The right ingredients: how two Italians made their mark on the Dublin dining scene
2018-06-15 10:01:51 -
Food & Drink
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By Finn Hoogensen

Marco Giannantonio and Maurizio Mastrangelo moved to Dublin in 2005 with the goal of promoting authentic Italian food and wine. When they arrived, they spoke little English and were unfamiliar with the intricacies of Irish culture. But what they noticed in Ireland was a need for quality Italian cuisine.

According to Giannantonio, the existing restaurants were not quite authentic or not very popular. “We saw that in Dublin there was a lack of information of [Italian] culture. I saw that there were lots of opportunities.”

Giannantonio, who first spent time in Dublin after university, observed a young, intelligent population with an openness to foreign offerings. He and his business partner Mastrangelo believed they could fill the void of Italian food and wine with their own products and services.

With this goal, they founded the Flavour of Italy Group, which promotes Italian cuisine and culture via a cookery school, catering service, retail shop – even a travel service.

But the jewel in the Flavour of Italy crown is their restaurant brand, Pinocchio, which turns 10 years old this year.

Pinocchio serves Italian food with elements of Mediterranean cuisine, while maintaining the goal of providing an authentic experience. Its success is evident in its expansion to a second location in Dublin, with a third in the works within the next two years.

Giannantonio says some of Pinocchio’s more popular items are its ravioli, lasagne and fish dishes. Great pride is taken in cooking with the best ingredients: all fish and meat is sourced locally, while cheese and tomatoes are imported from Italy.

Determined to learn

Giannantonio and Mastrangelo have experienced much successes with their business, no doubt. But when first starting out, neither was an expert in the restaurant sector.

“Myself and [Mastrangelo] came from different backgrounds. My background was [as] a lawyer and [Mastrangelo] was an economist. But both of us were very passionate about food and Italian culture, cuisine and wine,” Giannantonio says. “We were both very determined to learn and understand better and better the [restaurant] industry.”

Giannantonio adds that both took huge risks leaving behind their jobs to start something new in Ireland. And things weren’t easy for them in the beginning. Indeed, Giannantonio says it was a few years before they started to earn a profit because they reinvested their earnings back into their businesses.

There was also a learning curve where they made mistakes in the beginning. “In this business … you need to have strong nerves and the right approach to problems because in the beginning, there are lots and lots of problems. If you are not ready, you die,” Giannantonio says. “The beginning is always tough, but if you are determined, you can do this job. Without the determination at the beginning, it is very difficult.

“Year after year, we got experience and we learned a lot by making mistakes. With over ten years of experience, we feel like we are now professionals in this sector.”

Giannantonio credits a lot of his and Mastrangelo’s success to their approach and the values they brought with them from Italy. Their goal, he says, has always been to treat customers with respect and make them feel like guests; to him, it is more important to run an ethical business, rather than solely focusing on profits.

As a result of this, he adds, much of their success is due to their team of employees who share many of the same values. “When you start from nothing, you need to have these kinds of values, otherwise you can’t go far,” Giannantonio says.
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