When it opens in Harrogate this summer, the new Gino D’Acampo My Restaurant will be only yards away from Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant which opened on Parliament Street in 2014.
On Saturday shoppers in the middle of Harrogate were treated to the sight of Gino and his hearthrob looks checking out his new premises to ensure everything was going to be just as ‘fantastico’ as he wants it to be.
Standing in the site of his forthcoming new restaurant accompanied by a small entourage of trusted lieutenants including his head chef, Gino talks about the inspiration for coming to Harrogate, his passion for good food and what he thinks of the ‘rivalry’ with Jamie Oliver.
Dressed cooly in black, Gino has no doubts as to the success of his new venture.
"This isn't going to be good, it's going to be phenomenal."
The Harrogate Advertiser makes the point that Harrogate has quite a few Italian restaurants already, including Jamie’s Italian just across the street.
Does it ever bother the star of Gino’s Italian Escape on ITV that Jamie calls it Jamie’s Italian when he’s not Italian?
Gino replies: “Jamie’s Italian doesn’t annoy me at all. It’s very important that we give credit to Jamie Oliver for what he’s done for Italian food.
“In a funny way if I’m here talking to you it’s because Jamie 20 years ago did The Naked Chef and promoted Italian food.
“I don’t like to criticise people because everybody has their own quirky way to do things.
“If anyone from other restaurants wants to come here and drink on the roof terrace, they are always welcome.
“It’s for the customers to decide which one is the real Italian restaurant and which one is a restaurant with an Italian name.
“Everywhere we go we will see which one is busier, which one has better reviews and which one is more successful.
“You say it’s a battle but I don’t say it’s a battle.
“Italian history should tell you that we don’t battle very well. We tend to go backwards and we tend to make love.
“For me this is not a battle. Jamie is on the other side of the road but my doors are always open.”
When it opens in June, Gino’s will be only the fourth such restaurant in the UK.
But Harrogate isn’t a city, it’s a town. Why choose Harrogate?
“I came to Harrogate for the first time about seven or eight years ago and I walked around and I went to where the little piazza is and it reminded me a lot of Italy.
“I remember I was with my wife and I said “one day I’m going to open a restaurant here in Harrogate.”
“Although people think this is yet another chain of restaurants, it’s really not.
“I will be here a lot of the time like I am there a lot of the time at my other restaurants in Leeds, Manchester and London because otherwise you lose touch.
“I’m a pain in the ass when it comes to the quality of food.
“If I come here just to be a celebrity it doesn’t make any sense. Many people choose to do that; to put their name on the door. They come once every couple of years and they don’t do anything.
“I don’t like to do that. Because when I go home I think ‘what have I done today? Have I just been on TV? Have I just been a celebrity? It doesn’t satisfy me.”
Gino may appear on Celebrity Juice and have film star looks but he takes the art of cooking very seriously, even when it comes to broccoli.
“We have on the menu Orecchiette pasta which means little ears in Italian with an Italian broccoli leaf and pine nuts and cherry tomato and a little chilli and it’s absolutely delicious.
“Nowadays the vegetarian side is probably one of the biggest cuisines in Italian cooking. In Italy when my mum makes meals I don’t really miss fish or meat. Italian people don’t really think about whether it’s vegetable or fish or meat, for us if it’s done well, that’s what matters.”
As much as it’s great to see Gino in the flesh isn’t he worried that staffing quality can be an issue in a competitive town like Harrogate which already boasts a good range of independent Italian restaurants including Brio’s and Stuzzi, as well as the likes of Carluccio?
Gino said: “We don’t choose the staff. The staff very nicely and kindly choose to come and work with Gino, not for Gino.
“We put the board outside and an enormous amount of people, a lot of them Italian, choose to come to work here for simple reasons.
“Number one, we give all the tips to the staff. I don’t believe in this thing where the restaurant keeps a commission. That’s crap.
“These boys and girls work so hard. If the restaurant is run well, the owners will make enough money. I don’t go around nicking staff from restaurants because I don’t need to do that. If they’re good, eventually they want to work with the best.”
And with this, Gino heads off to do a walking tour of the town where he would be king.