The main Italian of Moscow who came 20 years ago from Ancona didn’t stop after having created the key restaurants in the center – Uilliam’s, Ugolëk, Pinch and “Severyane”. By the end of this summer he will open the first fast-food chain restaurant. Uilliam told Time Out about features of Russian outng for shish-kebab and why he wasn’t allowed on a plane to Russia.
In which town were you born? And when did you move to Moscow?
- I was born in German city called In spite of this, I have an Italian passport. My parents worked in Germany, then came back to Italy. I moved to Moscow in 1996 from Ancona.
How did you imagine Moscow before moving here?
- I didn’t know anything about Moscow at all. I remember that when I worked in England and mentioned about going to Moscow guys from Poland working in my kitchen, said: “Are you nuts? It’s 30 degrees below zero there!” And I couldn’t even imagine how minus 30 feels like. By the way, British Airways didn’t want to let me on the plane, because I had a one-way ticket. The thought I was some kind of spy. They let me only after several hours. They didn’t understand why foreigners would fly to Russia with no ticket back.
Which idea about the city turned to be misconception?
- When I got here, I was in real shock. 20 years ago Moscow was not like it is now, of course. The “Khimki-center” route was completely different. There were four buildings in Khimki, and nothing else. There was the first round-the-clock McDonald’s back then. It was the only place, where you could come at night and have a European meal. It was shock because everything was different: the language was not native, different culture, different people. But everything was interesting and new.
What turned to be easier to do, than you thought?
- As for the person who has traveled a lot and knows four languages (when I moved to Moscow, I didn’t speak Russian) the most important problem was communication. Different language, different alphabet – how!? But it turned out there were more English-speaking people, than I thought. That’s why it wasn’t that difficult.
And what was more difficult?
- To get along with customs. It shocked me at first that in spring workers can go for shish-kebab, and the next day not to appear at work, but orders are to be given out. I just couldn’t understand it. “We got drunk yesterday, so I won’t come”. Well, awesome, what next? Then I got used to it and became cautious: if it is a shift of those who might not come, I call those who will come for sure.
What surprised you here for the first time?
- Not all products that I needed were here. It was a little bit difficult to find them. I’m used to specific brand of pasta or pesto sauce. And it was absent here, and we had to look for it.
To what can you still not get used to?
- I’m almost fully adapted now. I’d say, I’m not used “otherwise”. Meaning that when I’m in Europe, I can’t get used to European life, it is difficult now. Let’s say Russian customs has started to sneak in my soul.
Where do you live now? And what do you like in this area?
- Now I live in Gruzinskaya area, where zoo is. I enjoy it because it’s more or less calm here. However, there are no parks, only Tsereteli park on the opposite – it’s small, but cosy.
Where are you most likely be met in Moscow?
- Uilliam’s, Ugolëk, Pinch and “Severyane”.
What are your favorite places in Moscow?
- There are a lot of them. I like places where there is a lot of nature and everything is green. Recently I have like Rublevka, where I work at kosher restaurant Aviv by the Zhukovka Jewish religious center, it is calm there.
In which way is Moscow different from your native city?
- It’s heaven and earth! Heaven here, and there –not even earth, but “underground”, so to say. The difference is mostly seen in mentality. Earlier more open people lived there, and here there were more reserved people. Now it’s vice versa: here mentality is super open, while there it is super-countryside-mentality.
When do you want to leave?
- My wife should be asked this question, not me. Let her answer. She is Russian, children are Russian, how do I know? It depends on the family, not me.
You are going to open a new place soon. What will it be?
- For the first time we will touch fast-food segment. It will be different food: a-la new generation burgers, where you have a piece of meat instead of a chop. The first place will open in Khimki, in “Mega” shopping center, it happened to be so. It will be there at first, and after that we’ll see. We will name it Zizo
When is the opening?
- We are planning it in the end of summer.