I’d wanted a restaurant since I was a little boy. Before I could even walk Mamma would sit me on top of the warm stove as she prepared the meal for Papa’s return from work. Singing songs from her youth she chopped chillies, stirred sauce and rolled pasta. Mario Lanza was her idol, and she would sing O Sole Mio over and over till I wailed ‘Mamma, Mamma, my ears hurt’ when she would lift me down, give me a sweet, ripe tomato and shush me away to go find Papa. That was the start of my great amore.
As I grew taller I cold see my restaurant more and more clearly – a traditional white villa, with terracotta tiles and red check tablecloths, a great pizza oven at the centre. And in my mind I would always be standing at the door, arms opened wide, welcoming customers, with Mamma in the kitchen. People would come for miles. “Ciao, Giorgio,” they’d call as they came up the steps, like I’m their best friend. Grandparents, mamma, papa, bambini – a real family restaurant.
Mamma was standing next to me when I opened my first Trattoria Giorgio. What a night that was! Sandra offered my guests a prosecco from my home town while I mingled. Then I served my speciality risotto followed by braised rabbit. Magnifico! It’s hard to believe that was thirty years ago. Just twenty-six years of age and my own restaurant. Last year I opened my tenth. Yes, tenth! Mamma would be so proud of me. One’s got a cookery school too. What a thrill it is, seeing my recipes re-produced by strangers.
And all my own recipes, that’s what makes my restaurants stand out. I’ve fine-tuned lots of old Italian dishes, updating for modern tastes without losing their authenticity. Okay, Sandra’s had her say from time to time, but mostly that’s been about the soft furnishings. My staff love working for me. The restaurant business is hard and I expect loyalty and commitment from them. It works two ways – they know they can come to me when they have a problem and I work hard at knowing about their lives, the names of their children, birthdays and special anniversaries. Only last week I gave Marco the afternoon off to visit his sick mother. Sandra has been at my side from the beginning, it is so important for a successful businessman to have a supportive wife to create a comfortable home life.
Yes, I’ve created a masterpiece. Mamma would be so proud if she were still here…