Perth city centre has been handed a jobs boost as work gets underway on a half a million pound project this week … writes Gordon Bannerman.
A basement and ground level property in the Speygate which had been home to the Rocablu cocktail bar for 15 years is set to be transformed into an Italian restaurant.
Auchterarder businessman Vito Crolla had originally targeted a vacant South Street bank building for the family’s first project beyond Edinburgh.
However, he has now started work on the one-time John Dewar and Son bonded warehouse.
The project will cost £500,000 and could create 25 jobs for the city.
Mr Crolla (41), whose late father regularly welcomed famous faces including Sir Sean Connery, Princess Grace and Elizabeth Taylor to one of the capital’s original Italian restaurants, said: “Initially we had targeted a former bank for the project, but we were bowled over by the Speygate premises, which are bigger and more atmospheric.
“The amazing vaulted ceiling, arches and original flagstones have a traditional Mediterranean feel to them and instantly we knew it would be the perfect property for our restaurant.”
One challenge for the new restaurant was installing a £25,000, two-ton wood stone pizza oven in the pillared basement to provide the centrepiece of the “Roma” restaurant and cafe.
Mr Crolla explained: “That proved to be a real challenge. We had to think long and hard but we got there in the end with the help of a massive crane and replacing the roof of the garden room at the rear.
“The oven is six feet wide with a hefty four inch deep single stone to handle temperatures of up to 400 degrees. This is the Rolex of pizza ovens and will provide a super theatrical backdrop for our team of chefs.”
The restaurant will retain the huge tropical fish tank popular with Rocablu patrons. Mr Crolla was immersed in the hospitality industry growing up in Edinburgh and said: “It’s in my DNA. My dad would come home and tell us amazing stories about the famous people who had been at the original Vito’s restaurant. He would tease me by asking if I’d like to meet James Bond.
“Those memories are part of the reason why I am taking on this project in Perth.”