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Italian restaurant savors success in Tianjin's bustling historic area

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-09-03 09:53
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Located at the heart of North China's Tianjin, Renato Pegoraro's family restaurant was bustling with diners as the sun set and the city lights came on.

Pegoraro's, which opened in 2007, is well-known for serving authentic Italian cuisine made with ingredients mostly imported directly from Italy. The restaurant's popularity among locals and tourists alike is boosted by its location in the historic Italian-style area in the port city's Hebei district.

Despite temporary shutdowns induced by COVID-19 over the past two years, the restaurant is doing well and has stocked sufficient alcohol, cheese and meat to address potential logistic problems.

Pegoraro's has pulled through the tough times along with other local businesses in the area with assistance from the local government.

"Thanks to the rent exemption policy, I could devote myself to developing new dishes as I don't need to worry about the operating cost," Pegoraro says.

The 73-year-old Italian entrepreneur moved to Tianjin in 2004 to engage in international trade. As a history lover, he instantly fell in love with the area by the Haihe River designed by an Italian architect over a century ago.

The 28-hectare neighborhood features European-style buildings all along its streets, including a public square with an iconic bell tower in the middle. Some Chinese celebrities of the early 20th century also lived here.

"This neighborhood is so Italy. It just seems like my hometown," Pegoraro says, elaborating on the driving force behind the establishment of his Tianjin eatery.

The municipal government of Tianjin has put in a lot of work over the past few years to transform the area into a commercial hub with unique exotic charm and a center of high-end service industries, making the city of Tianjin, home to more than 13 million people, even more vibrant.

"Based on the cultural characteristic and large commercial presence here, we will make the area more appealing to the younger generations and roll out favorable policies for start-up incubation," says Xu Gang, Party secretary of Tianjin's Hebei district.

The area's infrastructure and public services have been upgraded, creating more open space for strolling and sprucing the place up with greenery and flowers.

Businesses like Pegoraro's are burgeoning. Many young people flock to the themed restaurant New Cinema Paradiso to savor Italian wine while watching classic Italian films.

"We host events like a Sino-Italian culture week and exhibitions showcasing Italian goods and fashion to attract more customers," says Li Bin, manager of the restaurant, adding that reservation has surged as the epidemic wanes.

In cooperation with the Embassy of Italy in China and Tianjin Film Studio, the management committee of the Italian-style area is mulling over introducing more high-end cultural projects, according to Liu Zongjin, director of the committee.

For example, the former residences of celebrities have been restored for tourism. A famous bookstore chain popular on social media will soon open an outlet in the area, says Liu.

In July, the area was listed as a national-level night culture and tourism consumption cluster by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China.

The news delighted Pegoraro and his son Gabriele, who also manages the restaurant, for they are both confident that the city and this area are poised for growth.

The restaurant has also launched its official page on the messaging app WeChat where information about Italian wine and food culture can be found.

"I deem Tianjin as my second home, and I will do my best to make this century-old block a more charming place," Pegoraro says.

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