In 1987 the Palladio restaurant first opened its doors. At that time there were but few Italian restaurants in Amsterdam. The walls of the restaurant on the Elandsgracht were already a century old. The Italian Umberto Bisignano was the only one with any knowledge of catering and helped us get started – we were just a group who improvised, but our hearts were in the right place.
Thirty years is a long time – so long that it is inevitable that there would be hazards and pitfalls, and so there were, particularly in the restaurant’s early years.
The place has always been important to us and it still is. To be honest we must confess that our desire to work did not always coincide with what was necessary. Instead of running a good Italian restaurant in Amsterdam, we were more Italians with, well a restaurant in Amsterdam – if you see what I mean.
Of course there were the inevitable ups and downs, and I think there were a couple of times when we almost had to close down: but we kept going, our ideas uniting us. After a few years we saw that we had created something unique – our guests left the restaurant with smiles on their faces!
This is a story we would like to share with you, in particular the part that is about what we at the Palladio call "La Svolta del Palladio" or the “Turning-point for the Palladio”.
This is the story: we had just celebrated eighteen years of the restaurant and were going through one of its most difficult periods. Then one evening, after closing time, our chef Vezio told us cheerfully that his kitchen was the finest in Amsterdam. I frowned and told him, “So you are the best chef in Amsterdam? Then in that case, I’ll get you what you deserve – the praise of restaurant critic Johannes van Dam!'
Johannes van Dam’s name was well-known, or should I say feared, among Dutch restaurateurs. He was a critic who could decide your fate in the blink of an eye – he had the power to destroy your restaurant or make your fortune. And we were ready for the latter – almost desperately in search of better times, but sadly the Palladio was not on Van Dam’s agenda.
Probably the most he had done was knocked on the big window on his way to our more fortunate competitors, but we didn’t give up, in fact we made it our mission to get Van Dam into our restaurant, whatever it took. To do so we thought of something special.
Obviously in all the years the restaurant had been open a lot had happened that made great – and funny- stories: we decided to collect all these stories and print them on place mats in exactly the same lay-out as a Johannes van Dam article and always with the same big headline -‘we’ve been going eighteen years without Johannes van Dam, and that’s fine by us!’
Sometimes clients fidgeted in their chairs when paying their bill and we saw pretty quickly that we would have to explain the story on the placemats. Clients began to talk about our stories, but sadly that did not improve out situation much.
That was until the day an old friend dropped into the restaurant. He was called William and when he read the story on his placemat he burst out laughing. It turned out that Johannes van Dam was a good friend of his and he planned to see him the next day. Immediately chef Vezio brought him a grappa and a bit later another.
William asked ´you do know that Johannes could ruin you?” I can still remember I stared into William’s eyes and replied, “My friend, have you noticed that you are our only guest this Sunday evening? And you aren’t really a client but a friend! So what is there to ruin?” We had a good laugh at that, and William emptied his glass.
Then it happened – finally Johannes van Dam came to the Palladio, and it was the turn of chef Vezio who luckily excelled himself. Palladio scored an easy 9 with a good review in the influential newspaper "Het Parool". Then we did see a difference – for a few summers it was so busy in the restaurant that there was scarcely any room for us.
Since then the Palladio story hasn’t changed much: the story that we call "La svolta del Palladio", because it was that night we discovered the real face of the place – it is place where friends meet to enjoy good food and endlessly swop stories. Since then we have regarded this as our standard and we are still doing well, but there will always be change – we’ve removed our bar and renovated the kitchen, which is now much bigger than thirty years ago, and much nicer.
However, we still work with the same people we worked with thirty years ago - Douwe Walinga, our wine importer and Gerard, who keeps our machines running, Mario who provides our delicious original Italian products, Maurizio, Antonio and many others. We see our children grow up in the restaurant too.
The Palladio restaurant is a place of friendship and love: a lot of couples have met in the restaurant and now have beautiful families. Some of our ex-colleagues now have their own restaurants, while others have gone on to work elsewhere – whatever they do we will always remember them and think of them with love.
So now you know it – the story of "La Svolta del Palladio"!
Restaurant Palladio, established in 1987 on the Elandsgracht, near the Prinsengracht, is famous for its traditional South Italian cuisine. All our dishes are prepared with care and love, you just have to try them!
We only work with fresh ingredients. Discover how contemporary traditional food can taste: from homemade pasta and ravioli to vitello tonnato and flan al cioccolato.