13 June 2024
  • 13 June 2024

Piccolo Mondo Renfrew: a new generation

on 1 March 2023 0

A culinary staple in both Renfrew and Glasgow, Piccolo Mondo are entering a new era in which tradition is melded with contemporary style, Robert Blair finds out more…

The term “institution” is flung around a lot these days, but when it comes to dining in Renfrewshire, it fits Piccolo Mondo Renfrew to a tee.

Among the most lauded and loved restaurants in the region, this bastion for authentic and incredible Italian food has been at the epicentre of joyous meals for thousands over the years. Still in the hands of the Pierotti family to this day, it is now being overseen by Guiliana and Tony Pierotti’s son, Lio. 

Fresh from the completion of a stunning refurbishment which retained the restaurant’s tasteful luxury while infusing modern sensibilities, Lio is excited to shepherd his family’s pride and joy into an exciting new era. 

“My parents came over to Scotland in the late 60s and initially started working in Nardini’s,” he said of their history in Renfrewshire. “After building up some finances, they joined forces with Silvio Izzi, who had an ice cream empire in Renfrew. 

“My mum and dad had always dreamed of having a food-based business, so they started off with Izzi’s café. Once this site became available in 1974, Piccolo Mondo was born. What we do is very much steeped in Tuscan tradition, but my father’s background wasn’t always in food,” Lio continued.

“He was originally trained as a sommelier for Marchesi di Frescobaldi and we still stock some of their wines. My mum was trained in the kitchen from a young age by my gran and she’s now gone on to impart the wisdom to other chefs including my business partner in Glasgow, Ian Monaghan. He started training here when he was 16 and now, he’s in his mid-fifties.

“We’re a very family-oriented business. We’ve got a lot of staff who’ve been with us for many years, so we try to create a friendly, welcoming environment. Not only for the customers, but also for the people who work here.” 

Piccolo Mondo Renfrew

Photo by Isla Conway ©Mill Magazine

Over the years, Piccolo Mondo became synonymous with high quality Italian food, racking up a plethora of accolades including the 1987 Les Routiers Award for Best Restaurant in Britain. 

Eventually, Lio’s parents sought out a new adventure and thus sold the restaurant before opening the La Fiorentina in Paisley Road West. However, as Lio would learn firsthand, the Piccolo Mondo was by no means extinct, just lying dormant. 

“The name vanished for a while, but it was still etched in people’s memories. In around 2004 or 2005, my parents initially thought they’d retire. They still like to think they are, but my mum is still here every morning at 7am, baking fresh focaccia,” he cheerily revealed.

“There’s an ever-increasing population in Renfrewshire and my main aim is to get people to come here instead of the West End of Glasgow”

“I’d always been told that I shouldn’t get into the hospitality game, but I’ve always been a people person and after experiencing the buzz of working in a place like La Fiorentina, it’s hard to walk away from that.”

Although he’d initially studied to become an interpreter at university, Lio longed for the fast-paced environments of his teens. 

While working at Cameron House, he and co-worker Andrea Grasso discussed the prospect of opening a restaurant and unbeknownst to Lio, his apparently retired father was already looking for somewhere new. From there, Piccolo Mondo reopened at 244 Argyle Street in Glasgow, going on to win best restaurant in Scotland in 2012.

Following that, Lio’s chance encounter with his parents’ original partner Silvio Izzi would lead to the rebirth of Piccolo Mondo on its original Hairst Street site in 2011.

“There were so many customers who came back that didn’t even know the Glasgow restaurant existed,” Lio said of Renfrew’s relaunch. “It was a great feeling, with people reminiscing about having birthdays, weddings and anniversary dinners here.” 

Piccolo Mondo Renfrew

Photo by Isla Conway ©Mill Magazine

Twelve years on from first reopening the doors, Lio decided that a refurbishment was needed. But, rather than reinventing the wheel, he’s simply brought the decor up to match the well-documented sumptuousness of their food. All the while, emphasising that “Piccolo Mondo isn’t just for celebrations, but every occasion”. 

“We knew it had to be a quick turnaround, so we did it all in ten days. It was almost like a Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares situation (laughs). It was a lot of work, but everyone pulled together and I’m delighted with how it turned out. We’ve struck a balance between keeping elements of the tradition and warmth, while injecting some freshness too. 

“There’s an ever-increasing population in Renfrewshire and my main aim is to get people to come here instead of the West End of Glasgow,” Lio contended. “That’s no easy task, but we know that we offer great food and a great atmosphere.

We’ve even got a pianist here every weekend and there’s a lovely buzz about the place. I’m just excited for everyone, whether they’ve been before or have never visited, to come and experience it for themselves.” 

Piccolo Mondo Renfrew, 63 Hairst Street, Renfrew, PA4 8QU, 0141 885 1011, visit the website.

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