Three hugely popular Glasgow restaurants have been acquired in one of the biggest hospitality deals seen in Scotland for years.

The DRG, owner of the Di Maggio’s, Café Andaluz, and Amarone chains, has bought the city’s two Paesano Pizza restaurants and Sugo Pasta outlet for what is understood to be an eight-figure sum, reports our sister title The Herald. 

And the hospitality giant immediately announced plans to expand both brands, despite the challenging economic backdrop.

The DRG, which is owned by Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta, has purchased the business from restaurateur Paul Stevenson, whose vision for Paesano was to bring authentic Neapolitan pizzas to Scotland. He opened the first Paesano on Miller Street in 2015, which was followed by a sister outlet on Great Western Road two years later. The Sugo Pasta brand was launched on Miller Street in 2019.

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All three restaurants have been major success stories and are understood to be among the busiest in the country, attracting around 22,000 diners per week. The 250-cover Sugo serves more than 12,000 people per week.

Now DRG is planning to extend their reach even further, as bosses revealed their intentions to open outlets under both brands in other locations.

Mr Stevenson said selling the restaurants to The DRG would allow the brands to expand while retaining the ethos and family ownership under which they have thrived.

Glasgow Times: Sugo, Miller Street

The three restaurants collectively employ more than 230 staff, all of whom have now joined The DRG, and had a combined turnover of over £15m last year.

Mr Stevenson told our sister title The Herald: “I have had numerous approaches over the years from a wide variety of potential purchasers, including private equity groups and other big restaurant chains.

“However, having known the guys from The DRG for more than two decades, it very quickly became clear that they were a perfect fit to take Paesano and Sugo to the next stage of their growth.

“Paesano and Sugo have absolutely exceeded any expectations we had of them when we first launched the business almost a decade ago.

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“After visiting Italy and tasting the phenomenally high-quality of authentic Neapolitan pizzas, I decided to introduce that concept to Scotland, focusing religiously on the provenance of the product and authentic, regional Italian recipes.

“At heart, it is a very simple offering but the quality of the produce and ingredients that we use, together with the craftsmanship of experienced Neapolitan chefs, has proved a phenomenal combination.

“We currently serve around 22,000 people a week across the three restaurants and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Tony and Mario expand the business, while preserving everything that’s made Sugo and Paesano so special.”

The DRG came into being with the opening of Di Maggio’s in Shawlands on Glasgow’s south side in 1985, and is now one of Scotland’s largest independent restaurant groups, with more than 20 venues in its stable prior to its latest acquisition. As well as the Di Maggio’s, Café Andaluz, and Amarone brands, it has restaurants trading as The Anchor Line, Barolo, Cadiz, and The Citizen. Earlier this year the company revealed that it was planning to move into London.

Recent moves have included an investment of £1.5m to open a third Café Andaluz in Edinburgh within the grandstand of Edinburgh Accies rugby club in Stockbridge. There are now seven branches operating under the Café Andaluz brand which was launched in Glasgow in 2002.

Mr Gizzi said: “In our discussions with Paul, it quickly became clear that we shared a clear vision of bringing the Paesano and Sugo experience to more locations.

“We have shown repeatedly that we have the ability to take exciting restaurant concepts and expand them in a planned and successful manner, and it is going to be really exciting to do the same for Paesano and Sugo. They are brilliant brands - everything from the signage to the interiors, and particularly the food, is absolutely perfect.”

Mr Conetta noted: “We have watched with admiration how Paul has built the restaurants into powerhouse brands in a hugely competitive market and are really pleased that he will remain on board as a consultant as we develop our plans to roll out Paesano and Sugo more widely.”

Mr Stevenson added: “I know the business is in very safe hands and that Tony and Mario will really look after it. We have a great staff and a hugely committed management team in the company and they will undoubtedly get many more opportunities to grow within the larger DRG business.

“It is hugely exciting and I can’t wait to see how the company develops over the next few years.”

Alan Creevy and Peter Darroch from CDLH were instructed by Paul Stevenson to assist in brokering the deal between the parties.

Mr Darroch said: “It was a pleasure to be part of this inspired transaction and our congratulations to Tony, Mario and Paul for concluding an agreement within a very swift timescale.”