An ambitious young chef is set to bring the authentic taste of Italy to Sunderland, as the latest addition to the hotly anticipated Sheepfolds Stables development.
Vittorio Farigu, 25, who is currently executive chef at Gino D’Acampo’s popular restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside, will be opening Vito’s Osteria, which will offer small plates of stunning cuisine, inspired by different regions of the Mediterranean country.
The restaurant, which will open in spring 2024 when the £3 million Sheepfolds Stables development is complete, will offer more than 50 covers, and is Vittorio’s first foray into owning and managing a restaurant.
Vittorio – or Vito for short – said: “The idea is a concept I have been thinking about for a long time and it is inspired by the atmosphere of a family dinner. I want to create a place with a specific identity and authenticity; for it to have that feel of being at a family dinner – like the ones I enjoyed when I was little, with laughter, love and great food.”
Vito, whose mother hails from the north of Italy and his father from Sardinia, was born in Lake Garda and grew up on his dad’s native island, in southern Italy. He relocated to North East England– a place he now regards as home – to learn English just six years ago, and fell in love with the region, which he believes holds the same family values as his mother country.
He said: “I feel like a visitor when I go back to Italy now, as the North East is my home. The values of the North East – a love of a family and friends – feel the same as home. I think that’s what excites me about opening a restaurant in Sunderland.
“Mackem people have a strong sense of family and friendship and a deep attachment to their city. That love and passion is something I want to tap into – the whole experience I am creating in my restaurant is about family. I want to offer that warm welcome – relaxation.”
Vito’s move into hospitality began front of house. He worked as a waiter when he arrived in the North East, but a lifelong love of authentic wholesome Italian food led him into the kitchen where he honed his skills as a chef. His career quickly advanced, and – having started as a sous chef in Gino D’Acampo’s restaurant – he quickly rose through the ranks to take up his current position as an executive chef.
His experience front of house as well as in the kitchen means he is focused on the entire customer experience, with every small detail having been considered.
“I want people to see the kitchen. To feel like it is part of the experience when they dine with us. And I want the food, the atmosphere, to create memories for people.”
Vito’s menu is inspired by the true taste of Italy. He recently spent three days in the kitchen of his friend’s grandmother, perfecting a specific type of ravioli that has a distinctive shape and taste – something he will be serving up in Vitos’ Osteria. The name of his business – Osteria – is an old Italian word that refers to a place where locals gather together to eat traditional food and drink wine.
He said: “I am so excited about creating those experiences for people in Sunderland. I want to be the person who looks after people and who gives them that true taste of my home country.”
The restaurant will not serve the traditional Italian staple of pizza. Instead, Vito will be focused on delivering small plates of homemade breads, cured meat and charcuterie and local dishes that could only be created by someone who really understands the true taste of Italy.
Vito’s Osteria will be based in an old part of the venue, which used to house around 20 working horses when the stables was operational. The Grade II listed building – located in Riverside Sunderland – is currently being transformed by Sunderland headquartered architecture and engineering practice Building Design Northern (BDN).
Ryan Doyle, operations director at BDN, said: “Vito’s Osteria is a great addition to our exciting line-up of food and drink operators at Sheepfolds Stables, and the vision for this restaurant is something I think people in Sunderland will love. High quality food, served in a comfortable, relaxed setting.”
The restaurant will complement the diverse businesses moving into the vibrant leisure venue, including Hairy Bikers star Si King; Speyside Distillery; The Calabash Tree and Southpaw Dance Company among others. Planning permission was granted for the Stables’ transformation in May 2022, paving the way for the existing buildings to be transformed into a new, creative destination, for food, drinks, events and entertainment.
BDN has been supported with its plans for the building by Sunderland City Council.
Councillor Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member at Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a transforming city, and developments like the Stables are creating new places for people to enjoy – as well as, of course, more hospitality jobs for our residents.
“To see some brilliant new start-ups like Vito’s choosing to create something special in Sunderland is testament to BDN’s work in creating such a high-quality destination, as well as the ambition we are showing as a city in regenerating the Riverside Sunderland area.”
Sheepfolds will be connected to the city centre by a new footbridge, providing a pedestrian and cyclist crossing, with the wider area being transformed as part of Sunderland City Council’s Riverside Sunderland plan. The masterplan includes number of large-scale developments in the city centre, with the ambition of doubling the area’s residential population and increasing employment by 50 per cent.
To keep up to date with the Sheepfolds Stables development, follow @thesheepfolds on Instagram and Sheepfolds Stables on LinkedIn.