Aldo and Christian de Vittoris, both grew up in the restaurant trade, as their father founded a succession of successful restaurants. Their training at Bradford College enhanced their knowledge and ambition, enabling them to develop the Ital Restaurant to an enviable level of success.
Aldo explained, "I started working when I was only eleven, washing cups on a Friday and Saturday night. This progressed to making coffee and later making sweets. Then when I was fourteen I went to work in the kitchen on cold starters, then pizzas and by the time I enrolled at College in 1986, when I was sixteen, I was doing everything. I came to train to be a chef and did my City & Guilds 7061 and 7062. I nearly didn't get in as I applied late and when Janet Dobbs, who was head of pastry, interviewed me she said the course was full. But then she recognised my name as she used to go to my dad's nightclub and she put me to the top of the waiting list.
In those days as well as the Pine Room ( which was meant to be very exclusive) on G floor of the Westbrook Building, there was another café on H floor which was a normal, quick service operation; plus a bakery and full time pantry serving them both. There were four classes of eighteen in each of the two years of the course and you would spend a day in each area. It was brilliant training. Although it was 23 years ago it feels like yesterday.
I was lucky as in my class we had the best students including Jonathan Nichols, Andrew Grattan and Cristos Anastasiades. Between seven or eight of us we scooped prizes in all the national competitions that year because we were ultra competitive in class. Although we were all mates we tried to beat each other in every single thing we did – if one of us got praised, we would see what he had done and try to better it. We scored the highest gross marks that catering students had ever achieved. I particularly remember when we went to the Salon Culinaire competition at Southport; the judges came out and applauded us, saying that the standards achieved by Bradford College students were unbelievable. We were so determined to be the best at everything." Remarkably one of Aldo's prizes was for Chinese garnishes!
Younger brother Christian set out to develop complimentary skills. "After school at St Bede's, I instantly started working in the restaurant and came to Bradford College for a two year part-time Silver Service course, as I always wanted to be front of house. It involved a full day on Tuesdays and I loved it. Although I had been brought up in a restaurant it taught me a different angle to the job. I remember Mr Newby ran the Pine Room and my proudest moment was when the Principal and some VIPS were dining and he asked me to serve their table. I said 'Leave it to me.' Other full-time students were dithering but I was used to serving 200 covers on a Saturday night, so I was confident. Another teacher was Elizabeth Hardaker, who later became a friend and one of our restaurant regulars."
After years working in the family business, the brothers took over the Ital in 2001 and their passion and hard work saw the business go from strength to strength.
Aldo continued "We were lucky in that we inherited a great business model but we took it to another level. People thought our dad it for us but we ran the business before, as Dad was often away. I still cook, but as cover when one of our chefs is away. This strength of the business is that because between us Christian and I can do everything, we are never dependant on anyone and can control the standards. I can cook and do all the marketing. Christian is the number cruncher and front of house expert."
Christian disclosed "We both know the business inside out and are constantly in touch with the markets. Nothing slips through the net as we are on it 24/7. A lot of what we do comes naturally and we know the key to our success is good food and atmosphere.We have had so many offers from commercial lettings agents in Leeds who have promised us fantastic restaurants rent free for two years to move to Leeds. But we are totally committed to Bradford. We are Bradford people and we know everybody. Whether you come on the bus or in a Bentley you are still a customer and need looking after. On average we serve between eight hundred and one thousand covers each week in only thirty hours trading. Five years ago we decided to close on Sundays, apart from occasional private functions, which in catering terms is unique. Most restaurants open all day on Sundays but we wanted a balance between work and family life."
Aldo concluded, "Business is great and in the downturn it has got better. Now people are watching their money they come to us as after twenty years of providing good value and good times, we are embedded in their minds. My motto is 'busy makes busy'. Being packed out that is the best advertisement. For the last three years we have relaxed a bit more as long as one of us is here. Being brothers is a dream scenario."