Step into his restaurant and Ciro Orsini greets you excitedly from his pictures splashed across the walls, wrapped in a tapestry of tattoos, posing with the likes of actors Pamela Anderson and Sylvester Stallone. When you meet him in person, you realise there’s a lot more to the guy than tattoos and his Hollywood connect. The restaurateur, who belongs to an Italian noble family of Popes and Saints, opened the first branch of his famous Italian food chain Ciro’s Pomodoro in Knightsbridge, London in 1978, where waiters came dancing to the table whilst carrying the order!
Orsini, who was recently in the country to celebrate the first anniversary of his first restaurant in Delhi, grew up in Naples, and got involved in his mom’s food business at the age of 12. He later went to London and opened a delicatessen where his mother cooked for customers such as actor Stewart Granger. “Soon, I opened an Italian joint in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge. That was some 35 years ago. I worked seven days a week, even slept there, until the place was a success. When I saw people in a queue outside at 1.15am, I didn’t think, ‘Now I’ve made it,’ and relax. Instead, I worked harder to keep people coming back,” reminiscences Orsini.
The restaurateur has played host to celebrities such as singer Axl Rose, musician Ronnie Wood, actors Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone to name a few, who have become his close pals. “When you are in the food business, you feed a lot of celebs...they become a part of that big family of yours. I have made some great friends sitting in my restaurant, such as actor Armand Assante, who is my travel and cooking buddy, actor Al Pacino, who leaves you mermsrised when he talks about his life experiences, and actor Sylvester Stallone, who has a great sense of humour,” he says.
Ciro, who plans to soon take his chain to other cities in the country, says he has always been intrigued by India’s spiritual side. “The mystic and spiritual side of India has always attracted me. I have visited India many times, and wanted to open a restaurant since the last 10 years. Things finally worked out last year,” he shares.
And on every visit, the guy makes sure he devours plenty of Indian food that he has become a fan of. “I love those yummy chicken tikkas and chicken butter masalas that I have in the homes of my Indian friends,” he says.
And is he planning to get a new tattoo soon? “There is a long way to go and more to come. My tattoos stand for great civilisations and their spiritual values — Japanese, Indian, Chinese...each tattoo has a spiritual link,” he smiles.