One of the most popular destinations for townies wanting to escape to the hills, Khao Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima has over the years become home to clusters of real estate built to resemble the Provencal mas and English mansion.
Italy too is present in Khao Yai with Primo Piazza, a Bt300-million development designed as a 500-year-old Tuscan village. Formerly known as Primo Posto, a restaurant and vineyard that opened back in 2007, it's been expanded and renovated and is now home to Thai and Western restaurants, an ice cream & crepe parlour, a wine bar and souvenir shop.
Painted in the warm earth tones common to central Italy, it's a great place to chill both during the day and in the evening. The vineyards have been turned into a farm and sheep, donkeys and alpacas spend their days munching on the grass. There's even a tower, a popular spot with tourists and offering a 360-degree view of Primo Piazza and its surrounds.
The Western Cuisine restaurant is located near the tower and diners can choose whether to dine inside or in the fresh air. The interior has a cool, almost church-like feel and walls decorated with murals while the al fresco area offers a soundtrack of foreign oldies.
Recommended dishes include Calamari (Bt300), stir fried squid with white cream sauce topped with lemon, Grilled Mixed Vegetable Salad (Bt300), featuring generous portions of grilled onion, tomato, bell pepper, mushroom and zucchini and topped with fresh rocket and balsamic, and Australian Tenderloin (Bt890), which is grilled to your liking and served with mixed vegetables and mashed potato topped with a red wine sauce .
Also worth trying are the Tuna Salad (Bt290), Pasta Alfredo (Bt290) and Mixed Mushroom Soup (Bt150).
A short walk through an alley takes you to the two-storey Thai Fusion restaurant. The white walls gleam and are decorated with framed black-and-white drawings.
Here, you can feast on Crispy Prawns with fried rice noodle and sweet sauce (Bt230), and Crisp-Fried Salmon with Savoury Curry Sauce served with kaffir lime, mixed vegetables and boiled mushrooms (Bt320).
"Both adults and children enjoy the crispy prawns," says Pattananun Reungvitayachote, general manager of Primo Piazza. "Other best-selling dishes are Phad Thai Spring Rolls, which are deep-fried spring rolls stuffed with phad thai ingredients and served with mixed vegetables for Bt125 and the Khao Phad Moo Khem Somtam, fried rice with salted pork and somtam (Bt135)."
The Wine Bar offers quality varietals from Australia, Italy, France and South Africa, Primo Cafe has a selection of coffees and such sweet delights as strawberry cheesecake, banana chocolate almond tart and tiramisu while the aptly named Fish & Chips serves fried red snapper with french fries.