There is nobody in the restaurant game that does not know his name, and it is easy to see why. Hospitality is in his blood and his affable manner can likely diffuse any challenge or, for that matter, make the food taste even better. After all, we do not only taste food, but we also experience it across all our senses.
“Food is theatre,” says Georghio, “whether it is the service that the waiter provides, how we interact with our customers, the presentation and flavour of the food.”
Stepping inside the restaurant is like walking into a wine cellar, Georghio’s massive collection adorning every available space. “I shop for wine a lot; I love discovering new wines and sharing my passion for the vine with our customers,” he says.
Georghio’s lower level with its private dining area, literally makes you feel as if Joburg is but a distant memory. It is intimate, dim, just like a Tuscan wine cellar is likely to feel.
“When we originally designed the menu, our chef at the time, Franco, said to me that every dish we serve will be different,” says Georghio. It is all in the plating and pairing different flavours and textures.
“While a rump steak is a rump steak, the manner in which it is prepared, what we serve it with and how we present it is unlike anywhere else,” he says. An absolute must-try is the rump carpaccio starter.
Slithers of meat rolled around basil pesto, parmesan, and spices, sliced into razor thin Swiss roll looking wheels. It is unlikely to ever taste this amazing combination of flavour anywhere else.
For mains, try the veal saltimbocca. It is simply out of this word. Real veal, Parma ham and sage with a creamy white wine sauce. Georghio serves this on a bed of linguine pasta and veggies. Otherwise, try the oxtail or one of Georghio’s signature dishes, the lamb kleftiko. “It’s the same recipe we have used for the past 20 years, and it is simply irresistible,” says Georghio.
There is a large variety of pastas with a good-looking set of vegetarian options. However, why bother about the food when dessert is delicious and you can have panna cotta for starters, tiramisu for mains and settle the third course with his reloaded ice cream, served with Nutella sauce and caramel popcorn.
Covid-19 has not been kind to restaurants and, says Georghio, while it seems to be slowly recovering now, it has been a year of losses. When trading was possible, he estimates that “we have lost around 30% of revenue. It has been tough and even more so on our staff. The much-publicised UIF Ters payments were either non-existent for some or others were settled piecemeal. It’s a mess and recovery will not be easy, but we carry on regardless.”
The stop-start alcohol ban also hurt his business. “Our trade is dependent on, for example, selling a glass of wine with your pap and vleis,” says Georghio. “You can have your pap and vleis without a glass of wine at home.” At a restaurant, where experience is part of the deal, it must be a full-circle experience.
When Georghio talks about his staff, his customers and Verdicchio, he becomes animated and passionate. “When you walk out of the restaurant, what makes me happiest,” he says, “is when you can say that you have had a good time.”