Masters of the warm welcome: the smiles of the maîtres of the Ristorante I Carracci
Giordano De Lellis has worked in hospitality for 12 years, while Aurora Gjinaj arrived a few months ago. Two voices that tell us what it means to welcome guests into a special ambience and turn every lunch or dinner int a memorable experience.
Do you remember your first day at the Grand Hotel Majestic "già Baglioni"?
Giordano De Lellis _ Twelve years have gone by. That day saw the beginning of a long relationship with the company that has been full of satisfactions. The Duetorrihotels group has just taken over the hotel and begun rebuilding its restaurant’s image. It was a wonderful place, a treasure trove with huge potential that was at last able to reflect the image of Bologna. It was the start of a collective journey to which I have devoted my heart and soul, with real passion for the job.
Aurora Gjinaj _ Of course, it was February 2022. I was very curious to find out the internal workings of a building that is an institution in Bologna. I was excited to find all these frescoes around me. The dining room transmits a sense of history and style, and the atmosphere and the organisation struck me a lot. The interaction with clients is also very satisfactory and offers immediate feedback about one’s work.
The management of a restaurant’s dining room and its staff has very precise rules, especially in a prestigious hotel. Which, in your view, are the most important?
Giordano De Lellis _ Good standing, a nice smile and a warm welcome are very important details, together with the ability to anticipate the needs of what tends to be an international clientele, with diverse customs, habits, tastes and sensibilities. Of the colleagues who were here when I arrived, only a few are still around. One of the characteristics of the restaurant business is high staff turnover, both for career reasons and out of a desire to assimilate as many experiences as possible. Given my own professional background – I’ve already had the chance to work in places that are reference points in world hospitality – maybe I’m the last to stay on here! I stand for historical memory, an important value for the hotel.
Aurora Gjinaj _ What’s necessary, first of all, is a precise hierarchy in the dining room. The maître is at the top, followed by the second maître and the sommelier. In this way, it’s possible to work together, like a well-oiled mechanism. You should never lose sight of your purpose, which is client care. Attention and concentration levels should always be at a maximum in order to offer an engaging, pleasant and memorable experience.
When you’re travelling or when you eat out, what are the first things you note about the service?
Giordano De Lellis _ I usually opt for very traditional places, run by emerging or well-established chefs, precisely to find out more about food in the local area. I also pay attention to the service and the expectations a place creates, and also to any discrepancies between the dishes I order and the ones that arrive on the table. I read the wine list carefully and I’m always curious to discover local ingredients and products, which often reserve extremely pleasant surprises.
Aurora Gjinaj _ I have to confess that I’m something of a stickler for perfection. I’m always on the lookout for weak points in the service, I keep a close eye on everything, from the entrance to the welcome, from the wine list to the hierarchy in the dining room, not to mention the atmosphere transmitted to the client. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to relax and enjoy the experience because I can’t detach myself completely from my role. Above all, I like to look for cues and ideas to improve myself: minor suggestions, tricks of the trade, different perspectives.
What are the first three things you check to see if a table is perfectly set?
Giordano De Lellis _ The first impression of the establishment is like a visiting card, the snapshot that captures a restaurant’s identity. This applies to all sorts of places, from the trattoria to the Michelin 3-star restaurant. At the entrance I like to see the presence of a reference point, like the host or a manager ready to welcome me. I note the choice of materials, the tablecloths, the cutlery, the precision of the settings, and the mise en place: these are all indications of taste and sensitivity on the part of the people who are responsible for hospitality and represent the company. These are messages for the guest, a promise of quality. There are many good eateries and restaurants but only a few are memorable. You can count them on your fingers.
Aurora Gjinaj _ Let’s start with the ABC. Clean cutlery, perfect glasses, not only in the sense that they have no smudges round the rim but also that they are chosen correctly – for aperitifs, for wine, for water – and proper settings. I personally like minimal details – a sign of sensitivity and elegance – such as a pretty lamp, small traces of taste that express attention to detail in the service.
What’s your favourite memory of your career at the Grand Hotel Majestic "già Baglioni"?
Giordano De Lellis _ I arrived at the Majestic with a pretty impressive background behind me, having worked at Michelin-starred restaurants and the big names in international hospitality. But Bologna is second to none as it attracts celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, art and business. Working here allows you to meet many of them. I can ‘t put my finger on a single memory. I’ve been here for twelve fantastic years now. It’s been a non-stop journey, and I’ve devoted everything I’ve got, my heart and soul, to it.
Aurora Gjinaj _ Even though I haven’t been here long, I’ve lived the last few months very intensely. What is stamped in my mind is the rapport with clients. Especially international ones, who are always very numerous and curious to discover Bologna. For me it’s an honour to tell them about the city. A big smile, warmth and friendliness are my driving force, and giving and receiving are my greatest satisfaction.