From its humble beginnings as a small ice cream parlour that opened on Portimão’s riverside in the early ’80s, today, you can’t visit the Algarve ­ and now Lisbon, for that matter ­ without seeing the Nosolo logo somewhere on your travels. It’s a name that’s on everyone’s lips, and one that has become synonymous with delicious pizzas, poolside cocktails and summer parties with the sand beneath your feet. With at least a dozen establishments specialising in everything from artisanal ice cream and authentic Italian pizzas to sophisticated settings with the best national and international DJs, the Nosolo Group is easily one of the most successful businesses in the country. But its roots, just like those of the three Italian brothers who created it, are right here in the Algarve. It all started when Marco Lorenzi, the middle brother of the three, left his home of Bergamo in Italy to open an ice cream parlour in his Portuguese mother’s hometown of Portimão in 1982. He called it Bella Italia, which prided itself on selling ice cream using artisanal methods and local ingredients.

As it became more successful, Marco built further infrastructures, including the Nosolo Gelato artisanal ice cream factory in Parchal, a defining move for the group that truly propelled the expansion of the brand and consolidated the market position of the Nosolo Group. It wasn’t long before his two brothers, Franco and Filippo, had joined him.

“They are something of a triumvirate, in that their strengths and personalities are very different but also complementary,” says Raphaël Jerónimo, franchising coordinator and Filippo’s right-hand man at the group’s headquarters in Lagoa. “Marco was the pioneer; he is the one with the vision and he usually has the final say in any decisions regarding changes in the brand (…). Franco, perhaps because he is the youngest, is more linked to the image, he has a bolder approach to advertising and social media, and is always looking to renew the image. He isn’t afraid to experiment. Filippo worked for many years and helped develop his father’s metalwork company in Bergamo and so has a more industrialised approach. He was the driving force behind the group’s reorganisation, the franchising and the professionalisation of all the different branches.”

It is this united front that has taken the group ­ formed officially in 2004 ­ to where it is today. Alongside Cletonina, the restaurant and wine cellar in Praia da Rocha which opened in 1985 and whose name is a combination of the Lorenzi brothers’ parents’ ­ Anacleto and Adelina ­, the original ice cream parlour grew to become Nosolo Italia Portimão.

The Nosolo Italia name soon expanded beyond the municipality, with locations in Albufeira Montechoro and Vilamoura Marina, and later at Portimão Marina and Albufeira Marina. A winning formula since its inception, the restaurant concept serves authentic Italian pizzas and pastas and other specialities, as well as snacks and the now-famous ice cream made using traditional Italian recipes from fresh, local produce and which, according to Raphaël, is the “base of the Nosolo pyramid”.

In the group’s mission to constantly innovate, the first NoSoloÁgua space opened on Falésia beach in Vilamoura in 2001 and became one of the hottest spots on the region’s summer party calendar. However, it was the opening of NoSoloÁgua Portimão five years later that placed the brand well and truly on the map. Considered the jewel in the Nosolo crown, the poolside setting of this restaurant and bar added a touch of glamour and sophistication to Portimão Marina. A location like few others in this part of the Algarve, with an oriental-inspired décor featuring furniture and decorative pieces imported from Southeast Asia, the restaurant offers an international à la carte menu, including Portuguese, French, Mexican and Japanese cuisine, as well as an extensive snack menu. With the private beach opened two years later, flaunting a beach-chic décor, loungers on the sand and the iconic Sunset Parties, both venues offer bright cocktails and laid-back vibes by day and flashy parties filled with famous faces by night. With the glamorous Água Moments in Vilamoura and a further two Nosolo Italia franchises in Lisbon, the future is still shining brightly for the Nosolo Group. But there is more than meets the eye, notes Raphaël, and there’s a whole other world “behind the curtain” that ensures the Nosolo machine runs smoothly. The nerve centre of the whole operation, the No Solo Lda headquarters in Lagoa deals with all the company’s logistics, from IT, accountancy and marketing to international purchasing and catering, and even has an industrial kitchen for some food preparation and recipetesting. “Logistically it means we can deal with all the front lines so that each unit can focus solely on the service and the clients,” explains the coordinator. All fresh produce comes from local and regional producers, and most of the furniture and tableware is Portuguese. However, in keeping with their philosophy that “you can’t fake authenticity”, products like real mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, pancetta and flour are all imported from Italy. And while the recipe is the same, each restaurant makes its own pizza base, with the group’s pizzaiolos having even received training at Italy’s pizza academy. But beside the strict quality control, the company also takes its social responsibility seriously and values its human capital.

According to Raphaël, Nosolo is a truly multicultural company and one that takes care of its own, with the opportunity of career progression a real prospect, providing job satisfaction and security in an industry that is notoriously seasonal. Looking to grow even further ­ although definite plans are yet to be confirmed ­, the Nosolo Group is a force to be reckoned with, driven in no uncertain terms by three brothers who have brought a taste of Italy to their mother’s homeland. “They might have fiery debates if they don’t agree on something, but to the rest of the world they are a common and united front,” sums up Raphaël. “Not many people can boast about working with family, especially for almost 33 years, and continue to grow. It’s a real achievement. There may be disagreements but the unit always prevails, and that has been true for 33 years.” |

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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