The Italian Awards have long celebrated the history of the Italian community in Scotland. We asked two long supporters of the Italian Awards – Nunzio & Mariano Russo – to tell their story of coming to Glasgow; asked how they built their dream business and the advice they would impart to the next generation.
In the 1960s a young Mariano Russo travelled from his home city of Naples to Glasgow to try and forge a career in the hospitality industry. Having worked in his uncle’s restaurant back home he fell in love with cooking and had a dream to make a name for himself in the growing Italian dining scene in Glasgow. Not long after his younger brother Nunzio decided to go and visit Mariano for a holiday. This turned out to be a very long holiday when Nunzio fell in love with the city and he too decided to make Glasgow his new home.
When they first arrived in Glasgow they started working in restaurants owned by the famous Romano family. Although they both enjoyed their jobs, their dream was to one day own their own restaurant in the city. They both had their own skills, Mariano was a great chef and Nunzio was a natural front of house.
The brothers decided the first step would be to go back home to Naples to study at catering college so that they would have the academic knowledge to back up their practical skills. When they returned to Glasgow they decided to open up their very first restaurant called Planet Uno on Stockwell Street. Unfortunately for the brothers, the area had a lot of competition and the business did not take off as expected and was forced to close.
Undeterred by their loss they continued to plan their future, and when Glasgow institution La Fiorentina, was offered to them Nunzio jumped at the chance. Nunzio had worked at the restaurant for many years and knew the business and their customers well, and after discussing it with Mariano the two brothers bought the restaurant. That was over nine years ago and since then the brothers have not only made La Fiorentina more successful than it has ever been, they have also purchased another three restaurants, Mediterraneo in the Merchant City, Volare in Newton Mearns and Sorrento in the West End.
The brothers have now managed to do what they always dreamed of and have their own restaurant empire but only after spending years learning their trade. They did not simply jump from A-Z they went through the whole alphabet, from cleaning toilets to scrubbing pans, they have done everything to get where they are today.
The Russo brothers have one piece of advice that they feel is most important to anyone looking to start up their own restaurant business – you have to have a passion for it if you don’t then forget about it. It is a hard job, with long hours but if you have the passion then you can succeed. It is easy enough to start a business the hard part is making the business work – but if you really want it will happen, you can achieve anything if you work hard, persevere and never forget the people who helped you get there.
This year we would like to honour the new generation of talent seen in the country by awarding the first ever Promising Talent Award. This award, jointly presented by our friends at the ICCIUK will be considered on nomination only and we invite you to nominate a young entrepreneur, restaurateur, or chef from the Italian community in Scotland who has shown great promise.