Italian-born businessman Giovanni Malacrino is preparing to bring a touch of his homeland to Wales by opening what he claims will be the UK's first year-round al fresco café.

Malacrino, who owns three restaurants and bars in Cardiff's Mill Lane, introduced outdoor eating to the city 12 years ago by putting two tables outside his 100-seat Continental Café Bar. "People thought I was being evicted," he joked.

Mill Lane has since been transformed from a busy road into a paved piazza and 160 people can eat and drink outside the Continental Café Bar between April and September.

Malacrino, who plans to introduce year-round outdoor dining in the spring, came up with the idea following a recent visit to Brussels, where cafés use gas-fired heaters to keep customers warm. "It was raining and I discovered there is nothing nicer than eating outside wearing a thick coat and sitting near a hot lamp," he said.

He has invested £10,000 in heaters and is preparing to spend £20,000 on two large electronic canopies that would cover all the tables in seconds. "Cardiff is a vibrant city and the Welsh are similar to the Italians in their attitudes and they will love it," he claimed.

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