Restaurant profile

Restaurant Profile March 2019: Gustoè, Belfast

Guido Cavaliere, manager, talks to Alyson Magee

WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
It opened in early January, just for breakfast and lunch initially to see how trade would go at those times, and then we started to open in the night-time too in late January. We are still working out what days we will open and will decide with the chef because my restaurant is a family. It’s not just boss and staff, we don’t like to work like that.
We have a lot of experience in Ireland, as we have another family restaurant, Sapori Italiani, I opened in Newry in 2001 with help from my mum, dad and sister.
We started to think about opening in Belfast two years ago and would come to Belfast every week to check out where would be the best area for us. There are just a couple of restaurants around here, and no authentic Italian restaurants, so I think we made a good choice of location.

TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
Altogether, we can seat around 150. I decided on the colours and my dad and sister came up with the plan because they work in architecture and interior design; not just here but in Italy as well. Everything in the restaurant comes from Italy from the interior design to the kitchen staff.

WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
Our menu is based on dishes from Calabria, the region we come from, and would be what we would have in the house rather than in a fancy restaurant. It’s the same as what my mum or grandmother cook in the house for us and is all about the flavours and nice quantities. It’s more healthy and authentic than what you usually get in a restaurant. We make everything from scratch in the kitchen, from the cakes to side orders and dishes.

DOES YOUR MENU CHANGE OFTEN?
We plan to change the menu every six months and are still trying out different dishes with customers before we decide on our set menu. St George’s Market is just across the road so every morning, from Thursdays, my chef goes over to find things to try out and, after we have chosen our set menu, we will still work with specials every week.

WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
I come from Calabria, in the south of Italy, and we import a lot from there, particularly ham, salami and cheese from a big company Madeo. We have three different ranges of meat, the normal, the DOP and the top class, Black Pig Ham, which has a really unbelievable taste.
We also import a lot of produce such as tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, extra virgin olive oils and tuna from Campania, the region around Naples.
A lot of the products we use in the kitchen are impossible to find anywhere else in Northern Ireland, and we sell it on the shelves here too.
We have a couple of suppliers from Northern Ireland as well. We use Keenan Seafood because we don’t use frozen fish, and they deliver it fresh every couple of days and Carnbrooke Meats deliver fresh meat every day.
GreatVine supplies wines to the two restaurants.

HAVE YOU FACED ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES TO DATE?
We had some difficulties finding staff for the floor who want to talk to the customers and learn about Italian ingredients and the food. I work with my staff on the floor, and customer service is very important for me.

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT STAND OUT FROM COMPETITORS?
We are starting to promote the restaurant on Visit Belfast, and on our website, facebook and Instagram but we don’t want to rush it. We prefer to go slowly and find out what our customers want and explain what we have to them. Usually around Europe, Italian restaurants are pizza and pasta but we are not just that. My mentality is not English, Irish or American; it is proper Italian food. We don’t like to do anything fast, especially in the evening. We want our guests to enjoy the food and we want to be able to explain what it is and tell them about the wine because it’s all from the south of Italy, and not the usual wine you find everywhere. That is the story.

1 Lanyon Place, Belfast
Tel: 028 9033 3393
Website: gustobelfast.co.uk

OPENING HOURS
9am-10.30pm
Days of opening TBC

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