CHIANG RAI â€“ Joe Spollen, 55, from New York and Kai Kwong, 51, a Hong Kong- American opened the Polo Marco restaurant on August 15 with the aim of providing Chiang Rai with the perfect New York pizza.
I was there at the opening night and can confirm that they’re on their way to achieving their goal. Through years of pizza eating I’ve learned that the foundation of a successful pizza is the bread or the crust, and Polo Marco pizza crust is first rate. It has a grainy, coarseness, a taste and feel that really satisfied me.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that chief pizza maker Joe Spollen is a bread man. His last business in the United States was a bakery producing artisan or gourmet bread in Georgia. He was trained in Germany.
I asked for the ingredients of the pizza dough but he wouldn’t tell me. It’s better kept a secret, he said. He pointed out that all the legendary pizza makers in the United States are all former bread bakers, and keep their recipes secret.
The Polo Marco can seat 34 with one table outside. It is located on one of the main streets in Chaingrai, number 873Â 4 Phaholyothin Road, right next to ECC school about 75 meters south of the night bizarre entrance. See GPS address below.
Joe and Kai are old friends. Both are ex-long-term employees of Lufthansa, where they met. Perhaps that explains another quality of the restaurant service. Both joined Lufthansa when an airline was competitive based on the service it offered. Both were trained to offer the highest level of service.
That was apparent when I dropped by a couple of nights ago and asked for a vegetarian sandwich. There isn’t one on the menu, but Joe came out of the kitchen and offered to create one for me. It was delicious: grilled portabella mushrooms, green peppers, onions, French fries, cole slaw and tomatoes. I couldn’t finish it. I took half home to my wife.
Joe, smiling, said they might make it into a staple and call it the Tony Vegetarian.
Joe and Kai found the location for the restaurant, mostly by walking around the city and looking for appropriate places. They found a different location nearby but another company slipped in before them so they grabbed the current location, which they say is even better than the original place they looked at.
Their big challenge when setting up the restaurant was the pizza oven. They built it themselves in the back and found a huge challenge in fine-tuning the heat adjustments that they needed. They finally achieved a level that they can work with.
The restaurant offers free wifi and electrical outlets to cell phones and computers.
Why the name, Polo Marco? Well, Marco Polo was an explorer who travelled from West to East, bringing back with him food stuffs, including pasta, that was adopted by the West. Our aim is to bring the best-quality Western foods to the East, said Kai.
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