Ferdinando’s – Showing the Love for What They Do in Their Food
Colourful and quirky, Ferdinando’s serves South Africa’s favourite pizza, according to diners who voted the establishment into top spot in this year’s Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge.
Owner Italian Diego Milesi dedicated the win to his late partner Kimon (Kiki) Bisogno who died in a shark attack in Plettenberg Bay in September.
“The staff and I celebrated when we heard of our victory. However, it was a bittersweet moment because we were missing her. She was our motivational spirit and was always filled with such great ideas. I am busy putting my energy into replicating what she did and keeping it going. She always valued people first and it is a tribute to her that as a small micro-business in Observatory we have done so well.”
“Kimon would have been thrilled with the win. She was excited about everything in life and that included this competition. If I close my eyes, I can see her playing a toy accordion and jumping through the restaurant when she heard we were victorious. It is such a tribute to the colourful and loving person that she was. She connected with the people in our community, and we succeeded in no small measure because of her hard work.”
Milesi explained how it felt to take the title and why they decided to enter, “We came second last year and that showed us that our customers really liked what we were doing. Winning is a great reward. My mission has always been to bring passion to our chefs and get them to love what they are doing; it isn’t simply a job. We have always wanted people to feel at home at our establishment. We have always wanted to bring the best Italian food – made with passion and consistency – to our customers and the win gives me a lot of confidence that we are doing just that.”
He explains why he believes customers have embraced Ferdinando’s.
“It is because we care. More than a decade ago we had to find a way to keep me in South Africa and we started making pizzas at home until we opened a small restaurant in 2012. I have always said that running a restaurant is not a business, but a lifestyle. You have to fit into the requirements of your area and community. We always try to do it with a smile on our faces. It is about a place with a vibe and quality food without being pretentious. We try and show the love for what we do in our food.”
Bisogno, a South African artist, met Milesi during her international travels. They fell in love, relocated to the Mother City, decided to share their love of pizza with Capetonians and started a “secret pizzeria” in their own home before moving into formal premises.
Explains Milesi, “Getting into the restaurant business wasn’t always my focus. But I had to start cooking to earn a living and I found I could be creative with food. But it is intensive and social. My English wasn’t very good in the early days and opening a restaurant allowed me to meet people and practice the language and feel integrated.”
He says Ferdinando’s will be entering the challenge again next year, “Why not! There are more and more people getting passionate about pizza so I think the competition will only get tougher. Pizza should be great, but it shouldn’t be fancy; it is people’s food and makes them happy as they eat food together and talk about life. We at Ferdinando’s are in it for the long run and hope we continue to be blessed.”