After turning his back on digital media, 31-year-old Crispini embarked on commercial cookery training before working under Theo Randall and front of house hosting events for Elton John among others.
When he felt ready and with financing secured, Crispini launched the 70-cover Italian restaurant and 60-cover bar on Bermondsey Street but the owner has ambitions on a second site possibly focussing on just pasta or Gelato.
How I got to where I am now:
My parents are restaurateurs so I grew up with it and was working from the age of eleven in the restaurant but like many kids I didn’t want to follow in my parent’s footsteps – I was very lucky that I had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted to.
I went down a design route and headed to art college where I got into computer graphics on a digital media degree. From there I was involved with websites, programming, and interactivity and took to it very well. After I graduated things were difficult in the industry because it was just after the dot-com bubble burst so I set up my own company with a friend doing websites and making online games.
I secured Waitrose as a client and found their perspective on food very interesting and impressive - in short in my 20s I got a buzz out of going to restaurants. I naturally gravitated towards them and got more and more into food before I realised it was actually my long-term future and I had to stop talking about it and put my money where my mouth was.
It has been a three-year journey – my father taught me how to cook but not commercially so I decided to take a Leiths Cooking School course.
I really wanted to work for Theo Randall at the InterContinental London Park Lane so I targeted him and worked my way up. I also worked in events and for various places to learn about front of house and I have gained so much invaluable knowledge.
When we found the site I still didn’t feel like I was totally ready but once you have the location all the wheels go into motion.
You have loads of ideas and ambition but it is not until you actually do it you realise what you are good at and what your customers like. We don’t do anything wildly unique; we just try and do what we do well. Our concept is my ideal dining experience – it is casual, comfortable and buzzy but it is good quality.
I like using the location and the site as an inspiration. Rather than taking a concept to fit a venue – I prefer to do it the other way. When you think of all the ideas and opportunities it can get really exciting but I have to keep my feet firmly on the ground.
How I define Italian cuisine is it is all about simplicity and using quality ingredients – raw materials shine through with a bit of skill from chefs. I wouldn’t say we were 100 per cent authentic but that is how things naturally evolve. Some of the things we do are perhaps not what my father used to eat but he didn’t have the access to the same sort of ingredients.
My greatest achievement:
Opening Antico without a doubt!
My biggest challenge:
Opening Antico without a doubt!
I often look back and think ‘I employ 22 people and I am responsible for them’ and that amount of responsibility is crazy. I wake up every day worrying about whether we are going to have enough customers or if we are doing things right to pay the bills. Every day something happens – whether it is a member of staff, a customer or a piece of equipment breaking down.
The reason I, and a lot of other restaurateurs, do it is there is absolutely nothing more satisfying than having a room full of diners enjoying themselves. All the hardship and the difficulties are worth it.
If I wasn’t working in hospitality:
I would probably be doing I.T. working for a big agency – I always wish I had done that rather than working for myself.
What I used to do was create solutions to problems and I really enjoyed coming up with innovative ideas. I felt I was quite good at it but in the end I had a bigger calling.
My advice to budding restaurateurs:
Follow what you believe.
What I have learnt is everybody has an opinion and you are always doing something wrong but whenever I have listened to someone I have regretted it and whenever I stuck to my guns it worked out.
You are the only one that has the overall picture but you really need determination and the ability to try and think beyond the bad times.