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Belfast set for a real taste of Italy

April 26th, 2017 | by LCN Editor
Belfast set for a real taste of Italy
Venue Spotlight

Sapori Italiani is a family-run and uniquely Italian restaurant in the centre of Newry. Now, however, there are plans to expand the offering into the heart of Belfast…

The Cavaliere family has been cultivating the unique taste of southern Italy in their Newry restaurant – Sapori Italiani – since 2001.

Now, however, plans are in place to extend this authentic Italian dining experience into the heart of Belfast. Speaking to LCN this month, restaurant general manager, Guido Cavaliere revealed that the family is currently hunting for suitable premises in the city centre.

“We don’t really have a time-line on this at present, we’re still in the planning stages, but we hope to be able to offer our own brand of high-end Italian dining to customers in Belfast in the very near future,” Guido revealed. “Diners can look forward to something very different to what they’re used to in the city.”

The 75-seater Newry restaurant was opened in 2001 by Guido’s father, Giuseppe Cavaliere:

“My dad is an architect by trade and he has been involved in the refurbishment of pubs around Europe for many years,” says Guido. “In the early 2000s, he was travelling around Ireland buying up architecture that he could use for his projects in other countries and he just fell in love with NI and decided to open a restaurant business here.”

Sapori Italiani opened on The Mall in Newry a short time later offering a distinctive fine dining menu with a strong southern Italian influence in lovely rustic surroundings. Giuseppe managed his new venture remotely for a number of years – making monthly personal calls to Newry to check on his investment. Then, in 2010, Guido took over management of the venue. Three years later, Giuseppe moved to Northern Ireland permanently with his wife, Brunella and two of their children, Guido and Andrea.

“It was very exciting to come here, it was like an adventure”, recalls Guido, “but managing a restaurant wasn’t a new experience for me. I ran a successful Irish bar and pizzeria back in Italy for five years and it did very well for me. I sold that business on when I decided to come to Northern Ireland.”

Giuseppe himself had four restaurants in Italy, all of which he sold on when he relocated in 2013, but he still has his architectural business.

Guido says that while business has always been strong at the Newry venue, there was a noticeable uplift in quality and trade after his family moved permanently to the province in 2013:

“Feedback from customers has been very encouraging and we are very busy most of the time. It’s difficult to get a seat in here at the weekends,” says Guido.

Guido Cavaliere is pictured (sitting) with father, Giuseppe and restaurant manager, Natalie Gorniak.

Restaurant manager, Natalia Gorniak is from Poland. She came to Northern Ireland 11 years ago and she says that the changes improvements by Guido and Giuseppe since 2013 have gone down well with staff and customers:

“I think everyone is very happy,” she says. “It can be boring when things stay the same all the time.”

And Guido adds:

“We have an offering here that is very much our own creation. I think that people in Northern Ireland have become very used to Italian restaurants that offer them spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, pizza and all the conventional things that you would expect to see. But our offering is very much drawn from the southern Italian tradition, it’s not a typical Italian menu, it’s more refined and more avant garde than you might expect.

“I would sum the place up as being very homely in the Italian sense. People say that when they walk in here it’s like you’re back in Italy.

“I don’t think that other Italian restaurants offer the specialities that we have. People have noticed how different the menu is and when they taste the food, they know it’s on a different level.”

With six staff at present, Sapori Italiani is open Tuesday to Saturday and open on Sunday for Italian lunch and again in the evening.

Guido says that the family is very excited about its plans for a new restaurant in the centre of Belfast.

In order to raise awareness of Sapori Italiani and its expansion plans, the restaurant held a dinner in Newry towards the end of April hosted by Michelin-starred Sicilian chef, Paolo Barrale. At Giuseppe’s invitation, Paolo will be taking a lead role in the new Belfast venture, supervising behind-the-scenes planning and the recruitment of new staff for the venue.


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