From Southern Italy originally, it was a mountain region in the North of the country where Antonio grew up. Later, Antonio lived, served and worked in various European locations, involved in a myriad of different vocations, before moving to the UK. Things really began to take off when he and his wife at the time, Priscilla Carluccio (née Conran) ran a Covent Garden restaurant on Neal’s Street owned by Priscilla’s brother: top designer, retailer; and himself a restaurateur, Sir Terence Conran.
Antonio and Priscilla made the restaurant a huge success and later they attached an Italian delicatessen to the restaurant. A natural progression was to operate a wholesaling business alongside trading around the world under the name of Carluccio’s . In 1999, three restaurant executives (including ex CEO/ex Chairman, Simon Kossoff) co-founded the Carluccio’s chain with Antonio and Priscilla, and so, the Italian restaurant group as we know it was born – consisting of a chain of Carluccio’s cafès and food stores modelled on a rustic, Italian London Café (in Market Place).
Antonio was the brand of course, but it was his TV appearances and his many cookery books on Mediterranean food that really raised his public profile.
Antonio teamed with BBC Two for many food shows, and partnered fellow Italian Chef and restaurateur, Gennaro Contaldo in the series ‘Two Greedy Italians’. A copy of the accompanying book is available from website
Antonio remained in the forefront of being a top food expert up until his death in 2017. Referred to as the ‘Godfather of Italian Gastronomy’ Antonio received two major honours during his 80 years, and many accolades for his services to the catering industry.
Carluccio’s 20th Anniversary – 2019
Featuring ‘Carluccio’s’ as April’s Business of the Month as 2019 celebrates its 20th anniversary. Unfortunate that it has not been plain sailing for the business in recent times (more of that to follow). Nevertheless, as Antonio always said: ‘MOF MOF – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour’ … his motto is a solid principle because Carluccio’s business model continues to offer patrons a ‘finer’ dining experience than many of its casual dining competitors achieve. Straightforward menus of classic Italian food using fresh produce and quality ingredients, with Chef Specials and Set-Menus available, and, with a retail shop attached to each branch, selling Italian larder goods, wines and spirits, and foodie gifts. Carluccio’s remains true to incorporating all of which was so expertly set up during the early years of development and includes those elements that made it so successful.
Carluccio’s have raised significant amounts of money over the years hosting charity events and fundraising initiatives. The Antonio Carluccio Foundation set up before Antonio’s passing, is to provide the resources, training and development required by young, otherwise disadvantaged cooks and chefs entering the hospitality industry, and to support the work of charities and non-governmental organisations in alleviating hunger worldwide.
Carluccio’s is a UK based, franchising business. Antonio and Priscilla sold almost all of their interest when the business was admitted to AIM stock market at the end of 2005. In 2010, Carluccio’s was bought by the Landmark Group, with whom a relationship pre-existed as the group were already running three of Carluccio’s Dubai based franchises. Nando’s and Max Restaurants are two of Landmark Group’s other hospitality brands.
Landmark Group remains the majority owner of Carluccio’s
Carluccio’s is struggling and are in the throes of a restructuring plan after a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) was agreed to pay creditors over a fixed period. The upshot may result (if it hasn’t already done so), in branch closures and loss of jobs, while other stores have been selected to undergo refurbishments as part of the rescue plan and to upgrade the franchise.
The Neal Street Restaurant mentioned above closed in 2007, and Sir Terence’s own restaurant group Prescott & Conran called in administrators 2018. In an interview with The Guardian June 2018 Sir Terence highlights the problems the hospitality industry is experiencing:
“…What tends to happen if people are going out less, is they are more selective. They make a bigger effort to go to the first-choice restaurants or hotels and they can get busier. It’s the second, third or fourth choices that suffer.”
Carluccio’s CEO Mark Jones will strive to make Carluccio’s be that first-choice option for casual diners. We wish the business and the chain of franchisees the best of luck.
Here is a video clip of the unforgettable Antonio