Giacomo’s Pizza an Italian restaurant on Belfast’s Malone Road has received rave reviews; fresh pizza dough is prepared daily and the dishes are authentic Italian fare.
Owner Seamus McElroy opened the restaurant 15-months-ago, and tripadvisor has ranked Giacomo’s in Belfast’s top 25 restaurants list.
I caught up with Seamus, an Omagh native who now lives in Belfast, to chat about his role as “restaurant owner, operator, cook and general dogs body”.
What does your role as owner involve?
When you are a start-up company in the restaurant business, unless you have substantial backing from the bank, you really need to be a Jack of all trades. I am involved in everything from the day to day running of the restaurant to cooking and cleaning.
How long have you worked in the food industry?
I have eight to ten years’ experience working in the food industry and opened Giacomo’s 15-months-ago.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Opening this place has definitely been an achievement. I have done most of the work myself from sourcing materials such as the flooring tiles to sanding and varnishing the tables. A lot of people thought I was mad taking on this project.
Have you had any other jobs before becoming a chef?
I have worked in the construction industry, as a copper smith and a doorman.
What inspired you to move into a career in the food industry?
I lived in Boston for eight-years and worked as a delivery driver for a local Italian restaurant. A position opened on the dough counter and I went for it and got the job. I fell in love with the whole process of making your own dough and picked up the skill pretty quickly.
I have always had a real interest in baking and enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with my mother making everything from apple tarts to Christmas cakes when I was at home.
I am a creative person and enjoy the whole social side of owning a restaurant. There is a real sense of reward when people like your food and plates come back to the kitchen empty.
Have you any advice for people interested in opening a restaurant?
Prepare yourself for a lot of hard work and go into it with your eyes wide open. This needs to be something you are passionate about and enjoy doing before making it a profession.
You need to be generous and ruthless when necessary and really love what you do.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
At the minute I don’t really have time for hobbies outside of work and have had to make a lot of sacrifices when it comes to having downtime and treating myself. But when I do find time, I like going to the gym, and playing rugby and hurling.
What is your favourite meal?
Rump steak done in garlic butter with marinated roast peppers, baby potatoes and asparagus.
What cookery tip would you like to share?
I don’t really have a cookery tip as such, but the best advice I can give is don’t cut corners. Always buy the best and freshest meat and vegetables you possibly can. It will make all the difference to the finished product. Don’t do things by half measures.
For more information or to view the extensive menu visit the Giacomo’s Pizza website.