Just to warn you straight off the bat - this post is going to be photo heavy, for very good reason!
Last Friday, Des and I got to go along to a rather special event here in York - Antonio Carluccio's 80th Birthday party, which was held at his brand new restaurant here in York.
To celebrate this impressive milestone, the famous Italian chef was joined by regional foodies (I think that's me?), competition winners, writers and digital influencers, with Jonathan Tyler, The Sheriff of York and Dave Taylor, The Lord Mayor of York also among the guests.
The evening started off with much prosecco and copious canapés, all served on the first floor of the extremely impressive brand-new restaurant.
I was particularly enamoured with the whole parmesan... served in small geological-like chunks with lashings of balsamic vinegar. Des on the other hand made a bee-line for the selection of cured meats and hams.
The building now used by Caruluccio's is of great historical significance, having been the former site of the Terry's Chocolate Shop and Tea Room which occupied the premises from 1818 until closure in1980.
Since then it has been used both by a bank and by the Swarovski chain, who occupied the old shop area downstairs, who all moved out last year leaving the site empty,
I do have a special appreciation for this particular spot, as I worked for the National Trust at the Terrys family home, Goddards, for a number of years. During this time I learnt much about the restaurant building, which was also the site of the original Terrys Chocolate Factory!
I was therefore very relived to see that the restoration of this building by Carluccio's has been extremely sympathetic, with the new decor highlighting the elements of early 20th century opulence still visible throughout the building.
Alongside prosecco and canapes, we were also treated to a bespoke cocktail created to honour the building's historic past - a Terrys Chocolate Orange Negorni.
Using chocolate bitters, Carluccio's put a delicious spin on this old classic. I certainly was a fan judging by the size of my hangover the next day...
Antionio Carluccio, the founder of the chain, came to the United Kingdom in 1975 and ever since has made a firm stamp on the culinary landscape of our country.
After making his name writing cookbooks and appearing on television in the 1990s, Antonio opened his first own-name restaurant in 1999 in London. Since then the chain has grown into over 100 locations and across seven (roughly, I think, but who's counting!) countries.
I was incredibly honoured to get the chance to spend 5 minutes during the evening to speak to the man himself.
I had two questions - the first was whether he had any advice to budding entrepreneurs and chefs?
To this he replied very simply, "work hard and stay humble".
My second question was on the slightly more personal and perhaps a bit more cheeky (thanks negronis...) - are you happy?
His answer was a unanimous yes, however he stressed that things had not always been plain sailing and that you need to realise that life is naturally full of ups and downs.
Both bits of very good advice I think.
The evening wrapped up with a short speech from the CEO of Carluccio's, who praised Antonio's hard work throughout the last few decades and also the work that has gone into this new restaurant here in York.
We then got to the fun bit - the cake and celebration!
As the sunset fell, I took a second to stand on the balcony and look out into St Helen's Square.
Whilst I haven't eaten at this particular branch of Carluccio's yet, I have overwhelmingly good memories of dining with them across the country. The food is authentically Italian, with a focus on fresh ingredients and well thought out, simple (not simplistic) recipes.
For me, it's ultimately extremely heartening to see this building being used again as a restaurant, filled with good food and cheer.
I'm sure I will be back to eat a full meal, so keep your eyes out on the blog for a full review.
I'm also going to try and crack that Chocolate Orange Negroni recipe (to my peril...), so I'll share that too if I can master the art of bitters!
Ciao for now.