Interview - Marcello Distefano, San Carlo

Marcello Distefano

Marcello Distefano - Credit: Archant

Are San Carlo heading for world domination? Ever since Carlo Distefano opened his famed restaurant on King Street West it has been a magnet for the rich and famous and with further restaurants opening in the city’s most glamorous hot-spots, the brand is going from strength to strength.

Manchester, Nightime, San Carlo.

Manchester, Nightime, San Carlo. - Credit: Archant

This month they open San Carlo Cicchetti in Covent Garden, Joanna Simpson introduces the family behind the name.

Carlo Distefano and his son Marcello are familiar faces to many in the region. The father and son team own and operate the multi-award winning San Carlo Group of Italian restaurants. Alongside newly launched San Carlo Fiorentina in Hale (formerly Players), the highest profile of the fourteen strong Group; San Carlo on King Street West in Manchester is famed for its constant stream of celebrity diners, buzzing atmosphere and original Italian food.

San Carlo steak.

San Carlo steak. - Credit: Archant

Established in 1992, the family business now employs more than nine hundred staff at its San Carlo, Cicchetti, bottega, Signor Sassi, Fumo and San Carlo Fiorentina restaurants.

With an often quoted restaurant failure rate of 90%, what does it take to steer a family business to such great success?

As the family toast the launch of their first Cheshire restaurant, San Carlo Fiorentina, Group Managing Director Marcello Distefano answered our exclusive questions:

Marcello Distefano: ‘Passion, it takes passion! I think we were born with it. It’s what drives my father, myself and now my brother Alessandro and sisters Sacha and Marissa to keep pushing the business forwards, we all share pride and passion for the business my father built. We work hard to maintain the values of a family business, no matter how big it might grow.’

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Is it tough being part of a family business?

MD: ‘It’s not without its challenges and being half Italian we don’t hold back our thoughts, but the advantages far outweigh any negatives. Working with my father and siblings takes away any corporate politics, we trust each other implicitly; this gets you through the tough times.’

Your father Carlo is Italian – as a family do you have strong links with his birthplace?

MD: ‘Very much so, as a family and for the business. My father has lived here for 52 years now but we travel to Italy many times a year, both to see family and for the business. Many of our staff are Italian and we source much of our produce from markets in Milan.’

You’ve recently launched your first Cheshire restaurant, San Carlo Fiorentina, why has it taken so long to open in the region?

MD: ‘We like to take our time and get the location and timing right. It took us four years to open in Liverpool. Cheshire is my home - I grew up, went to school (Kings, Macclesfield) and live here now, we’ve always wanted to open here and many of our regular diners in Manchester travel from Wilmslow, Hale and Alderley Edge to eat at San Carlo. When the opportunity to acquire Players came along, we just knew it was right for us. The feedback already has been incredible.’

What’s next for the Group?

MD: ‘We’ve come a long way in the last few years, Italian star chef Aldo Zilli is now on board as chef consiliere, he’s known my father for twenty five years and share’s his love for great Italian food. Aldo is helping us drive the business forward, adding his award winning flair to our recipes and kitchens. This year sees us continue our expansion – in May we launch Cicchetti Covent Garden, our third London restaurant. Cicchetti is really flying, we’re proud to take a concept we devised and launched in Manchester to London and further afield. This autumn we’ll open our fifth Manchester restaurant, on Oxford Street, overseas we’re set to open Signor Sassi restaurants in Bangkok and Dubai. We’ve got a busy year ahead! ‘

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