Carluccio’s says death of founder will be felt throughout its business

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20:  Antonio Carluccio attends the 2012 Orion Authors' Party at the Natural History Museum at the Natural History Museum on February 20, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Orion Books)

Casual dining chain Carluccio’s has paid tribute to its founder Antonio Carluccio, who passed away yesterday.

Mr Carluccio has been described as the “godfather of Italian gastronomy” in the UK and was known for his books and TV programmes, including Two Greedy Italians, as well as his highly successful restaurant chain.

Neil Wickers, CEO of Carluccio’s, said the company received the “incredibly sad” news of his passing yesterday morning.

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“Antonio built this business from one restaurant to the fantastic brand it is today,” Mr Wickers said in a statement given to FEJ. “It isn’t just Antonio’s name above our doors, but his heart and soul lives and breathes throughout our business. He has been a huge inspiration to many of us and his energy, zest for life and sense of humour will be greatly missed.”

Mr Wickers said that the death of the 80-year-old would be difficult for the business to take.

“The loss of Antonio will be felt by all our team, especially to those who have been with him from the beginning and our thoughts are with them, his family and friends,” he commented.

Carluccio’s generated EBITDA of £15m last year on sales of £138m as it opened 14 new stores in the UK, Ireland and the US and continued its expansion in the Dubai and Turkey under franchise. It now trades from around 120 restaurants worldwide.

Mr Carluccio opened his first restaurant in the UK back in 1981, in Neal Street, Covent Garden.

Even to the very end he was involved in the business. Earlier this year was pictured celebrating the opening of a new Carluccio’s site in York, while Mr Wickers described to FEJ last year how he influenced the development of the chain’s first ‘via’ grab-and-go site.

“What we’ve worked to do with Via is leverage the strength of the Carluccio’s brand but differentiate it in its own right, which we’ve obviously done by making it neither a full deli or restaurant offer and calling it by its own name,” he said at the time. “But it completely follows the ethos created by our founder Antonio Carluccio. One of his phrases is ‘MOFMOF’. It means minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour. That’s what you will find with Via — high quality ingredients that follows his philosophy of food.”

TV chef Jamie Oliver was among those to pay tributes to Mr Carluccio yesterday.

Posting on Instagram, the founder of Jamie’s Italian and Barbecoa, said that Mr Carluccio was his first London boss at the Neal Street restaurant 25 years ago.

“He was such a charismatic charming don of all things Italian! Always hanging out the front door of the restaurant with a big fat cigar, a glass of something splendid and his amazing fuzzy white hair,” he wrote.

Mr Oliver posted an image of Mr Carluccio’s acclaimed cook book, ‘Antonio Carluccio’s Passion for Pasta’, which he said first got him hooked on pasta and drove him to work for him. “He was an amazing food ambassador that will be sorely missed,” he added.

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