Giovanni Paradiso: “Japan has an amazing energy. It's the quietest, busiest city in the world.”
Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance.
Australians are known for infiltrating international cities with their food, wine, and café culture, and Tokyo is no exception - Fratelli Paradiso, the popular Potts Point-based Italian restaurant, landed in May last year.
Created by two lively Italian brothers, Enrico and Giovanni Paradiso and their business partner Marco Ambrosino, the team had been looking to expand within Australia for a while, but it was ultimately Tokyo that got their attention.
Located on the 3rd floor of fashion hub Omotesando Hills, the Tokyo branch of the restaurant is complete with a 142-seat dining room and exclusive bar corner, not dissimilar to the restaurant’s Sydney-based sister wine bar, 10 William St.
Giovanni recently spoke to Advance to shed some light on the process of taking a well-known Australian brand and replicating it in a completely different culture.
When did you decide to open a second Fratelli Paradiso location in Tokyo? What did that process involve?
We were approached by a hospitality group Transit General Office Inc about four years ago, asking if we were interested in expanding into Tokyo. While it was a very intriguing business opportunity, my business partners and I were always a little concerned about how we would manage the brand over there, ensuring that it wasn’t diluted or dissipated.
As we got to know Transit a little better, the easier the decision became. They were completely understanding and trusted us and gave us 100% creative control over the brand.
There were a few initial exploratory trips to Tokyo, which parlayed into a "Why not, let’s do it!” mentality. If anything, it was going to be a great creative exercise for us.
How would you describe the food scene in Tokyo?
The food scene in Tokyo, to me, is one of the best food scenes in the world. Some of the best pizza I've ever eaten in my life was in Japan! It has a lot to do with attention-to-detail and the methodical way in which the Japanese approach a product. They’re so dedicated to creating things that are the best version they can be.
How much time do you spend there?
I spent almost three months there when we were opening Fratelli Paradiso, and since then have been going back every three weeks or so.
What’s your split between local and tourist customers? Do you have many Aussies visiting?
About 30% of our customers are foreigners at the moment. We’re based in an area near one of the major shopping areas, Omotesando, where all the fashion houses have their flagship stores, so we get a lot of foot traffic. We have quite a big Australian following, actually. There are a few people that know the restaurant from Australia who visit us specifically.
The dining area at Fratelli Paradiso’s Tokyo branch.
Were you worried that the brand you cultivated in Australia wouldn't translate to another country?
The Japanese have a very different way of approaching things. There are times where we had to pull back and question some of the decisions that were being made. It was very challenging at the start but very rewarding in the end. We did have to tweak a few little food items we wanted to include because we were unable to get some of the ingredients that we wanted. But, as far as menus, it's still very Fratelli Paradiso.
What’s something that’s unique to Tokyo?
The energy in Tokyo is so unique, it’s really a place where you can find anything. You could be sitting around at 3am and say "I feel like drinking daiquiris in a Cuban style bar, listening to bellowing techno" and someone would say, “I know a place."
I love the food scene, the wine scene, the music scene, the fashion scene; the stimuli in Tokyo is incredible. Then there's this modern versus traditional dichotomy, where you're getting all this wonderful tradition mixed in with this great futurism.
The city really does get under your skin. I've been back in Sydney for five weeks and am really starting to miss it.
Are you planning on opening any other locations?
We’re talking about a second location in Tokyo, but it may not be until next year, or perhaps another in Australia. There are a few options for us at the moment, we’re just deciding which one's going to be better for us and which one we're going to be able to manage.
We’re very hands-on with our businesses, involved in the whole fabric of the organisation. That's why it's very hard for us to expand, it takes time.
What about the accessibility of fresh produce? What's it like in Japan versus Australia?
We've approached and worked with a few farmers in Tokyo who are great. The seafood is fantastic. We get some things imported from Italy when it comes to cheeses and salami. For our meat, we use a cross between Japanese and Australian. Certain things have been harder to get, such as pork products and some vegetables. We’ve worked really hard to research everything that we needed and it has come together really well.
What was the biggest challenge you've faced in opening this restaurant? Did anything really surprise you?
We didn't want to be just another Italian-Japanese restaurant, we wanted to be brand Fratelli Paradiso. You have to resist the temptation to try and change to the way that people are or the way they work or eat. So that was the biggest challenge, keeping the brand true.