Maurizio’s Dining to open 2022 with Mill Road masterclass series
“It’s swings and roundabouts,” says Sweet D’Apollonio, one half of the team which runs Maurizio’s Dining on Mill Road, as the new viral variant causes chaos in the hospitality sector.
The rollercoaster effect of Omicron has taken its toll on the popular city quarter, explain Sweet and partner Maurizio.
“Mill Road was busy until Friday, December 14,” says Maurizio, “then there was a little shift on Saturday.”
“Which coincided with the nationwide announcements,” added Sweet.
Maurizio said: “People didn’t want to believe what was going on then, on Saturday, everyone started talking about it.”
“We then started to put full Covid guidelines in place,” adds Sweet. “We’ve always kept sanitation and had less tables – there’s 30 comfortable covers – but now we’re back on face masks and are generally more aware of keeping customers safe.
“We will probably take on a grant in the new year because we’re low on team members – front of house, back kitchen – and running on empty at the moment. Everyone in hospitality is struggling with recruitment.
“Our bookings are down by about a third, probably like everyone else in the hospitality sector, but we’re on Mill Road and quite a small team – and there’s a lot of community and love for us. We get a lot of walk-ins and people buying vouchers for demonstrations.”
The first demonstrations worked well, says Maurizio, who makes all the ragus, pasta sauces and the pizza base.
“We did one as a trial, it worked really well, so we’ve produced a voucher for £25 per person and you spend an hour and a half with me and learn how to make pizza.”
Sweet adds: “It’s for tiramisu as well as pizza.”
As well as demonstrations – assisted by an apprentice, Ellie, and pizza assistant Nico – there’s a masterclass option.
“The masterclasses started a few weeks ago,” Maurizio explains. “They’re on Saturdays, with Ellie and Nico, who can now do pizzas from start to finish. We’ve done two Saturdays so far and have a schedule all planned for January, February and March.
“They run from 9am to 12, to learn how to make pizza from scratch – apart from the dough,which is my secret recipe – but I also make the tomato sauce and ragu which is my signature dish. Ragu is great for pizza. It takes a while for me to trust people to pass it on but hopefully, with Ellie and Nico, they’ll stay with us.”
So if it’s quiet now, there’s big hopes for 2022 – and Maurizio’s made full use of the pre-Omicron period. On Small Business Saturday last month wine specialist Bubbly Bandits was at the diner for a tasting session of the new (to the UK) range of Durello wines.
Bubbly Bandits director Annabel Jones says: “This exciting new bubbly wine from the volcanic hills of north-east Italy has finally hit the shores of the UK and lucky customers at Maurizio Dining were able to sample the sparkling wine at the event.
“The Alpone Blu Durello, produced by the winery Gianni Tessari using the Charmat method, proved to be highly popular.”
“Having Bubbly Bandits was a great opportunity to meet a new importer,” Maurizio says. “We just purchased 60 bottles of Durello wine – it’s a sparkly wine only produced in one area in Italy, a cross between a Prosecco and a champagne. I made ribollita, an old Italian dish, for the occasion.”
Ribollita is a Tuscan stew which has peasant origins “from the days when aristocrats gave their leftovers to the servants”, says Maurizio. Bread is added to the stew to bulk it up.
“It takes a very long time to make it,” he says, “with carbonara, potato, carrots, plus rainbow chard and a cream of beans you make in a blender, then you leave bread to soak up at the bottom and the next day you reheat it. It’s one of those dishes – it’s vegan, it really fills you up because it’s double carbs, we gave that away for free.”
Sweet adds: “Small Business Saturday is a great way to collaborate with other small businesses. We’ve also collaborated with a pop-up, Get Weird Garms, an online shop selling vintage luxury branded clothes. They came in and set up a clothes shop, so it was a different type of crowd.”
The swings and roundabouts effect is likely to continue for a while.
“We don’t want a full lockdown,” says Maurizio, “but like everywhere else there’s a lot of uncertainty and it’s out of our control. We’ll just have to see what 2022 brings. Yes, safety is paramount but we need guidance and support for 2022 – and better communication all round. If that means furlough or grants, then OK.”
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