian. Homemade Neapolitan Style Pizza is what they promise – in the style of Naples that many say is the original home of Pizza.

Next on the menu come the appetisers and snacks including many of the classics like Beef Carpaccio, Burrata & Parma Ham, Clams in white wine, Caprese salad, or Bruschetta, to name just a few. Next are the Salads and Soups and then the Pasta dishes. Ten different sauces on offer and 5 styles of Pasta to choose from. Do you feel like a simple Tomato and Basil sauce or perhaps Spaghetti Vongole (pasta with clams in a white wine sauce)? All the Italian standards are here. The menu is rounded off with three Risotto dishes and six main dishes three of which are fish and a classic from Milan, Cotoletta Alla Milanese – breaded pork chop in this version.

What to order?

Our group decided to select a variety and share as best as we could. It all sounded too good to not sample and share.

Bruschetta to start with sweet fresh Tomato and Basel on crispy bread and definitely made fresh. A Rocket salad with sausage and Parmesan. Chef Jay informed us the sausages – pork with his special Italian herbs – are made in-house and complement the peppery rocket and slightly salty Parmesan.

The Seafood Soup caught our eye when perusing the menu and it delivered bags of flavour when served. A mouth filling tomato-based soup, perhaps with a hint of white wine surrounding a generous serve of perfectly cooked prawns, mussels and clams topped with halves of fresh cherry tomatoes. A tomato and seafood delight!

We had to try the Pizza and chose the Parma Ham, Boccioni and Rocket. Chef Jay explained the dough is made in-house and rests for a day before being used. In the classic Naples style, thin based pizzas with that 2-3 cm high crust around the edges. With a tomato sauce base and topped with generous slices of Parma and fresh creamy Boccioni, rocket leaves and a liberal pour of Olive Oil. What’s not to love about this!

Classic 4 Cheese Risotto was our final dish, and Chef Jay must have been saving the best for last. The creamiest risotto any of us had ever tasted – buttery with Mozzarella, Parmesan, Gorgonzola and topped with Ricotta. We made short time of that bowl and not a skerrick was left. Absolutely delicious!

Dorigo does have a small wine list and strictly Italian wines, including the House Wine. No Chile, Argentinean or South African wines here, proudly explains Chef Jay. Just a handful of Italian whites, reds and a sparkling and priced reasonably.

Our delightful feast was finished off with Tiramisu, once again made in-house and presented modestly yet elegantly. A luxurious treat blending the bold flavours of cocoa and espresso with tangy mascarpone cheese, not to mention the wine-soaked finger biscuits separating and combining the layers. We understand there are often daily specials for desserts, depending what Chef Jay is inspired to create.

Formally trained, we learn that our host has been involved in kitchens since 11 or 12 years old. Initially in his mother’s restaurant businesses in Phuket and then through his formal training in Bangkok and restaurant experience.

Although he loves his father’s home country of Italy and Venice specifically, Chef Jay sees his other home country of Thailand as more exciting. But some traditions like buying locally wherever possible including regular trips to the Markets for his produce is something that he continues with Dorigo.

Bringing his Italian heritage to Dorigo Café & Bistro and his new hometown of Hua Hin is what Chef Jay is all about. He wants customers to feel as if they are dining in an Italian home when they eat at Dorigo.
Dorigo Café & Bistro opens daily, except Wednesdays, at 2:00 PM through to 10 PM. You can find Dorigo on Hua Hin Nhongplub Road, immediately opposite Hua Hin School. Call 032 905 924 or visit facebook.com/DorigoCafe

As the evening came to a close, our party agreed that we could not fault any of the dishes tasted and would definitely be making a return visit. There were so many other enticements on the menu that just had to be sampled, so we look forward to seeing you again Chef Jay!

By Michael Cullen

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