AT THE age of 57 Marco Giove has seen all the varieties a life in Italian catering in Sheffield can offer – so he is going to take it a little easier from now on.
“I never saw my children growing up because I was always working. I want to spend more time with my five grandchildren,” he says.
Which is one of the reasons top city restaurant Marco @ Milano is no more.
After 21 years in the former Archer Road cop shop Brindisi-born Marco is handing over the keys to friend and fellow chef Cary Brown, who will reopen the venue as Neon Fish.
Marco, second generation of a Sheffield-Italian catering family founded by his late father Marco Senior, was one of those who took local Italian cooking up a notch or two from cheap and cheerful to fine dining.
After learning his trade in the family restaurant he had run Rossi’s from 1990 to 1995 before being approached by Nonnas duo Maurizio Mori and Gian Bohan to manage the venue, then called Milano, which they owned with Robert Brady. “I said no but I’d buy the business off them,” he recalls.
It was a bit of a struggle at first but he persevered and with head chef Franco Esposito’s cooking the place got noticed, nationally as well as locally: In The Guardian’s Italian Top 10 and the Independent’s Top 15 for alfresco dining – there is a beautiful terrace out the back overlooking Millhouses Park.
Then came the Pandemic. “I’d already been thinking about going back to casual dining, pizza and pastas, before it happened. I started doing takeaways during lockdown and found it was easier,” he says. And that’s when he decided not to return.
His Facebook and Instagram pages have been full of appreciative comments from customers and mournful messages and he says that is what he will remember from his time there – diners who have turned into friends. But they haven’t completely lost him.
He is continuing the takeaway business so the Marco @ Milano name will continue. He might be quitting the Milano kitchen but he’s just crossing the road to take up residence in Hazel’s Quality Catering kitchen. And the collection point will remain, the garage forecourt opposite the restaurant.
Ironically, it doesn’t look as if there will be a third generation Giove family in catering. Things are a lot different now than when he and his brother Vincenzo, with whom he worked, were growing up.
“We didn’t have a choice. They were different times. We worked in the restaurant as a family. I was put into the kitchen at nine and Vincenzo was put on the floor with my Mum. We have not imposed anything on ours (he and his wife Yasmin have three daughers who have gone their own ways).
Marco, who also got a couple of local awards for best restaurant of the year, has been equally at home front of house as well as in the kitchen but, I wondered, which gave him the bigger buzz? He doesn’t have to think about it: cooking.
Now cooking by himself for the takeaway trade he will still be getting a buzz. And from his grandchildren.