I ate at the legendary Bristol restaurant that’s been open for 41 years but likely to close in a few months

It’s the last business on a site bought by developers to build flats so the clock is ticking
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There aren’t many old-school family-run Italian restaurants left in Bristol. So far this year, we’ve lost Vincenzo’s on Park Street, which closed after 52 years, and earlier this month we said ‘arrivederci’ to La Grotta on Union Street after 42 years.

And the next legendary Italian restaurant to close its doors could well be Don Giovanni’s, the restaurant opposite Temple Meads run by chef Andrew Firetto for the past 41 years. It’s more a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Don Giovanni’s will close because it’s the last remaining business on a site earmarked for around 400 flats.

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The site - formerly a Peugeot car dealership - was bought by property developers in 2021 and is part of Bristol City Council’s Temple Quarter and St Philip’s Marsh Regeneration Area. But for the time being, it’s business as usual for Mr Firetto and his partner, Jo, and the restaurant is still as busy as ever.

Everything else is in the hands of solicitors and no date has been confirmed, although they are still taking Christmas bookings so it’s likely to be open for at least six months.

For the legions of Don Giovanni’s fans who have been eating there over the past 41 years, now is the time to enjoy the restaurant more than ever.

This is one of Bristol’s best-loved old-school restaurants and many of the people who eat there regularly will be at a loss if and when it closes. Hopefully, the owner will relocate the business when the time comes.

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I’ve been eating at Don Giovanni’s with my own family for at least half the time it has been open, although my parents took me there in the 1980s.

Like many regulars, it’s one of those restaurants that has always been there when you needed it for whatever occasion. It has never let me down, and there aren’t many places I can say that about.

The interior is just as timeless with its gingham-check tablecloths, tables with fresh flowers and candles, and generous portions of Italian favourites. The menu has barely changed in four decades, with its pizzas, pasta dishes, risottos, fish specials and steaks.

The traditional interior of Don Giovanni’s, which has been open for 41 yearsThe traditional interior of Don Giovanni’s, which has been open for 41 years
The traditional interior of Don Giovanni’s, which has been open for 41 years

There’s a huge specials board above the open-view kitchen at the back, where Mr Firetto still cooks every day, as he has since he opened the place in 1982 to fulfil father Giuseppe’s dream of an authentic Sicilian restaurant in the city he made his home.

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It was as busy as ever when we visited Don Giovanni’s this week, with a mix of families and young couples - several generations of customers.

And the food was as generous and well executed as ever, starting with a beautifully presented platter of large shell-on prawns sautéed in garlic butter and flambéed in brandy (£10.95).

Don Giovanni’s is one of those rare restaurants that still knock out classics like Scaloppina Milanese (breaded veal escalope with spaghetti in tomato and basil sauce) and fillet Rossini (steak topped with pâté and Madeira and mushroom sauce).

Prawns sautéed in garlic butter and flambéed in brandyPrawns sautéed in garlic butter and flambéed in brandy
Prawns sautéed in garlic butter and flambéed in brandy

I went for the old-school Filetto di Manzo Diane (£28.95) - a perfectly cooked fillet steak under a duvet of rich, creamy sauce of mushrooms, French mustard and brandy. It was served with a wedge of excellent Dauphinoise potato with plenty of garlic, and a glossy caponata - a sort of Sicilian version of ratatouille with aubergines, tomatoes, onions and capers.

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To finish, there were old staples like tiramisu, profiteroles, lemon and raspberry creme brûlée but I stuck with my own Don Giovanni’s favourite of panettone bread and butter pudding with pistachio ice cream. Moist, studded with fruit and a hint of Amaretto, it was deliciously retro.

Although nobody knows how long it will be there, the clock is clearly ticking for Don Giovanni’s so now is the time to book a table whether you’re a regular or you’ve never been before.

Traditional, family-run Italian trattorias like this won’t be around forever, sadly, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Enjoy it while you can.

Don Giovanni’s, 1 Victoria House, Temple Gate, Redcliffe, Bristol, BS1 6PW.

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