New Italian !
- medium budget
- big cities
- in trouble
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Almost everybody likes Italian food. But unfortunately Italian cuisine is by and large badly represented in the catering industry, except for a few restaurants in large cities. Most of the time, what passes for an Italian restaurant is just a lousy pizzeria which in addition to pizza can only boast a tomato-mozzarella starter (cow’s milk mozzarella) and the same old pasta dishes that are often bought ready-made. Italian cuisine deserves a lot better. If you need convincing, all you have to do is spend a few days in Italy, in any part you like. Try as you might, it’s really hard to find fault with Italian food. I’ve even heard it said that certain restaurants in motorway service areas are to be recommended!
So it’s obvious that if you manage to capture the real taste of Italy in your restaurant you’ll have no trouble finding customers. Catering of this caliber require qualified personnel, in fact I believe it would be best suited to a trained chef. Which is why I’m not going to propose a concept with strict guidelines that would probably not even interest you. What I can give you is a few points and principles which I hope will help you succeed. The most striking thing is that there isn’t just one sort of Italian cuisine but many sorts because more so in Italy than anywhere else, the notion of local specialties reigns. For example, certain kinds of pasta can only be found in certain villages! The way of making “ragu”, more commonly known as Bolognese sauce, changes radically every ten kilometers!
Venetian cuisine has nothing in common with Sicilian cuisine even though both use a lot of seafood. The cuisine in Piedmont has nothing to do with that found in Rome and even less with Apulia cuisine. And I mean from the first course through to the dessert. Depending on the region different basic ingredients are used. So I think you should use this regional diversity when building your project. If the sign above your door proclaims Tuscan or Sardinian cuisine nobody will mistake you for the local pizzeria. This is the first suggestion I’m making and if you choose this path you’ll have to stick strictly to the guidelines.
Before you do anything I’d advise a trip to Italy to choose which regional cuisine interests you. Once there, find out as much as possible, with as much detail as possible about local produce and cuisine, not forgetting desserts and wine. You may even find some local suppliers willing to send their produce to you.
Just imagine your customers’ delight when you tell them your gorgonzola comes directly from the farm with the prettiest cows or that your olive oil is normally never exported! Or even that you have become firm friends with the producer of that prosciutto (cured ham), salami, coppa or mortadelle they have just enjoyed. That sort of background history delights the customers every time.
I would advise setting up your business in a town centre with a catchment area of 40,000 inhabitants. You don’t need to be in a particularly trendy or up market area, but obviously now here run-down either. The criteria for setting up are identical to those for setting up a traditional, up market restaurant. The decoration should be subdued and tasteful, avoid displaying the dusty bottle of Chianti in the corner!
Devote some time to your opening advertising, massive distribution of leaflets in letter-boxes is a good solution. Your menu will of course remain true to the recipes of the chosen region and use fresh, good quality ingredients. As the Italians like to cook with seasonal produce, so should you and by all means add extra dishes to your menu from time to time.
Regarding your pricing policy, be reasonable. Remember the basis of Italian cooking lies in that rural know-how of now to enhance basic inexpensive ingredients. Some of the best authentic Italian products are very expensive, even luxurious. Use them and charge for them accordingly but don’t over-charge. On the other hand don’t use second-rate ingredients, especially those found in Italian specialized wholesalers, because even a school canteen wouldn’t serve their produce.
When compiling your wine-list avoid the usual nasty stuff served in pizzerias and try to source some decent wines. You’ll notice that Italian wine is without a doubt the most expensive in the world. So be careful, don’t stock too many expensive bottles that will be hard to sell. Don’t forget that a well-made Bellini or Americano are popular aperitifs and finally remember to have at least one good quality grappa, all inferior alcohol is banished.
Now I’m going to draw your attention to another original idea for an Italian restaurant. This time, rather than putting regional cuisine at the heart of the concept, it’s the food itself we’re going to focus on. Italian food is so varied and plentiful. Of course, being a country bordered by two seas which include many islands, two of which are huge, means that there are numerous delicious ways of preparing fish and all seafood. Italy produces excellent anchovies and that well-known Mediterranean specialty bottarga.
What I’m proposing is a classy Italian seafood restaurant in a big town. Everything I mentioned above for a classic Italian restaurant applies here too except you won’t need to spend time in Italy before hand and you must choose a town with no less than 200,000 inhabitants. Indeed the best thing would be to open your restaurant in the town centre.
The interior decoration will be smarter and more researched. A good idea would be to use baroque or Venetian styles. You could also use the latest in contemporary Italian art but be careful or your decoration budget will rocket.
Italian cookbooks are plentiful and you’ll have no trouble putting together a mouth-watering menu. Amongst other gems you’ll find recipes for pasta with various sorts of seafood.
In my opinion you’ll find inspiration in recipes typical of Venice, Livorno (Leghorn), Sicily, Sardinia and Campagna di Roma. As for desserts, trust the great Italian classics. Fortunately for your wine-list, Italy produces excellent white wines.
I adore good authentic Italian cuisine, its strength lies in its simplicity. Simple ingredients are always centre-stage. I’m smiling as I realize that by tossing around a few simple ideas I’ve managed to draw up a plan for two good concepts. As I said, simplicity is a strength.