What happens when a Financier turns into a Restaurateur
Dr Roberto Ugolini (Managing Director of Ocean Catering Co., Ltd.) is a 53 year old native of Italy who gave up the game of managing other peoples’ money and assets, pulled up his roots and decided to invest in himself by starting afresh in the catering business here in Thailand and more particularly in Phuket.
Dr Ugolini started his working life with UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) specializing in wealth management, investment banking, asset management and business banking for clients. 15 years ago he moved to Bangkok as Resident Manager for an Italian Banking Company in Silom Road and stayed there for 4 years, still involved with the management of wealth. Eventually however, he reached a turning point and left the world of finance. Coming to Phuket on holiday, he bought 3 units at Royal Phuket Marina with the intention of opening the ‘Limoncello’ restaurant.
“We had to move fast to get the place open in time or the launch of the Royal Phuket Marina’s international brochure.” explained Roberto, “Luckily, I got a lot of help and advice from my friend, Danoff Bille, who is the owner of the original Limoncello in Bangkok.”
Limoncello is a refreshingly bright and elegant restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating located in Royal Phuket Marina, the creation of another Italian entrepreneur, Gulu Lalvani. However, although established as recently as 2007, already it is going to change: “After two years we intend to improve the restaurant, but still maintain our standard of top quality Italian food for lunch and dinner, together with a selection of superb wines. We will also change the name to ‘Ugolini’ my family name.”
Although this new restaurant is now well established still Dr Ugolini is not satisfied. About a year ago he took the opportunity to buy ‘Watermark’, another restaurant located in Boat Lagoon Marina next door. It was a bold move in a time of economic downturn but as he explains: “The Watermark has been established since 2002 and is a strong company. Like Limoncello it is a dockside brasserie with stunning marina views but it is also a winner of Thailand Tattler Best Restaurants awards in 2004 – 2008 and the quality of service and food keeps locals and tourists coming back on a regular basis.
“In fact,” continued Dr Ugolini, “we intend to expand our operations not only in Thailand but globally. We will open more Italian restaurants in Cambodia and Vietnam with the name ‘Ugolini’, and later this year, in October, we will open a ‘Watermark’ in Rome. This will be closely followed by more Watermarks in Milan and Paris. ‘Ugolini’ will be our trade name for Italian cuisine in Asia and ‘Watermark’ our name for Thai food in Europe.
Although a newcomer to the catering business, Roberto is backed by excellent support from more experienced restaurateurs and staff, and certainly seems to have found the secret of success in enjoying his new vocation.
“I do this for my pleasure. My restaurants are places where I can invite my friends to come and enjoy good food and wine.”
For those of you not too familiar with the location of the two marinas – and the restaurants, they are right next door to each other on the east coast of Phuket, about 7km north of Phuket town on the Thepkrasatri Road. Either brasserie is well worth a visit, even if only to view the yachts whilst savouring the delightful food and drink.