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Worker Bee: Meet Maurizio Cecco, the founder of Salvi’s and Festa Italiana

Maurizio moved to Manchester from Naples over 30 years ago and is now one of the city's most respected restauranteurs
Maurizio Cecco

Meet Maurizio Cecco, the man behind Salvi’s.

Maurizio has lived in Manchester for over 30 years. Over the past five years he has built the Salvi’s family of restaurants (Mozzarella Bar & Restaurant, Cucina, and Rosticceria) which specialise in beautiful, simple, rustic, Neapolitan cuisine.

What started as a personal endeavour to share the taste of Italy with friends in England quickly blossomed into something much larger.

Maurizio’s constant trips between the two countries, laden with delectable Italian delights, sparked a brilliant idea: why not turn this passion into a profession? And so, Salvi’s was born –  which now has two beautiful restaurants (in The Northern Quarter and Deansgate Square), a mozzarella bar and a deli at the beautiful Corn Exchange Manchester.

Over a decade since its inception, Salvi’s unwavering commitment to authenticity remains unchanged.

Central to the concept of his restaurants is the high quality of ingredients, which Maurizio imports himself direct from producers in the Campania region where he was born and raised.

Every week, Maurizio ensures that only the freshest Italian produce finds its way to his establishment – a tradition that’s upheld both in the deli and the restaurant.

From the cheeses to the pastries, from the pasta to the sauces, the essence of Italy continues to thrive within Salvi’s walls.

He also was one of the founders of Festa Italiana, which is now in its sixth year, and showcases the amazing products of Italy.

Mauricio Cecco on Becoming a Manc podcast
Mauricio Cecco on Becoming a Manc podcast

As a proud adopted Mancunian, Maurizzio recently announced his brand-new podcast Becoming a Manc; a sneak peek behind the scenes of the hospitality industry via a series of honest and open conversations with the owners of some of the city’s best concepts, brands, and venues.

We caught up with him, to talk about what makes him tick.

Tell us about yourself…

I moved to Manchester from Naples over 30 years ago, because when I went to catering college in Sorrento, I couldn’t speak any English and I wanted to work all over the world.

To work all over the world, I needed to be able to speak English. So, my teacher in Sorrento had a friend with a restaurant in Manchester and he said to me that I can come here for 6 months, pick up some English and then he would send me wherever I wanted to go. I came to Manchester, loved it and I
stayed…and now I have a Mancunian accent!

At that time, we were struggling to find any proper Italian products; everything was made with the English taste.

That’s why we set up Salvi’s in the first place, to bring authentic Italian products to Manchester.

My wife Claire and I realised that there was a market for it, so we found this place and we did it and now here we are: 12 years, 3 restaurants, and 2 delis in.

I try to return home for inspiration as much as possible as Salvi’s brand is built with Naples at its heart.

The newest project has to be our Deansgate Square branch which has now been open for 12 months and has allowed us to expand and build upon an already successful brand.

We are also very proud of our Festa Italiana which is now in its 6th year; we started it in order to bring the competitive Mancunian Italian hospitality community together as one happy family and it has grown year on year, and we are back in Cathedral Gardens 25th-27th August.

What got you started in your field of work?

I’ve always had a passion for food. The chance to go round the world and travel and work in a field I love, that’s what got me started.

I left school with no qualifications and I was told I would never amount to anything by my teachers back in Naples. I was sent to a catering college in Sorrento as a last resort by my dad Salvatore, who the Salvi’s brand is named after, and the rest is history… sometimes I think I should invite my old school teachers over for a lovely meal to see if it improves my old report cards!

Who has been the biggest influence on your work?

My mum, Teresa, has been my biggest influence. She’s a really great cook. Growing up I was interested in how she made things and I wanted to learn what she knew. And the food itself, smelling it, touching it, that influences everything I do. The majority of the dishes served at Salvi’s are inspired by her amazing home cooking and family recipes. We even have a dish named after her on the menu – the Nonna Teresa; it is delicious and one of our best sellers.

Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear!

I’m very shy!

What is your proudest achievement so far?

Establishing my food in Manchester and competing with all the big chains. I’ve grown my business from something very small. To be at awards ceremonies, even if I’m only nominated, I don’t mind when I don’t win. Just being there and being recognised amongst much bigger companies.

Festa Italiana is well up there for me too; watching everyone drink, dance and have fun all celebrating the Italian culture is a proud moment for myself and the entire team. We love Manchester and we wanted to create something for the people – now it is well and truly a staple in the city’s event calendar, and we couldn’t be happier.

What does your typical day involve?

I get up about 8am, I might have a couple of meetings and then I go to whichever site needs me. I’m very hands on. If I need to cover service I do. Then I try and get to the other sites as well. It’s a long day. I’m normally done by about midnight!

Every day starts the right way, with a coffee made by my beautiful wife Claire…I think that’s what she told me to say anyway! When I’ve had my coffee, I get out to visit all of my restaurants to make sure everyone is happy and everything is running well. Usually, I work in whichever site needs me on that particular day, and I normally finish in the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!

And how do you relax on your days off?

What’s a day off??!! I don’t really have days off. I’m always working! Occasionally I go out on my motorbike, I go round other restaurants and try their food. Always food, you know.

What is the best advice you have been given or can give?

My dad always said to me, ‘never give up.’ If you believe in something, see it through to the end.

I will simply say: you have to work hard, because nothing is easy in life, but if you have the belief that an idea will work, then do it, because no one is going to do it for you.

If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?

Food is my life, so if I hadn’t got my restaurants, maybe a buyer, a supplier. As long as I can work with food I’m happy. But when I retire, I would love to do something with motorbikes because they have always been a passion of mine.

Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear…

Not many people know that, a long time ago in Manchester, I used to have my own vintage clothing business specialising in vintage Belstaff and Barbour as well as 60s/70s women’s boots.

Red or Blue?

When it comes down to it, it’s Napoli all the way! But I also consider myself a United fan and follow the mighty Reds as much as I can.

If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?

Less chains, and more smaller independent businesses would be good. And the weather, I know that’s obvious, but I’m Italian! Next time I pop to Naples, I will try and bring the sunshine back with me!

And finally, what do you love most about Manchester?

The people. No more needs to be said – if you know, you know.

It’s busy. It’s cosmopolitan. And I love it.

Festa Italiana takes place from 25-27 August 2024 at Cathedral Gardens in the centre of town.

Entry is free, but some events need tickets.

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