… Meet the man behind Melisi — the new Italian in Ruislip!
We are all curious when a new cafe or restaurant opens nearby, and that’s why I simply had to find out more about Melisi, our new local Italian restaurant. If you have not visited Melisi yet, you can’t miss it. It’s on a corner of the Ruislip Highstreet — great location I thought, and handy for families as the lil ones can enjoy watching the cars and people go by whilst you all tuck into a lovely meal. You have to check out their funky Pennytop Bar! I asked the owner a few questions about himself and the business, so let’s meet the man behind Melisi.
1. Tell us about yourself and your passion for Italian food
My name is Gananath Ediriwira (people call me Gaz for short). I am half Italian and half Sri Lankan. Having grown up in London with an Italian mother, I had the great fortune of growing up with real Italian food at home. As I got older, I realised that almost all Italian restaurants in London serve a very anglacised version of Italian food, which Italian people (myself included) do not consider to be real Italian food. As a young adult I became increasingly frustrated by this to the point where I avoided going out to Italian restaurants and eventually decided to start my own restaurant which wouldn’t primarily be focused on maximising profits, but rather be focused on producing real italian food, using fresh ingredients sourced from Italy, using traditional cooking methods.
Melisi is my first food business, I am a law graduate and my professional background is in finance and tax. I spent over 10 years working in the City for an accountancy firm and then an investment bank until 2016 when I chose to give it up and start Melisi.
Whilst food does not run in the family from a professional perspective, it very much runs in the family as a passion. My mother is the stereotypical Italian mother, who only likes to prepare food the Italian way and feed her children and anyone else with large amounts of Italian food! My father is also very passionate about cooking, although his cooking had more Asian influences. They both taught me to cook from a young age and as a result I began baking and preparing cakes and desserts alongside my mother from the age of 12/13 and have continued that passion until today.
2. Tell us more about Melisi
Melisi launched in Ruislip on 25 June 2016. Melisi is aimed at providing local and surrounding residents with true Italian food. We operate as a cafe in the mornings and afternoons, and a pizzeria & restaurant at lunch and dinner.
I have designed the small space with an open plan kitchen for all to be able to see what we are doing and therefore to have complete transparency with our customers. This is important so that customers can see that we are being hygienic (we recently received our 5 star hygiene rating from Hillingdon Council) and also see that we are using fresh ingredients when preparing their dishes and that dishes are being prepared on the spot. It also makes it a lot more interesting for the customers so that they can experience the theatre of the kitchen and what usually happens behind closed doors.
We import our ingredients from Italy, which are delivered fresh every day so that we can ensure that we are providing customers with the best possible product every time. We only have one freezer on site, which is used for our gelato, other than that we only have fridges where we store our fresh ingredients. We use organic ingredients where possible to further enhance the products we prepare and really try to differentiate ourselves from other Italian restaurants. As an example, the tomatoes and mozzarella used on all of our pizzas are organic.
Our aim is to prepare Italian food the way it should be, using high quality fresh ingredients and by not cutting any corners in the preparation methods. Our pasta sauces are all slow-cooked, and some dishes e.g. our parmigiana takes up to 6 hours to prepare from beginning to end, but we are determined to do it properly to ensure that we can let people taste what Italian food really is.
We have kept our menu limited to ensure that we can focus on quality rather than quantity, after all we are a very small site and can only accommodate 38 people inside (and a further 20 outside). Since launch, our food and service has been a big hit among the Ruislip locals, we have and continue to build up a nice regular client base, who come and try our coffee as well as our food regularly. We are almost always booked out on the weekends and are now getting very busy during the week as well. Our reviews are mostly very positive, to the point that we are now ranked as the n1 restaurant in the Ruislip area on Tripadvisor, which we are very proud of considering we have only been around for 10 months and are competing against much more established restaurants and chains.
3. Tell us a bit about your team at Melisi
The Melisi team are all Italian aged between 21 and 35. They are all originally from Italy and have moved to the UK in the last two years to live and work in the UK and have found themselves well at Melisi.
4.What do you love about Ruislip?
I chose to base Melisi in Ruislip as it is a fairly affluent area, which is very much in demand at the moment. The demographic in Ruislip has already changed dramatically in the last ten years and this is set to continue, with many young professionals moving to the area. Ruislip has a very appealing almost village feel to it, yet it is still very well connected to the city of London, which makes it so appealing. The village feel is very much emphasised by the fact that people in Ruislip are so friendly and chatty, which is one of the things I like most about the area. I have made so many friends with people young and old, who regularly either come to Melisi or just walk past it on a regular basis.
5. What can we expect to see on the menu, including any desserts for those with a sweet tooth?
Our menu consists of antipasti, salads, fresh pasta and neapolitan pizza. We have tried to ensure that the menu offers ample options for vegetarians, and in the summer will also be launching a vegan menu to cater for the recent surge in people taking on vegan diets.
The fresh pasta options are cooked on request with our slow cooked sauces, which we prepare every morning. The pizzas (our main selling point) are cooked in a huge 1.5 tonne wood & gas fired oven at 480 degrees Celsius. The sourdough we prepare everyday is made using only the finest selection of Italian flours and is fermented for over 48 hours to give it a very soft and digestible texture. We also use the sourdough to bake bread every morning, which we use for some of our dishes and also sell by the loaf.
The desserts (other than the gelato) are all prepared fresh on site, from our tiramisu, to the cannoli, brownies, fagottino and other cakes/desserts which we prepare as specials of the week.
6. What is coming up for Melisi in the future?
Our one year anniversary will be on the 25th June 2017 for which we will be holding some sort of celebratory promotion/event and will update all in the coming months.
Going forward, we hope to be expanding our offering in the following ways:
a) We soon hope to start a weekend brunch menu as well as potentially a wider breakfast offering in the mornings during the week. These menus would include healthier options rather than English breakfast fry-ups, such as fresh fruit platters, granola, some superfoods etc.
b) Our main lunch and dinner menus will have weekly specials
c) We will be expanding our cocktail offering in time for the summer, as these were very popular last summer.
Gaz, it has been a real pleasure getting to know you, your business and your team. It couldn’t have been an easy decision to leave your job in the City, to start a brand new venture — so well done! I love the look and feel of your restaurant, your pennytop bar is perfect for sipping on a cocktail or two! Melisi fits in nicely with our Ruislip Highstreet, and I’m happy to hear of the warm welcome you received by the locals. This is a lovely town with lots to do and see. I will be popping in soon, so save me a slice or two of your delicious dessert as I too have a sweet tooth! Congratulations for the upcoming 1 year anniversary, I wish you and Melisi all the best!