In Monte-Carlo, a stone’s throw from Larvotto beach, La Piazza restaurant has been delighting food lovers with its Italian cuisine since 1996. Despite the recent passing of one of their founders last April, Giovanni Orsolini, chefs here continue to serve wonderful dishes to their guests.

Back in 1996, Giovanni Orsolini and Guido Martinelli opened their restaurant La Piazza in Monaco. Passionate about Italian cuisine, serving generous portions of sophisticated dishes, the pair wanted to bring the tastes of their childhood to guests in the Principality. A glass of chianti wine, dishes bursting with flavours from Sicily and creamy buffalo mozzarella are just some of the delights on the menu. Not to mention the olives stuffed by Giovanni Orsolini’s very own cousins in Ascoli Piceno, a town in eastern Italy, not far from the Adriatic sea.

“That’s where Giovanni lived until he was 17, before going on to pursue his passion for cooking in Switzerland, Germany and then the UK,” explains Karen Orsolini, his wife, who has worked at La Piazza since it opened.

Serving stars of the cinema and music world

“Giovanni and I could have crossed paths in Bristol, since we were both living there at the same time. But, it wasn’t until 1976, when we were both working for Le Méridien hotel, that we actually met,” explains the Englishwoman, also trained in hospitality, who moved to Monaco when she was 17.

We’ve served big names in the music industry and cinema stars too, including a former James Bond

Karen Orsolini, married to restaurant owner Giovanni Orsolini

In 1991, Karen and Giovanni Orsolini opened their first restaurant together in Monaco named Rigoletto. “I can still picture myself pregnant with my first child, paintbrush in hand, getting stuck into the building work!” she recalls. The couple sold their restaurant so they could focus solely on La Piazza, which was attracting an increasing number of diners.

“We’ve served big names in the music industry and cinema stars too, including a former James Bond,” says Karen Orsolini, who strives to treat all of her diners equally, no matter who they are. “There’s been more than one occasion when I’ve chatted with customers and not realised until hours later that they’re really famous!”

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From chianti to barolo

As one of our waiters once told me, we’re one big family here

Karen Orsolini, one of the owners of La Piazza restaurant

“Giovanni Orsolini was very passionate about winemaking,” explains his wife. “The books on his bedside table were a collection of works about wine, particularly Italian ones.” A particular fan of barolo, a variety of grape grown in Piedmont, he would attend the exhibition “Vinitaly” in Verona every spring, on the hunt for new types of cru. “He used to bring back bottles that nobody in the restaurant had ever heard of!”

This is why, today, La Piazza boasts a particularly varied wine menu. “Many guests would come and ask my husband for advice on making their own wine,” tells Karen Orsolini, before going on to add, laughing: “I was quite happy tasting the wine, I left all the theory behind it to him!”

Although Giovanni Orsolini passed away last April, La Piazza restaurant continues on its culinary adventure. “As one of our waiters once told me, we’re one big family here,” concludes Karen Orsolini.

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