When haute couture meets cordon bleu ... mamma mia
You either know fashion or you don't - that's according to Anna Wintour, editor in chief of the style bible Vogue.
And one man who definitely knows all about fashion and dressing to the nines is the sartorially elegant Alex Carraro.
Restaurant manager Alex is famed for his exuberant outfits, two-tone shoes and carefully coiffed moustache.
He is also a founder member of Horsham Irregulars, a group of like-minded individuals who don’t believe in dressing down.
Alex, born to a Venetian father and English mother, says his own style is a sartorial blend of classic Italian and classic English. “I buy most of my clothes on the internet or at TK Maxx. I know all the outlets.”
Waistcoat pockets prove particularly useful with space to store the essentials: moustache wax and hip flask.
Alex, manager of Filippo’s Italian restaurant off Piries Place in Horsham, speaks fluent Italian having spent half his life as a child in Venice and half in the UK.
“It was halcyon days. I can still remember the smell of pressed grapes in my grandfather’s shed.”
But his ‘dual nationality’ can prove problematic. “You are never really ‘at home’. In England you are Italian and in Italy you are English.”
But he confesses that when it comes to food his English roots often shine through. “If I’m away from home it’s fish fingers or baked beans that I crave after around three weeks, not pasta.”
After university and a brief stint working for the Roux brothers in London, Alex moved on and began work in catering equipment sales. It was a lucrative time providing a lavish lifestyle, but it wasn’t to be. Long hours and stressful days took their toll and Alex finally quit his post. “It was my job or my life,” he says.
Alex, whose father built up a tourism business in the UK, then spent 11 years in the trade too and got to know Italy like the back of his hand, travelling around every nook and cranny of the country, as product manager for the company. “I loved it; it was the best 11 years of my life.”
Soon after his father sold the business in 2007, Alex went through a difficult time with the breakdown of a relationship and health issues, leaving the following two years little more than a blur in his memory.
“I desperately missed tourism. I missed Italy and I found myself gravitating towards other Italians living in Horsham at the time.”
But it wasn’t only his fellow Italians who came to his rescue and helped him rebuild his life - it was a little dog, a Parson Russel Terrier named Capone. “I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for him,” says Alex.
“Because I had a dog, people would stop and talk to me. The dog really opened my eyes to Horsham being friendly.”
And more happiness was to follow when Alex met his now-wife Emma and began working at Filippos. “I felt part of a family. My health cleared up and I reconnected with people. I stayed for a couple of years and had a great time. It was very entertaining.”
But when the Japanese restaurant Wabi opened in Horsham’s West Street, Alex decided to make a change and started a job there, beginning at the bottom and gradually working his way up to the position of manager. He loved it there, too. “It’s not just about the food, it’s about the passion that goes into it.”
But then came a disastrous fire which left Wabi shut down for five months while repairs were carried out. “Everything I loved went up in smoke. It wasn’t as bad as losing a relationship, but it was close.”
Alex, 46, eventually found himself gravitating ‘home’ once more - back to his ‘family’ at Filippos, owner Filippo Marziano and wife Tina. There he found that he could make time for his wife Emma and their two children - and, of course, Capone.
“It was like stepping back into shoes I had always felt most comfortable in.”
He often gets asked now if he would ever leave the catering industry. “I always say the same thing: the day I stop loving it will be the day I stop doing it.”