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San Carlo

Marcello Distefano: the busiest restaurateur in Manchester?

Published on August 7th 2007.

San Carlo

“This restaurant has been phenomenal,” says Marcello Distefano, the dapper young co-proprietor of San Carlo with his dad Carlo.

“Manchester is the busiest of all our places. I think this is because Manchester likes to eat out more than any other regional city centre. We have well populated suburbs which like to come into the city centre. The other cities are a bit different, in Bristol, they go out in the Bath area and the countryside. Birmingham can be quieter too.”

But there’s busy and there’s busy. San Carlo is bursting at the seams every night, Monday included, even in July.

“In Manchester we must turn over 3,500 people every week in this restaurant. I really think the key is atmosphere: people say they love our atmosphere, the buzz of the full tables.”

Fair enough but you have to create that atmosphere. Prior to San Carlo there were a number of operators who failed on the site.

“Well of course, in any restaurant the food comes first,” says Marcello. “What we do is essentially simple Italian food. We’re not trying to be fussy, we’re not trying to do fine dining, just simple Italian food that people are familiar with. And when you come in you can eat virtually anything you want, pasta for a few pounds or pay a bit more and have lobster, or more again and have caviar. There’s a range for everybody, something for everyone to eat. I think that’s partly down to the success of it. And that is the point at where the atmosphere kicks in. You have all types of people from all types of background. It’s great for people watching. Very Italian.”

That’s certainly the case, and San Carlo seems particularly appealing to the football fraternity. On the week Confidential visited Marcello had spotted this little lot.

“I had on one table Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves from United, on the next table was Corradi with the new Italian player for City. The next table had Vidic and Evra and then there was Mpenza from City on another table. When Sven used to stay in Manchester with England he’d come here. Since he’s been back with City he’s always in.”

But what about service? That’s always been a sticking point in Manchester’s restaurants hasn’t it?

“That’s a problem for everybody but here you have to remember we want personality. That reflects the atmosphere. You won’t get silver service. Most of our staff are Mediterranean and they are a bit more fiery. They may come across sometimes as being a bit abrupt but they’re not, they care about their job. We only employ career waiters. We don’t employ people who are just doing it part-time, it’s about personality. Every now and again we find we do get it wrong, we get a waiter and think we’ll get rid of him because he’s a bit of a lunatic – but remember at peak times there might be up to 30 waiters and bar staff out there. But these sorts of staff problems are part and parcel of being a restaurant.”

So for the future?

“More of the same,” says Marcello, “I want this place to retain its role as the busiest place in Manchester. We have all the Italians from round here coming in which I see as proof we’re doing something right and I want to maintain that. But I’m 28 there’s always things to learn.”

San Carlo
40-42 King Street West
M3 2WY
T: 0161 834 6226

To find out more about San Carlo Click here

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