In City Life summer, we got to know the man behind the successful Giovanni’s restaurant brand which currently boasts two city centre restaurants on The Hayes and Park Place, as well as a cookery school and training room. His first restaurant opened in 1983 and proudly claims to be the longest established independent Italian in the city. Over the years Giovanni has built successful businesses and has become renowned as one of the most charismatic entrepreneurs in the city.
You are known for being a proud family man, please tell us more… I’ve got two families, one in the traditional sense, and the other being my staff who I class as family. I must give credit to my parents – who came to Cardiff when I was very young, with only two suitcases, the equivalent of £10 and two young children in tow. They came under a fixed contract, worked and believed they could create a better life and I acknowledge them for being brave. My dad was the first of the Malacrino family to go into catering as he took over a run-down fish and chip shop in Grangetown not long after we moved to Wales.
My mum and Nan spotlessly cleaned it and, in addition to the traditional chicken curry half and half, added their authentic Spaghetti Bolognese to the menu. The hard graft was worth it as within months it was one of the busiest fish and chip shops in Cardiff. They took the opportunity, worked hard and brought us up to be proud Welsh Italians. I am forever grateful.
How important is it to you for Giovanni’s to remain an independent, family run business?
On one hand I want to remain family run for all that it encapsulates which, for Giovanni’s, stands for looking after customers, entertaining customers and valuing customers. However, this is challenging as on the other hand I want to grow the business into a multi-national so that the Malacrino legacy lives on. My ambition is to grow the Giovanni’s Restaurant Group with members of my loyal team, so they rise through the ranks understanding Giovanni’s heritage. I think if they’re part of the journey, then we can grow whilst still retaining our independent ethos and integrity.
Do you think your children will follow in your footsteps, please tell us more about them?
The business will be there should they want to enhance, promote or grow it, but they must live their dream not mine. The restaurants are there to support my children and their future but they have their own aspirations! My son, Gianluca, came into the family business and went on to create two well-known successful brands in Cardiff; Kapu and Ladybird Nightclub.
He then chose to take what I’ve always done as a bit of fun, which is TV and film, to the next level and moved to LA to achieve his dreams of becoming a respected actor. He is about to graduate from a leading film school and has just finished filming his second short movie. Gianluca is extremely driven and focused and I’ll be behind him every step of the way.
My daughter, Ileana, also seems to have the creative gene and wants to go into PR and media. Ileana has her mother’s organisation skills and her father’s flair and personality, so I’m confident she is going to achieve great things in the world of public relations and, hopefully, one day run her own company.
Who will you be supporting during the Rugby World Cup?
Wales always, my favourite saying is “My heart is Italian, but my wallet is Welsh”, I support the country that has supported me and my family.
You have achieved so much, what are your future goals and ambitions?
I really feel that after thirty years in business I’m just starting out again. I’m more confident, I’ve been through every scene and now I know the way forward, I’ve been through it and come out the other end. My dreams are simple – grow the Giovanni’s brand and launch my own sauce label – continue to build on my life coaching skills, become an ‘Italian Welsh dragon, invest time and money in others and, most importantly, continue the good work of my charity foundation, GIO’S.
My purpose in life is to learn and help teach others how to live, love, laugh and grow whilst creating an abundance of wealth that I am able to share with others, especially those less fortunate.
Christmas bookings now being taken
Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, TripAdvisor, Google+ and Pinterest.