Meet the Can Domingo team: Andrea Sanarica, front of house
Whatever magic is created in the kitchen, it is communicated via the people who serve you. Service should be the best supporting actor to any good restaurant. It should never outshine the lead star – the food – but should always offer more substance then an extra. Diners require just the right amount of attention, not too much, just the right amount of knowledge but never arrogance and a service adept at intuitive thoughtfulness. Eating at Italian fine dining restaurant Can Domingo is rather like witnessing a well-choreographed culinary ballet.
Front of house maestro and one of the three founding owners, Andrea Sanarica, knows his profession and conducts his team with casual aplomb, providing just the right amount of everything to make dining a superb experience. Born in Bergamo to a family of foodies, Andrea’s palate was set early in life. Combining both his love of adventure and food, Andrea set off around the world working and eating his way through London, Melbourne, Thailand and China until finally settling in Ibiza.
Tell us your Ibiza story?
I had gone back to Italy after living and working overseas but I realised the lifestyle wasn’t right for me anymore. I wanted to open my own place but the rat race in the big cities just wasn’t for me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow my dreams there. So, I took all my money from the bank and kept moving! My great-uncle had come to live in Ibiza in the 70s so I came to visit him. After three days here I knew it was the place for me and I started to look for a restaurant. I met Alessandro [Barni Spadacini] and Beppe [Vivacqua] and together we made Can Domingo.
How did you find yourself in the restaurant game?
I always had a passion for food. I was very lucky growing up, we always went out to eat at the best restaurants. There was always someone cooking something in my house. In my family there is an innate awareness of food and wine, an appreciation, it was all around me as a kid. I wanted to travel and working in restaurants is a great way to do that. I went to London to perfect my English and then studied Communications and then did a masters in management and marketing. I travelled to Australia and worked there. I worked for an Italian company in China. There I studied Mandarin and began to manage restaurants in five-star hotels and in EXPO 2010. But I always had the dream to have my own place.
How to you describe the style of Can Domingo?
My vision is to keep the service high quality but super familiar, that you are at home when you come in. I like that idea. Good service like in any fine dining restaurant but without arrogance or being uptight. Here, there is no judgement, it’s all about relaxing, indulging, taking your time to enjoy. That’s what I always transmit to the team. Our staff know our customers by name, they walk in and are greeted with a smile, with warmth. People feel comfortable; they come and sit for three, four hours.
You’ve created a beautiful space. Talk us through it.
There are lots of different locations within the restaurant for romance, privacy and celebration. There is the sea view, the garden, the room inside and the terraces – a place to create any kind of ambience. The olive tree is the most requested table for romantic dinners. The main terraces have more energy, there is something for everyone. Diners can be in the middle of the garden or in the middle of the people. The terraces can be booked for private events with dedicated waiters and bar tenders for small parties, like engagements or birthdays or just to get people together. You don’t need a reason to celebrate!
Have you had many marriage proposals?
We’ve had many! Almost always under the olive tree. We prepare something special, candles, roses, sometimes we go to serve them and they are crying! Last year, a client had a table on the terrace; he arranged a secret signal with me so that I could open the champagne bottle at just the right time. We have other surprises too. We had one client, who was from UK and she was from Spain, and they have kids from previous marriages. But the children weren’t with them. He had arranged for the kids to hide in the restaurant and pop out to surprise her. It was only meant to be the two of them so we hid the kids and then brought them out, she was so surprised to see them.
So, there must be lots of weddings too.
We’ve also done really small intimate weddings for seven to ten people, they are always beautiful, just family and there is so much love. And we’ve done really big ones too. I treat them like my mother would like me to treat them. I question everything, what’s next, what will they need, I try to anticipate; I always ask myself “What would my mother do for these people?” And that’s the way I run the front of house. I didn’t learn from a school, of course I had experience working, but my school was my family, how to behave, how to be a good host, how to serve and look after people, all that came from my mother.
Your mother must be very proud. Does she visit often?
My mother has been here many times. She comes every summer to check on us, to see if I am getting too skinny! Without her support I would never have been able to do this. She bosses me around too of course! If something needs to change she’s at that age where she doesn’t have to ask permission, she just says it. She’s my first PR! My best PR. She tells everybody about the restaurant.
Is there a philosophy behind good service?
Each customer is different, with different needs. There is a psychological approach to service; we need to read the client, to interpret the best way for them to enjoy their time here. It’s precious, as they are often here on holiday and it might be the only one they get in a year, so they must get the most out of the experience. That’s what we provide. To create a memory for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rich person or a regular family – every one has their own diverse experiences. It’s my job to read that, to anticipate those needs and provide them with warmth.
Tell us about your staff.
We are always here, the three owners, and this makes a difference; it keeps the level of service exactly as it should be at all times. We have been working with the same two waiters for the last four years. They have been with us from the start. It’s a testament that they keep coming back to work with us. We are a family. We care for each other and for our customers; it makes the ambience very nice to be in.
What do you love about living in Ibiza?
The opportunities. Everyone is equal. It’s a good vibe, lovely people. My work is at night, so my social life has to fit around it. I love to dance and go to parties, and when you live here and every one is on holiday it feels like you are too, even though you are working. When you have free time you enjoy it to the fullest. I’ve travelled a lot; there is nothing like Ibiza and the opportunities here. It’s booming, still. If you do well in Ibiza it means you are very good at what you do because people crave good quality.