The winner is...Duane Dibartolomeo, co-owner of Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich, named VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar
- Credit: Archant
The owner of a Norwich chippy said it felt 'amazing' to have been crowned VisitEngland's Tourism Superstar.
Duane Dibartolomeo, who runs the Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich's Lower Goat Lane with Christian Motta, was one of 10 people across the country shortlisted in the category of the 2017 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.
The award was decided by public vote - meaning the people of Norwich and Norfolk have got behind their local hero in their numbers.
Originally from Miami, Mr Dibartolomeo lived in New York before moving to Norwich, and has co-owned Grosvenor Fish Bar since 2012.
He is well known for his banter and larger than life personality, how he meets and greets every customer, and how he goes out of his way to welcome people and even offers tips on great places to visit in the city.
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Speaking about the award, Mr Dibartolomeo, 57, said: 'It is amazing. I have always felt this sense of community here in Norwich.
'The people have been so accepting and loyal, and they really got behind us. It [the award] is reaffirmation of that.'
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Mr Dibartolomeo said there were plans to expand the business in the coming year through franchising.
'This is as big as it can get [in the Norwich shop] and we really love it here,' he said. 'So the only option would be for someone to open up another shop with us.'
He said someone had already expressed an interest in opening a franchise in Brighton.
As news of the award spread, customers were queued outside the door of the fish bar at lunchtime today.
Phil Anderson, 51, from New Buckenham said Mr Dibartolomeo was a worthy winner.
'I think it's the best fish and chip shop in England,' he said. 'It's fresh and they do unusual options that are a little bit different.
'It's definitely a worthy winner, we have tried a few around the country, but this one is very good.'
Stuart, who did not want to give his surname, said he had been a regular customer of Grosvenor Fish Bar for six years.
The 26-year-old, from Norwich, said: 'Duane has always been really kind to me. He's a really nice guy and as soon as I heard he was up for an award he had my vote.
'He has boundless enthusiasm for almost everyone he meets. It just seems to be unending.'
Speaking previously, when asked about his favourite five things about Norwich, Mr Dibartolomeo said: 'There's an overall kindness here, people are warm and friendly and welcoming.
'We have a diverse community - we have so many students, people who have lived here all their lives, immigrants, it's a rich community.
'We have a great arts scene. We have so much going on here, and we have a lot of different restaurants and different food types.
'The fifth thing is the community spirit. There is a really good sense of community.'
He said outside of the city, his favourite thing about Norfolk was the beautiful coastline.
Mr Dibartolomeo beat Hull tour guide Paul Schofield (runner-up), Leye Johns from Viva Blackpool (third).
The awards sponsored by the Daily Mirror, coincide with English Tourism Week - a week of events to raise awareness of what the country has to offer.