La Fontanella


Anyone who takes over a succesful business is often faced with a difficult challenge. How do you preserve the individual character of your business and how do you simultaneously add something of yourself to it to make it even better? Tunify had a chat with Nicola Corbacio, since 2010 manager of the restaurant La Fontanella in Hasselt, who can look back on a few fascinating years. 

“La Fontanella has been open for 41 years,” Nicola says. "My father and mother started the business in 1977, after my dad first worked for one year at another pizza restaurant in Hasselt. He then took over an existing cafe & eatery and that's how La Fontanella came about. At that time he was mainly trying to make the best of the situation. The Italian kitchen was still totally unknown here. As a cook you had to make some concessions, so we served pizza, some pasta, but then with cream in the sauce, because that’s what people were familiar with."

"This is how our typical Italo-Belga kitchen originated: we are not a typical Italian, but rather a Mediterranean-European restaurant where you can eat a good steak, a good sole, but also tasty pasta, a tagliata, you name it.”

Until 2010 the restaurant remained in the hands of the parents of Nicola. "In that year I took over the business together with my wife Evi, and that went in a typical father-to-son way: the story of a close family, with the logical ups and downs. You have different visions, someone is just starting and the other must leave ... It's almost like a relay race,” laughs Nicola. "But actually it all went rather well, my father is now retired for two years. When we took over the business, he was still active here, but after a transitional period he took a step back."

When we ask Nicola about the key to the success of his business, the answer comes right away: “Always be present, take good care of your staff and customers.” Ofcourse that’s all easier said than done. Nicola explains how he sees it:”We are a family business, but we don’t have a big family at all. This means we have to work with a staff of 15 people. At the same time we try to keep the atmosphere family-like. I see the staff more than my wife and children. Finding a good balance betwee familiarity, friendship and being ’strict’ is really difficult. However, in my opinion, it’s what gives the best result in the long term. It’s also something I inherited from my parents. I saw how my mom and dad dealt with their staff. My father was much stricter, almost like the chefs on TV,” laughs Nicola.

Odoo CMS - a big picture

Music is almost as important as ‘la famiglia’ in the life of Nicola. “In Tunify, I’m constantly busy giving thumbs up and down to the songs. When I hear a good song, I save it and later I start from that song to discover other music. We’ve also given the iPad a strategic place in the restaurant, so that we can easily reach it at all times. I watch over the music myself: nobody touches my playlists!” laughs Nicola. “We’ve also invested in high-quality speakers. I think it’s important they are able to deliver a very warm sound, because that’s how you create a cosy atmosphere. When the first customers walk in during lunch time, it wouldn’t be right if they can hear the dishwasher over the music. People have to enter in the right atmosphere the moment they step in the restaurant. We’re in a charming building, with a beautiful interior, and good quality music is an indispensable part of the concept.”

You can find the music of La Fontanella in the Tunify music channels and music agendas in the category “Quality Food”. Do you want to know what the finest Italo-Belga food tastes like? La Fontanella is open from Tuesday to Saturday. The restaurant moved just a year ago to a new location with plenty of character at Maastrichterstraat 60 in Hasselt. If you want to book in advance, you can do so at their website.


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