With well known family tradition and success of 90 years, Francesco Panella, the owner of Antica Pesa visits Doha frequently to check on his restaurant Antica Pesa located in the Pearl Qatar, Marsa Malaz Kempinski. Originally established in 1922 in Rome and opened in Brooklyn, NYC in 2012 and last year in Doha.
The ambitious Roman continues to expand his restaurant business in the USA and Middle East. Francesco studied Marketing and Communication while working in his family restaurant Antica Pesa in Rome. After school he used to work at the restaurant; at first assisting his father as a manager then becoming manager himself, following his father retirement. Currently he’s in charge of general management as well as marketing and communication. He opened Antica Pesa Brooklyn in New York in 2012, and opened Antica Pesa Doha, Qatar in Summer 2015. In May 2015 he also started to manage the food and beverage department of New York’s hotel and works as a consultant in creating food concept and formats.
Francesco is also an Art lover, hence many artwork pieces are welcomed in his restaurant and he has been engaged actively to installation of contemporary monuments in Rome and event organization. Since 2011 he is hosting “Il Mio Piatto Preferito” (My Favourite Dish), a tv show at Gambero Rosso Channel HD, on digital platform Sky. During the talk show he invites various celebrities and chefs to prepare their’s favorite dish while discussing culinary topics. The show has successfully run for three season now in which Francesco is credited as host and writer.
In 2013 he started a new tv show “Brooklyn Man” shot in NYC where he is featuring the most unusual spot of the city for dining. The second season aired in 2014 and a third season is planned for shooting in summer 2015. The success of “Brooklyn Man” lead the TV show to be published as book in 2014, by the Italian Newton Compton Editori.
1. What are the three things that make your restaurant’s successful? Passion, authenticity and sacrifice. I think if you do really what you love, and work more than 13 hours daily, you will know this is my everything. My customers are my friends and family and part of my life.
2. What’s been your career highlight since opening Antica Pesa in Brooklyn? – The fact that we have opened the restaurant in Brooklyn, suggested by the former mayor of New York instead of the rather common touristic area of Manhattan. Brooklyn is considered now the spot where you can experience the authenticity of NYC. I am happy about this decision and it is such a pleasure bringing all my friends and customers to come to dine around this area.
3. What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you had to overcome in opening Antica Pesa Doha? – There is no significant challenge faced here in Doha since I know the place very well, as well as Mr. Alfardan who I work together with. I love Doha and I was delighted to be part of the country and its development. A important fact that makes our success at the Doha restaurant is that 9% of our staff is Italian and they are all trained from Rome. In this way we are able to maintain a constant service in throughout all the restaurants.
4. Who else do you think does Italian food well? – Because Italian food is more than just delicious dishes, it is the culture and flavors coming together and we deliver different delicacies to our customers. Nowadays people have an open mind towards a lot of things, and they travel more, so they are willing to try out new things, so that makes its easier for us to create the dishes.
5. How did your restaurant become the meeting point of many celebrities? – Well, it all started in Rome, they love our restaurant in Rome, so whoever comes to Rome, our restaurant is a must seen venue and automatically they also come to Brooklyn if they are in New York. They have become my closest friends and part of my family and I try to be as close as possible to all my customers to satisfy all their culinary wishes. It is essential to know your customers and try to always be present and experience the dining together.
6. What projects do you have coming up? – There are two upcoming projects, one in the USA and one in the Middle East. But I will keep it as a secret for now. As for now I can just share that I am optimistic enough to keep the expansion plan and hopefully reaching a broader range of clientele.