‘Now is the perfect time for business’
2011-08-01 22:29:06 -

In 2008, Metro Éireann spoke with Italian restaurant and business owner Marco Giannantonio about his move from Italy to Ireland, and setting up his Ranelagh-based restaurant Pinocchio. Today, after three years and an economic recession, Giannantonio is more determined than ever to continue delivering the ‘quality and experience’ his brand Flavour of Italy has come to represent for many Irish, Italians and everyone else in the mix, he tells Michaela Dwyer

There’s a certain phrase that’s guided Marco Giannantonio through the tough economic times of the past few years.
“There’s a difference between a pessimist and an optimist. The pessimist sees in every opportunity difficulties. An optimist finds opportunities in difficulties,” he explains over a meal at Pinocchio, his homegrown Italian restaurant in Ranelagh, south Dublin.
Directly beneath the Ranelagh Luas station, Pinocchio has an airy vibe and an exceedingly friendly wait staff. From the sounds of upbeat lunchtime conversation to the multiple ‘Best Restaurant’ plaques covering almost an entire wall, the restaurant shows no signs of slow business.
Yet times have changed – for him, his Italian food and culture franchise, and for everyone else – since the boom of the Celtic Tiger. “The economy is very tough at the moment,” he says. “Now is the reality.”

However, Giannantonio is not one to dwell on perceptions of hard times. In his view, because of the economic recession, people living in Ireland have been able to acclimate and reevaluate their standard way of living.
“A few years ago it was just fiction,” says the solicitor-turned-restaurateur. “The Celtic Tiger was just fiction; it was too much.”
Giannantonio’s Flavour of Italy franchise has led the way in an era of innovative businesses devising ways to weather the recession. Rather than succumb to a defeatist attitude, he and his staff have recommitted themselves to the customer hospitality and efficient business model that earned them top marks in the first place.

“The recession keeps everything in the right dimension,” says head chef Luca Mazza. “People are trying to go back to their traditions. Now in the recession, [the challenge is to] understand people and stay more close with the family, to understand how important family is. One way to stay together is to cook and enjoy the food.”

Cooking and enjoying the food has long been the mission of Giannantonio’s enterprise. But at this point, the possibilities for Italian epicureanism in Ireland have never been more diverse and more popular.

“To be honest, now is the perfect time to make business,” says Giannantonio. “It’s the right time to work hard, be strong, and be fair with the customer. We are keeping this philosophy in our restaurant, school of cooking, and our travel company.”
Flavour of Italy, which encompasses not just Pinocchio but also an Italian cooking school in Dublin and a travel business conducting group tours of both Ireland in Italy – not to mention catering and corporate team-building opportunities – is more expansive than ever in its cultural reach. In Giannantonio’s words: “The old concept of restaurant for me is gone. Now you need to do something more, something different – not just food. Now you need to do something unique and original.”

His answer has been one of multicultural engagement. Recently the restaurant has hosted “cultural events where of course food is involved” but with a greater focus on live music, poetry sessions, and other cultural activities that “try to involve people from other countries”.

For Giannantonio, the future of his entire brand rests on reaching out to different cultures, communities, and nationalities, and in doing so reaffirming his personal involvement in the Flavour of Italy franchise.

“I say thanks to Ireland because it gave me the opportunity to develop my dreams,” says Giannantonio. “I feel that I chose this project and work because it represents me. [Through my work] I can give my best for humanity.”

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