The Hot Scots Power 40: Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta, Di Maggio's Group
Under the helm of cousins Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta, Di Maggio's has steadily expanded and diversified over three decades with four successful brands. And with locations over the country and plans to move into England and Northern Ireland, Scotland's largest independently owned restaurant group's ambition shows no sign of abating.
Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta - Career guide The first Di Maggio's restaurant was established when Mario Gizzi, a former chartered accountant, went into partnership with his uncle Giuseppe 'Joe' Conetta. The restaurant opened in 1984 in Glasgow's West End, themed around American baseball legend Joe Di Maggio, offering an American Italian menu of pizza, pasta, burgers and ribs.
A second Di Maggio's opened a year later in Glasgow's Shawlands and in the following years the brand steadily expanded across the city. Soon the expansion went Scotland-wide with new outlets in Hamilton, Airdrie and East Kilbride. It was during the 1990s, having already worked within the business as kitchen porter and waiter, that Joe's son, Tony, joined his cousin in the family business.
Over three decades the company's portfolio has steadily expanded and diversified. Café Andaluz, a Spanish tapas restaurant, has three locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh. In 2011 a Mexican burrito restaurant, Pinto, opened in Glasgow. And their classic Italian eatery Amarone, which was launched in Glasgow, now has a trading site in Edinburgh, following a £750,000 refurbishment in 2011 to premises on the corner of George Street and St Andrew Square in the capital city. A second Edinburgh Amarone is planned in the near future.
Back in Glasgow, in 2011, an investment of £500,000 transformed the oldest Italian restaurant in the city, L'Ariosto, into the Barolo Grill.
The Di Maggio portfolio currently has 19 restaurants. Plans for expansion further afield are already on the table - Gizzi recently announced the company's first venture into England, with a planned opening in Manchester. A move into Aberdeen with Amarone and Café Andaluz restaurants is also planned for this year, while Belfast Castle Court shopping centre will acquire a "food court" restaurant in June.
Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta - What we think
When you can expand during tough economic times, you are obviously doing something right. Over nearly three decades, Mario Gizzi and his uncle Joe Conetta - and more recently his cousin Tony (Joe's son) - have created a varied, successful and continuously expanding portfolio of restaurant businesses; kicking-off in Glasgow, then moving into prime positions in Edinburgh and other major Scottish towns and cities.The economic climate of the past five years has raised start-up costs, rents, refurbishment outlays and rates but these factors have not deterred this business duo, for whom business ventures Gizzi has said, are like an "addiction".
Gizzi maintains a close ear to the ground, and is an active presence in his restaurants. He concedes that times are tough, but says Di Maggio's focus on providing real value for money will hold the key to success: "people still want a great night out, albeit without breaking the bank".
The Di Maggio's group approach has clearly reaped rewards. The company more than trebled its previous pre-tax profits to £1.4m in the year to April 2012: it employs more than 480 people; and brings in an annual turnover of over £20m.
Currently, £1.5m is being invested in opening Café Andaluz and Amarone restaurants in Aberdeen. In addition, Di Maggio's will open a food court concept in Belfast in June, and the group is developing its Mexican street-food concept, Pinto, and an American-style chophouse in Glasgow.