Princigalli, an Italian in London

An interview with the maître from Milan now working at the Westbury hotel. Hard work with great satisfaction

08-12-2015
Giancarlo Princigalli, born in Milan in 1978, has

Giancarlo Princigalli, born in Milan in 1978, has been the restaurant and f&b manager at Alyn Williams, the restaurant inside the Westbury hotel in Mayfair, 5 stars luxury, since 2010. Princigalli has been working in London since 1999, «a town experiencing an extraordinary growth and offering great opportunities»

Giancarlo Princigalli, has been working in London since 1999. He was born in 1978 in Milan to a mother from Bergamo and a father from Apulia : «I graduated from the Carlo Porta catering school in my town», he sums up his experience, «and after the military service I left for London straight away: at 20 I had my first experience at the Savoy. I should have stayed for a year and a half to learn the language but a series of events made me stay». For 16 years in a row.

Now he's the restaurant and f&b manager at the Alyn Williams, the restaurant inside the Westbury hotel in Mayfair, 5 stars luxury, he doesn't forget the events that led him here: «I cut my teeth at Pétrus, in the years when the patron Gordon Ramsey was also opening Claridge’s. Those were very hard years, of which I have great memories». He set a precise goal right away: «I'm working 14 hours a day while others are having fun, I'd think. This job is so hard that if I can't get to become a restaurant manager by the age of 30, I'll change career».

Alyn Williams, the hotel Westbury's restaurant: 16 tables for around 50 seats maximum. The chef is one of the speaker at Identità Milano 2016, on March the 6th

Alyn Williams, the hotel Westbury's restaurant: 16 tables for around 50 seats maximum. The chef is one of the speaker at Identità Milano 2016, on March the 6th

He reached the goal in 2008, just in time, beside Marcus Wearing. In 2010 he moved to the Westbury, where he still is, with great satisfaction: «We offer modern French cuisine with British products. Sixteen tables seating a maximum of around 50 people, at lunchtime and in the evening. We're 13 in the front desk, with elastic and interchangeable tasks: we do everything». The passage from an independent fine dining establishment to a hotel restaurant increased his expertise: «They require two very different ways of working because in a hotel you need to work on projects long in advance. Your planning is for 6 to 9 months not 3. For instance, we're currently defining the details for the four hand dinners that will take place between April and May 2016, with Davide Scabin and Vladimir Mukhin».

We have in mind more than one Italian maître working in important British fine dining restaurants, Silvano Giraldin above all, who at 37 is at the helm of the dining room of the glorious Le Gavroche. Are Italian waiters still popular? «I'd say Italian and French. They're the professionals most looked for in London. Because they treat clients as real home guests. But in general in London they do not pay too much attention to passports but to skills: what counts is what you can do, not where you come from. The only certainty is that in this role it is hard to find an English man: they're the exception, after all catering schools are not so established in England as in Italy. Most of those who graduate from catering college, then end up in the kitchen, almost never in the dining room».

Giancarlo Princigalli (photo by John Carey)

Giancarlo Princigalli (photo by John Carey)

Do you miss home? «I'd like to go back to Italy sooner or later. Except the opportunities cannot be compared, right now. London is a splendid town: over the last 10 years the restaurant industry has grown incredibly. It's a constant evolution, involving many cuisines from around the world». And then there's the respect for the chef's philosophy: «One of the stronger differences I've noticed has to do more with the lunchtime service: in Italy, but even in British fine dining outside London, there's a big difference between lunch  and supper because many restaurants follow one approach during the day and one in the evening. Here there's more coherence between noon and evening: the lunch menu is almost always very similar to the dinner menu. Fewer compromises are made. And I believe this results in fuller and more stimulating days».


Sections

In sala

The public side of a restaurant seen by its protagonists: maître, restaurant managers, waiters