“I love Norwich because it’s beautiful and quaint but busy,” says Grosvenor Fish Bar owner and Tourism Superstar winner Duane Dibartolomeo
- Credit: Archant
He reinvigorated a long-running fish and chip business making it one of the go to places in the quirky Norwich Lanes area. Reporter SOPHIE WYLLIE spoke to Duane Dibartolomeo owner of Grosvenor Fish Bar and winner of a major tourism award.
He credits his welcoming hospitality and creative culinary skills to his parents.
And it is those very skills which have made American-born Grosvenor Fish Bar owner Duane Dibartolomeo, who has just won the Tourism Superstar prize in this year's VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.
He said: 'I don't feel I go to work. It is a lot of fun. I liked experimenting with food. When I'm in the restaurant it is like I'm back in my mum's kitchen.'
But despite his apparent confidence among his staff and customers, Mr Dibartolomeo, 57, is a relative newcomer to the restaurant industry after taking over the fish and chip business in April 2012.
He runs the Grosvenor Fish Bar on Lower Goat Lane with his partner of 14 years Christian Motta, 49, whose parents used to run the business.
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Born in Miami, the fish and chip shop owner was one of nine children and started cooking and doing household chores along with his siblings from a young age.
He said: 'We took care of each other.'
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Mr Dibartolomeo's mother stayed at home looking after the family and his father was a lawyer.
'My parents always had a welcoming attitude to people who came to our house and that is how I see things in the business. I want people to feel welcome and comfortable.'
He described the nights before Easter and Christmas in his family home surrounded by food and each of the siblings had a signature dish.
His favourite family meal was roasted peppers with sausages.
After studying psychology at the University of Florida in his late teens, he embarked on a career in marketing and advertising for over 25 years.
Despite working in New York with big worldwide companies he lost interest in the industry so he joined forces with his Norwich-born partner Mr Motta in 2002.
The couple set up a furniture design line in New York.
But everything changed when Mr Dibartolomeo went travelling around Europe in 2010.
He said: 'Christian told me, 'If you go to the UK you have to see my parents in Norwich.' I came to Norwich and from the first minute I was there I knew it was amazing.
'I loved the city because it was so beautiful and quaint but busy. People were kind. Grosvenor Fish Bar was for sale and I wanted that shop.'
It had been a traditional fish and chip restaurant for about 80 years and Mr Motta's parents had run the business for 35 years.
Speaking about the first time he tasted fish and chips, Mr Dibartolomeo added: 'It didn't taste like fast food. It tasted really good.'
He and his partner took over Grosvenor Fish Bar in April 2012 and spent a year and a half upgrading the basement restaurant area - now called the Bunker because of its unintentional resemblance to an Anderson shelter.
Mr Dibartolomeo said the refurbishment happened 'organically' and materials including wood and metal were used because they were inexpensive not because they were fashionable.
He added the batter recipe had not changed for decades and the menu includes traditional fish and chip shop staples to more unusual recipes including steamed cod tacos.
Customers range from people who have been visiting the eatery for several years to families, holidaymakers and people on a night out.
Mr Dibartolomeo said the golden rules for independent restaurants were appreciate residents, being welcoming and serving good honest food.
He was surprised to be nominated for the Tourism Superstar award and enjoyed telling visitors about what Norwich had to offer.
'We are so lucky we ended up in the Norwich Lanes. It is constantly evolving.
'The choice of food on offer in Norwich across the board is good.'
Mr Dibartolomeo added the city, its residents and visitors were supportive of independent restaurants and businesses.