After catching a lovely and much needed rest at the historic Twin Gables Bed and Breakfast we set off to explore the immediate neighbourhood, the restaurant area on 4th Street. We were going to walk, but considering I had been really sick with an aweful chest cold in the last few days, venturing out into the cold evening air had me a little leery. Henry from the Twin Gables was really kind to offer us a drive a few blocks up to a restaurant called Il Giardino, one of the places that had come highly recommended for this area from Tourism Calgary.
Dorothy, Mike and moi
We entered a Mediterranean-looking restaurant that was just packed with people. We sat down at a cozy table and had a chance to spend some time with the owner, Mike Ciccaglione, and his restaurant manager Dorothy, to find out more about this establishment. Wherever I go I try to get the human stories, and boy, was I in for an interesting one here. I did not realize that I had connected with one of Calgary’s most successful entrepreneurs, a real immigrant success story.
Mike was born in the Italian region of Molise and left Italy when he was 16 years old to study business administration and restaurant and hotel management in Switzerland. He came to Canada in 1962 following which he worked in a variety of hotels and restaurants in Calgary and Banff. He also studied English as a second language. In 1967 he opened his first restaurant called the Prairie Dog Inn which initially specialized in Mexican food.
It’s a cozy spot
As if that wasn’t enough, Mike went on to open the Mexican Village chain of fast food restaurants in several shopping malls and in 1980 he opened the “Pied Pickle” chain.
Logically he decided to expand his business to encompass the supply and distribution of tortillas and other Mexican foods: El Molino food manufacturing was born. This company manufacturers Mexican food products as well as pizzas and Italian pasta dishes and distributes its products to warehouses in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
In 1998 Mike opened “Il Giardino” (the ultimate in Italian food and fun), a restaurant where all the dishes were home-cooked had always been his big dream.
Il Giardino is a popular spot with the locals