Toscana and Moom Talay: from farm to table, a unique experience
The Toscana Italian restaurant and Moom Talay Thai restaurant are located side-by-side on Beach Road, about 100 metres south of Soi 6/1, and alongside the Tropicana Hotel (where, it should be noted, guests for the two eateries can park for free: just obtain a ticket, which will be stamped by the cashier when you pay your bill).
Open from midday to midnight seven days a week, the restaurants are run by Italian-born expatriate Luca Marchetti, along with his Thai wife of 22 years.
The Organic Farms
The couple operate the only large-scale organic farm in Pattaya, at two locations in the eastern reaches of the city. The first, covering an area of around 5,000 square metres, is solely devoted to growing the vast quantity of vegetables required by Toscana and Moom Talay, from spinach to onions, celery, mustard, parsley, rocket, beans and other vegetables.
Luca Marchetti grew up on a farm in the mountains to the north of Tuscany, so the 52-year-old entrepreneur knows what it takes to run a rustic operation.
The vegetable patches are rotated on a regular basis and a brace of free-range chickens helps put added manure into the soil, to help with regeneration of precious minerals.
Luca refuses to use any chemicals on his produce, preferring nature and nurture to provide the necessary abundance to keep the restaurant tables stocked with genuinely fresh vegetable produce.
The second farm, solely for animals, is located in Huay Yai, just down the road from the newly-constructed Huay Yai Riverside Villas. Spread over 10,000 square metres it employs around eight staff to feed and care for pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowl.
With 14 incubators Luca is able to produce all the daily requirements for his restaurants for chicken, duck and quail eggs.
Luca uses the eggs for making ice-cream and pasta. “I have a machine which enables me to pasteurize 60 kilograms of eggs at a time,” stated Luca.
Every morning the female goats are milked, with the product used to make such things as the ricotta cheese sold in Toscana.
While Luca admitted it would be cheaper to buy everything from suppliers, he says, “How could I promote my food in my restaurant if I didn’t know where it came from?”
Italian food revolves around some basic staples, with pasta, vegetables and cheese among key non-meat ingredients for many dishes.
One of the truly wonderful elements of being able to eat goat’s cheese is that it is easier on the human digestive system, being lower in calories and cholesterol than cheese made from cow’s milk.
When you add in the fact that the goat’s cheese products sold in Toscana come totally from the herd roaming the organic animal farm, you can basically be assured of a great taste.
One of the best ways to get a handle on the wide variety and textures of goat’s cheeses available in Toscana is to order a cheese platter, with maybe a glass or two of the house red wine.
As Luca states, “We make fresh pasta here in the restaurant almost every day, and all the pasta is made from duck eggs, which are so much better than using chicken eggs.”
At one stage, Luca was making every pasta style in-house from fresh duck, quail, and guinea fowl eggs, but when some customers, especially tourists unaware of the complete freshness offered by Toscana, began to question the shape and taste, he reverted to buying in some products to give a more common feel to the meals.
“I thought I was giving people a better deal, but so many wondered about the look and shape of my pasta that now I buy in all the penne and the spaghetti, but I still make the rest by hand from our own fresh ingredients,” stated Luca.
For example, with ravioli all the creating and the filling is done inside Toscana. “Right now I have 12 shapes for the ravioli, and each one has a different ingredient, from guinea fowl to lamb to spinach, and duck and the like.”
With another pasta dish, cannelloni, Luca says, “Sometimes people are not confident about what might be inside. Here at Toscana we don’t have leftovers, because we have such a large turnover of customers day by day, so the ingredients we put into our cannelloni are always the best.”
Gnocchi is a dumpling-like dish made with sour dough. “It’s one of our most popular dishes, even though it’s not strictly a pasta dish,” says Luca. Made with flour, eggs and potatoes, “It’s all mixed and rolled by hand.”
Luca states he has the capacity to produce 300 kilograms of salami every seven to eight days and there are 22 varieties available in Toscana.
The main ingredients of each cold cut vary from pork (which actually will be found in all of the cold cuts), to duck, geese, guinea fowl, goat and wild boar.
Luca says, “In a goat or guinea fowl salami the amount of pork might be as much as 30 or 40 percent.”
Depending on the time of year, the time for curing and the seasonings (chili, bay leaves, wine, fennel, coriander and the like), each salami will have a distinctive taste.
The source of the vast majority of the vegetables served in Moom Talay is the organic vegetable farm. From coriander to rocket, from cabbage to chilli, from lemon to long beans and everything in between, if it’s in season then it will almost certainly have come from the organic farm. So the vegetables are not just fresh, they are free from chemicals.
While chicken and pork, as well as duck and even wild boar are menu standards, Moom Talay also offers a somewhat unique series of speciality dishes made with guinea fowl as well as quail.
As for seafood, this is sourced from the fresh markets every morning and used that day; they won’t keep fish or seafood that’s not as fresh as possible.
The dessert menu is extensive with nine or 10 flavours of ice cream, all made from goat’s milk, alongside sorbets, profiteroles, tiramisu, mousses, puddings, sponges and the like.
All the desserts are made in-house from products sourced primarily from the natural animal farm. The restaurant has its own pasteurizing machine and there is no pre-mixed powder or preservatives used in their desserts.
After 27 years of “making ice creams and desserts I can tell you the most popular are tiramisu and profiteroles,” says Luca.