Pioneering restaurateur and author Russell Norman has died

25 November 2023 by
Pioneering restaurateur and author Russell Norman has died

Restaurateur, author and broadcaster Russell Norman has died at the age of 57.

The news was announced by his friend Richard Beatty, the co-founder of Polpo and Spuntino, in a statement shared with the press.

Beatty said: "It is with the greatest sadness I announce the loss of my best friend Russell Norman. After a short battle in hospital, he died surrounded by family and friends. Russell is survived by his wife and three children, and I ask that you respect the privacy of his family, friends, and colleagues at this time."

Norman worked at a waiter at London theatreland restaurant Joe Allen in 1989 before progressing to bartender, maitre d' and manager over a 10-year period.

He was later operations director at Caprice Holdings, looking after the Ivy, Scott's and J Sheekey, before leaving to launch his own restaurant business. Together with Beatty, Norman founded the pioneering Venetian restaurant group Polpo in 2009. Its small plates, sharing platters and no-reservations policy served as a blueprint for many other restaurants in the 2010s and the pair won the Newcomer Award Catey in 2012.

Norman was also the founder of numerous restaurants, including Spuntino, Da Polpo, Mishkin's and Polpetto, and he oversaw the relaunch of Joe Allen in 2021. He launched London restaurant Trattoria Brutto in 2021 and it won a Michelin Bib Gourmand the following year.

Away from the shop floor, Norman appeared in the 2014 TV series the Restaurant Man, a six-part prime-time documentary for BBC Two, and he has released numerous books. These include Polpo – A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts), which won Waterstones Book of the Year 2012, Spuntino – Comfort Food (New York Style), which clinched the 2016 Guild of Food Writers' Award for best food and travel book, and Venice – Four Seasons of Home Cooking, where he immersed himself in the food culture of Venetian residents.

Norman said of the experience: "I exiled myself in the world's most beautiful city for over a year in order to learn to cook like a 90-year-old Venetian granny."

His latest book, Brutto: A (Simple) Florentine Cookbook, was published earlier this year and featured recipes from Norman's restaurant of the same name.

Trattoria Brutto will remain open under the custodianship of Norman's son Ollie and wife Jules.

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