Cardiff restaurant legend Giovanni Malacrino is opening a ‘pasta house’ in the Bay this month – with his Hollywood actor son, Luca.
Piatto, which means plate in Italian, will be serving 10 different types of pasta – and you can even have yours served in a bowl made of cheese – when it opens on March 19.
The family has taken over the former Caffi Sïo, by the fountains opposite Wales Millennium Centre, a striking glass-fronted building and terrace on Lloyd George Avenue where you’ll now be able to order plates of pasta for four to share, non-pasta specials, and a dessert pizza.
When Giovanni, 59, bought the site, he planned to turn it into a third Giovanni’s Italian restaurant.
But LA-based Luca, currently starring as Andrea Abruzzi in Coronation Street, persuaded him to try something new.
Luca, 26, has been an actor in Hollywood for four years and joined the cast of Coronation Street as fiery hairdresser Andrea in February.
He’s starred in US shows including Grey’s Anatomy and appeared in a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and is currently promoting his first self-produced film, Elephants, now showing on Amazon.
He said: “I’d always had a dream with my sister to carry on with what my dad had started.
“My favourite food is pasta – if I could eat anything for the rest of my life it would be a big bowl of my dad’s pasta.
“So I wanted to create somewhere where people can get their favourite quick, delicious pasta, whether it’s carbonara tagliatelle or a ragu made with beef and barolo.”
Piatto, adjacent to Craft in the Bay, has been designed around a ‘social dining’ concept – where diners are encouraged to stop scrolling through Instagram and talk to each other instead.
Luca, who used to run Ladybird nightclub on Mill Lane, said: “Food is an art, it’s a way of bringing people together and I’m fed up of going into a restaurant and seeing everyone on their phones.
“Growing up, ‘eating’ meant lively conversation around a table, everyone chipping in with something to say. I think it’s so important that we don’t lose that.
“So we’ve designed a menu and table plan to help people to get off their phones.”
Each three-tier table in Piatto faces the WMC, and seating is at a diagonal angle to encourage conversation – there’s even a slot within each table for diners to deposit their phones.
To keep things communal, foodies can order a sharer platter with their favourite person, or people – dishes are available in ‘Piattino’ for one, ‘Piatto’ for two, or ‘Piattone’ for four, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options.
Giovanni’s restaurants, at Park Place and The Hayes, have fed everyone from Ed Sheeran to Luciano Pavarotti and are known for a glamorous, theatre-side, old-school Italian vibe, while the pair say Piatto will have a more casual, contemporary feel.
Giovanni said: “When I lived in New York, pasta was a big thing. In those days I used to dream about once opening up a pasta house. This, thanks to the enthusiasm of my children has now become a reality and we look forward to franchising this out within the next year.”
Executive chef Giovanni Flore has created hand-sized basket bowls made out of parmesan – or a vegan cheese – that are then filled with oodles of pasta and layered with fresh sauce.
The only pizzas on the menu are sweet versions for dessert, including a Nutella, and the team are launching a ‘cook at home’ fridge where customers can pick up an already made cooking kit to prepare for a loved-one at home.
Luca and his sister Ileana, a 23-year-old marketing campaign specialist who lives in Amsterdam, will be overseeing the latest installment to the Giovanni brand 50 years after their grandfather, Domenico opened a fish and chip shop in Grangetown called Malacrino’s.
And Luca will be balancing the creation of Piatto with his acting commitments.
Luca revealed the Piatto venture came about after he took some business advice on set from one of the world’s most famous directors, who also owns a winery.
In 2016, the former St David’s Catholic College pupil joined the cast of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic experimental ‘live cinema’ film project, Distant Vision.
“He gave me a brilliant tip – he said it was always a good idea to be in business and keep acting as a passion, no matter how successful you become.”
Luca and Ileana are now hoping Piatto will introduce a new crowd of diners to the Giovanni brand.
Luca said: “We plan to teach our customers the Italian language and will be catering to people with a 45-minute window – on their way to a show or drinks in the Bay.
“We hope people will come along, have fun, order big trays for the table – and get stuck in.
“Dad’s original restaurant is the oldest family-run Italian restaurant in Wales and he’s been feeding the capital city for 35 years. We’re so excited to be carrying on the legacy in our own way.”
Piatto opens March 19th.