Interview with the Viennese restaurateur Mino Zaccaria

Delicious Italian food and wine are synonyms for zest for life and pleasure, and are loved everywhere in the world. The Austrian capital Vienna offers unforgettable experience for Italian cuisine lovers in its most authentic restaurants – «Cantinetta Antinori» and «Procacci». Both Restaurants have their roots, their parent houses in Florence and belong to the infamous Antinori family, the biggest winemakers and winegrowers in Italy.

Cosimo Zaccaria, or as his friends call him, Mino, is the General Manager of the «Cantinetta Antinori» and the «Procacci» in Vienna, and he is often referred to as the “culinary ambassador of Italy”. Mino Zaccaria was awarded Maître of the Year 2007 title in Austria (by Falstaff Magazin) when he was working for Toni Mörwald at the hotel «Ambassador». Since 2009 he has been responsible for the two Antinori Restaurants and is still full of ideas on how to make the experiences of eating and drinking more valuable and memorable for his guests.

Today we have a chance to talk to Mino Zaccaria and ask him about his passion for gastronomy and the renowned Viennese restaurants he leads.

What is the signature style of the «Cantinetta Antinori»?

Mainly dishes from Tuscany, in combination with other Italian areas like Piedmont, Umbria, Apulia.

What is the key concept behind the «Procacci»?

We do offer a “légère”, or light, type of cooking, easy going Italian food with high quality products, together with our high level Antinori wines. We have selected the regions according to the locations of the Antinori wineries, as the Antinori family is the owner of the original «Cantinetta Antinori» and «Procacci» in Florence.

What is your customer service philosophy?

Our guests should easily feel welcomed and accommodated in order to leave any everyday worries behind right at the entrance of our restaurants. We want to transmit a feeling of wellbeing, being on holidays in Italy.

What are your secrets for attracting customers and making them come regularly?

We do always try to fulfill the culinary wishes of our guests, treat the wishes and guests with humbleness, friendly and still in a very professional way.

The selection of some of the Antinori wines. Photo Credit: Procacci Vienna.

«Our guests should easily feel welcomed and accommodated in order to leave any everyday worries behind right at the entrance of our restaurants» 

Tell us about your career path. How did you get your start? When did you begin your culinary career?

I have been living in Vienna since 1999. Prior to coming to Austria I worked for 10 years in Germany (Restaurant Tantris, Munich). After my graduation from a hotel and tourism school in Italy I moved to England and France in order to get to know foreign languages as well as to see other cultures and different types of restaurants. Leaving my home country at the age of not even 20 made me become independent, self-organized and I learned to compete with all different kinds of situations.

What are your secrets for running successful restaurants?

Invest in people! And with people I mean all my team members. In addition, the basis of our kitchen is good products. And finally – as Mr. Hilton once stated – location, location, location.

It’s a well-known fact that starting and running own restaurant is very challenging. What advice can you give with someone who has the restaurant «dream»?

When somebody wants to earn money, I would not recommend setting up one’s own restaurant at all; because of high revenue expectations you should never open up a restaurant. A better basis is real interest and dedication to serving guests. From my experience, I can state that without absolute commitment it is not possible to run restaurants economically successfully.

What do you like most about being a restaurateur?

Most of all I just love the contact to our guests, the teamwork and cooperation between all the different departments in our establishments. Those are everyday challenges, new and interesting!

Cappellacci with marjoram butter. Photo Credit: Procacci Vienna.

«We always try to fulfill the culinary wishes of our guests, treat them with humbleness, friendly and in a very professional way»

Do you have your own favourite dish?

My favourite dish is homemade Pasta (e.g. Tagliatelle) with black or white truffle. This dish is available at our restaurants throughout the year; only the color of the truffle changes in October and November (and the price).

Which dishes are must-tries when our international readers come to visit your restaurant «Cantinetta Antinori» and the «Procacci»?

At the «Cantinetta Antinori» the must-tries are homemade filled Cappellacci with majoram butter and Bistecca Fiorentina, the most famous beef dish from Florence.
At the «Procacci», on the other hand, homemade Pasta produced with different flour sorts is to be recommended, filled or unfilled, with or without sauce, with meat or fish or vegetables or just plain with a touch of Parmesan on top and a dash of native olive oil (…from the Antinori wineries too!). Right now we serve homemade Pappardelle and the less broad noodles Tagliatelle.

There is a growing trend towards healthy eating almost everywhere. How does this trend affect your restaurants?

Well, Italian cuisine offers many dishes with just fruit and vegetable. Rocket “Rucola” is a typical Italian plant which we love to integrate in our dishes or just serve it plain, marinated as salad. As there is much demand for healthy food we try to fulfill these wishes by offering dishes without meat and fish. Nobody should be punished because of their dietary requirements. Thus, we always try to react very flexibly to the guest’s wishes.

Prosciutto & Parmesan. Photo Credit: Procacci Vienna.

«I love the contact to our guests, the teamwork and cooperation between all the different departments in our establishments»

Why did you choose to stay in Vienna? What is special about Vienna? What do you like most about Vienna?

Vienna is one of the most wonderful cities of the world; big but not too big, and in some ways certain districts are just like a village in the city. We do have a high quality of living, which is especially interesting for families and for young people.

What are the most exciting places/experiences in Vienna that you would advise for our international readers to visit?

I would always recommend climbing up the South tower of St. Stephans church, as it is a perfect combination between workouts and having a wonderful panoramic sight over the old city center; you have to master 343 stairs prior to enjoying the fantastic view through the small old windows! And then there are of course the not-to-be-missed-sights like Schönbrunn castle and the park, as well as the art museums like the Historic Museum of Art.

How do you balance work and leisure? How do you spend your spare time?

In my spare time I like to go swimming. As I have found a swimming pool nearby, I manage at least twice a week to just sneak out (run off) of work to swim a couple of rounds. In addition, I spend my leisure time with my two kids and family; those hours calm me down and I get strength for the next challenges.

What is your idea of happiness?

My personal happiness is finding the right balance between challenging duties and leisure time.
If you allow me a last remark, I would like to state one important point, a kind of plea to (future) guests: please understand that we all, working in the restaurant business, need some leisure time too. Thus, please accept that I as well as other Restaurant managers may not be around 24/7 to meet and greet and serve. My staff takes care of all the different wishes in the same way as I would.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions!

Restaurant «Procacci», Notabili Sala. Photo Credit: Procacci Vienna.

We would like to thank Mino Zaccaria for sharing his thoughts with us and for this interesting interview!

For those of our readers who have not yet experienced the magic Tuscan atmosphere at the «Cantinetta Antinori», the truffle delicacies and homemade pasta at the «Procacci», here are the addresses to check in:

«Cantinetta Antinori»

Jasomirgottstraße 3, 1010 Wien, Austria

www.cantinettaantinori-vienna.at

«Proccaci»

Göttweihergasse 2, 1010 Wien, Austria

www.procacci-vienna.at