Vincenzo Laurito is one of the faces of Giessen’s gastroscene. One of his biggest concerns: improving working conditions.
Gießen – If you do not bite into gastronomy, you will be eaten by it in the long run. Working conditions can be family-unfriendly; long evenings, weekends and holidays are especially busy. This ensures that not only specialists but employees in general are sought in the industry. Decades ago, Vincenzo “Enzo” Laurito saw this development coming – and tried to counter it. The Italian, who has run gastronomy for almost 50 years, also had personal consequences when he took over “Klein & Fein” at Brandplatz in Giessen nine years ago. I do what I learned there, he says. “Only with a different concept.”
Laurito has seen many restaurateurs come and go in Giessen. He trained professionals who still work here today. He is a veteran of the local restaurant scene. In 1975 he came to Giessen; he followed his four brothers who had moved to Germany from 1967 from Cannalonga, a village south of Salerno in Italy. Her father had worked in Gießen since the late 1950s – not in the catering industry. But that was exactly where he and the brothers were drawn to, Laurito says over a cappuccino in “Klein & Fein”.
Vincenzo Laurito: Learned German as a waiter in Giessen
“I was born a lion,” says Laurito, now 62, laughing. One of his brothers took over the restaurant and offered authentic Italian cuisine there. “Enzo”, as most people call him, started there without knowing the German language. Although he still likes to cook to this day, he says he did not want to work in the kitchen, but in the service. One of the reasons: In this way he could learn German quickly. It had not gone so fast in the kitchen, he says and smiles softly.
There are quite a few legendary waiters in the university town. Marco Mazzeo, who has now worked at Gianoli for ten years, is certainly one of the most famous faces of the Giessen gastro scene.
After eight years at Löwen, Laurito wanted to stand on his own two feet. Together with one of his brothers, he opened “Frascati” on Frankfurter Strasse. In 1992, he and two friends took over “Pizza Pie” on Licher Strasse. There he remained ten years; then it pulled him out of Gießen. He worked in Bad Homburg and Wiesbaden, later he was gastronomic manager at Licher Golf Club. “Life does not always go as smoothly as you can imagine,” says Laurito. After returning to Gießen, he worked for a year each in Bootshaus and in Alt Gießen. In 2013, he took over «Klein & Fein» together with his then wife. Lucky for him.
Worshipers from Gießen: fought for a two-day break
The focus of the small shop on Brandplatz is to sell Italian delicacies. Guests can also sip coffee, sparkling wine or wine and eat a panini. The advantage for Laurito: it is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 8.00 to 18.00 and Saturdays to 15.00. It is closed on Mondays, Sundays and public holidays. “I used to work at these times,” he says. “It’s hard to reconcile with family or privacy in the long run.”
Now Laurito is basically living the life he had fought for in the 1980s – as president of the Central Hessian section of the “Ciao Italia” association, an association of Italian restaurateurs. I wanted working hours to change, he says. “We need to make work more humane.” He cites the holiday regulations as an example. Employees are entitled to one day a week. Only: If a colleague is ill, this day of rest is in itself a day of rest. “We struggled to introduce a two-day break for employees,” says Laurito, “but we did not succeed across the board.” Nevertheless, today there are restaurateurs who offer their employees a day and a half off. The advantage: the staff stays true to their job.
Restaurateur from Giessen: “Guests do not order numbers, they order dishes”
And the longer employees stay, the more they know about food, cooking and drinking. Many temps or unskilled people do not have this basic knowledge, Laurito emphasizes. However, this is necessary for guests to have a pleasant visit to the restaurant. “Guests do not order numbers, they order food.” Everyone who listens to Laurito talks about the different influences and mentalities in Italy, and how he travels 2000 years into the past, will have an idea of what he means by that.
Laurito stands in front of the wine rack in »Klein & Fein«. In the background you can see a large mural with barrels, in front of a sign that says “Piccola Italia” – Little Italy. The wood comes from a chestnut tree in his small hometown. Lost in thought, he strokes the sign as he says: “47 years in the catering industry and I have never toyed with the idea of doing anything else.” He will definitely continue to work for the next three years. “Because I like it.” (Kays Al-Khanak)