The new Don Francesco Restaurant is dedicated to our founding father, mentor, and friend, Francesco Alongi. Inducted to the British Columbia Restaurant Hall of Fame, Francesco joins many great Vancouver restaurateurs who have contributed to Vancouver’s dynamic and vibrant fine-dining treasures. Francesco – an entrepreneur, epicurean and a true icon and pioneer of the food industry. Born in a Medieval City in central Sicily, Francesco’s father was the owner of the American Bar for the Grand Albergo Belvedere where Francesco, from the age of eleven years, assisted in attending bar and gained valuable experience in wine, spirits, and cocktails. When he was fifteen years old, he commenced work at the Grand Albergo Belvedere as Comis of the Restaurant.
Francesco left Sicily in 1957 and worked in Rome where he gained his initial experience in the food industry as Chef de Rang at several Hotels, including The Michelangelo, The Splendor and the Continental. During this period he had the good fortune to meet and be trained by several highly celebrated Chefs de Cuisine. At twenty years of age, he moved to Paris and worked as Chef de Rang at the Hôtel La Pérouse, where he gained considerable knowledge in gourmet cuisine. In 1962 he was offered a Contract at the Savoy Hotel in London, but a close friend, living in Bournemouth, persuaded him to move there instead and to take a position as a Chef de Rang in that town's then five star Norfolk Hotel.
Francesco was gifted with an extraordinary singing voice, a Tenore Robusto, and in later years, when he had his own restaurant, on occasion would delight his clients by singing at their table. In July 1964, Francesco immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, securing a position as Chef de Rang at the prestigious Vancouver Club and later The University Club, Vancouver, as Maître d' Hotel from 1966 to 1968. In April 1968, he left Canada for Edinburgh, Scotland, working at his cousin's restaurant, 'Caprice', as Restaurant Manager. The General Manager of The University Club in Vancouver had been so impressed with Francesco during the time he had worked there that he repeatedly wrote and phoned, asking him to return to work at The University Club, but without success, until he flew to Edinburgh to meet with Francesco and was finally able to persuade him to return to Vancouver.
In 1975 Francesco opened his own Restaurant, 'Francesco Alongi Ristorante'. Major Celebrities, mostly from the United States and Europe, came to dine and listen to Francesco sing Operatic Arias and well-loved Neapolitan Songs. Many repeatedly returned, including Liberace, Luciano Pavarotti, who joined Francesco in singing Duets, and Dame Joan Sutherland, Charlton Heston and the then Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. His guests aptly named it "Restaurant to the Stars." At the time, there was another restaurant in Vancouver that carried a similar name, to remedy the situation, Francesco channeled his Sicilian roots and renamed his restaurant “Don” Francesco. Francesco loved people, fine-dining, and opera, he cherished interacting with all the customers who dined at the restaurant and nurtured the careers of the staff. Countless hours were spent perfecting recipes and menus, as well as taking a special interest in training staff in the preparation and serving of his creations. Francesco trained his staff in the impeccable style of 'The Old European School', and was frequently complimented on the excellent service and haute cuisine. Francesco took photographs of the many celebrities who visited, including Robin Williams, with whom he formed a personal friendship, Debbie Reynolds, Pierce Brosnan, and countless others.
Francesco placed these photographs on a wall of his restaurant, which he named 'The Wall of Fame', and in time it overflowed to other walls. Today, we honor Francesco’s achievements and with a great deal of pride present the newest and largest Don Francesco Restaurant.
The recipes from Sicily have been preserved, many of Francesco’s hand-picked and trained staff, particularly kitchen staff, have returned to carry on the fine-dining traditions created by our founder, Francesco, and Don Francesco Restaurant.