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Italian passion - Serafina was born when co-founder Fabio Granato was lost at sea! hear more from the restaurateur in a chat with t2 at quest

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The Telegraph Online Published 22.02.15, 12:00 AM

Cheers, said 55-year-old Fabio Granato in a rather sexy Italian drawl as he clinked his glass with ours and sat down for a chat at Serafina, on the fifth floor of Quest mall. 

The story behind Serafina is that you and your partner Vittorio Assaf got lost at sea and your last wish was if you ever got out alive, you would together open a restaurant that served the best pizza and pasta. Is that story true?

Yes, it’s true. It was the year 1994 and Vittorio, his girlfriend and I wanted to do a skydiving course. So we woke up at 6am and went to a place two-and-a-half hours from New York. All of a sudden, there was a huge wind and they stopped the free-falling and didn’t allow nobody to jump. It was around 4pm then so we went off to a beach house. The girls were tired and went to take a nap while Vittorio said to me, ‘We have a boat, let’s go for a ride’. I asked him, ‘Do you need me to do anything on board?’ And he said, ‘No, no don’t worry, everything is under control, just enjoy the ride.’

I have a good memory so I remember every moment. The wind was chilling, the waves were high and who were the two lunatics who were going on a boat? Me and him. He goes to change the position of the sail and the sail snaps. Wow. You have no idea. It was dusk and I looked around and saw no one. Have you ever been on a boat in the middle of the ocean in the dark? I even tried telepathy with the girls! When they finally woke up at midnight, it was already six hours that we were away so they called the police and the coast guard.

So it was while we were in the boat that we tried to distract ourselves, talking about food. We talked about pizza made of a special flour coming out of a special oven and at that moment, all we wanted to do was change the whole perception and formula of an Italian restaurant. 

At 2am, when the helicopter came looking for us, they found us with our teeth chattering and even if I tried to hold my jaw together, it wouldn’t stop. After that day I never went with him on a boat again. It’s true, when I see a boat and I see him, I run (heartily laughs). 

But that was a great experience in a way because we came out with a great idea. And we made it happen.

This is your first visit to Serafina in Calcutta. What did you think when you first saw the look?

The place has been very well designed; it’s warm and homely. Everyone has their own perception of ‘warm’ but when I saw this place today, I was excited. Our designer knew what to do and it’s a happy feeling when your team works with you and understands your concept.  

Serafina is in nine countries from the US and Brazil to Japan, South Korea and Pakistan. Which restaurant is closest to your heart?

All of them. It’s like asking a father which child is his favourite. Every place I go, I get emotional about it. But I can tell you my favourite countries — India and Brazil because for both, family matters. 

Who are some of the celebrities who visit Serafina?

Lady Gaga, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer and Leonardo DiCaprio, royal families and businessmen. Kim Kardashian likes our fresh anchovy salad. They come because they feel comfortable; they know no one’s going to bother them. 

Do you cook?

Oh, I like to eat and my partner cooks. So Vittorio is the cook and he goes to the kitchen and talks to the chef and I’m the critic. He brings the dish out and I argue how it’s too sweet or sour and we argue till a dish goes back into the kitchen 30 times and then comes out perfect! We really love what we do.

You’re based in Manhattan. Which are some of the restaurants you like there?

I like Japanese and Indian food. I used to go to Bombay Palace and Nobu, both in New York. 

What did you have for dinner last night?

I ate at Serafina in Mumbai! 

(As t2’s photographer clicks him, Fabio smiles, “Let me fix my hair! Do you  see this red mark on my forehead, it’s the traditional welcome they gave me here. I love it!” Then the Spaghetti Pomodoro he ordered arrives)

Oh, look how beautiful it is. It’s like a painting… I don’t want to break it. 

You are so passionate about food. Who inspired you the most in your childhood?

My grandmother. She would wake up at 4am to make the sauces, cook on a low flame, so much preparation time and devotion... all that work for half an hour on the table. And then boom! You have to do it again. perhaps, the biggest lesson I learnt from her was — when you do what you like, it’s like you’ve never worked one day in your life. 

Karo Christine Kumar
Pictures: Rashbehari Das
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