bio FRAncesco panella
As an international restauranteur and entrepreneur, Francesco Panella has always been inspired by the stories and traditions which are honored through food. Born and raised in Rome, he grew up in the restaurant industry, with Antica Pesa, his family-owned establishment since 1922. Antica Pesa (which translates to “the antique scales”) was originally a customs post in the historically poor Trastevere neighborhood of post-WWI Rome, where food and bread would be weighed for the community and Vatican City. The Panella family began feeding their hungry neighbors during this restorative period, using the dining room to bless the bread and the backyard as a bocce court. With time, their small operation grew into an intimate osteria, which officially opened its doors in 1922.
As a fourth-generation owner of his family business, Francesco helped to transform this singular restaurant into an internationally acclaimed brand. In 2012, Francesco helped put Antica Pesa on an international scale, by opening its first sister location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Today Antica Pesa is a brand well established worldwide in the culinary scene. It has grown in sophistication, scope, and popularity alongside both its Trastevere and Williamsburg neighborhoods, both of which remain desirable, hip and fashion-forward enclaves for locals and tourists alike. Antica Pesa has been awarded by outlets such as Michelin, Gambero Rosso, Zagat, and La Reppublica for its exceptional work in maintaining nearly 100 years of history through both traditional and innovative cuisine.
Francesco has become one of the most highly praised Italian restaurants amongst his peers, audience, and in the media, with many critically acclaimed awards for his work. In 2009 he was awarded “Cavaliere del Commercio” by Mayor of Rome, Mr. Gianni Alemanno, and in 2011 he was awarded “Cavaliere del Lavoro” by President of the Italian Republic Mr. Giorgio Napolitano. Francesco also continues to work through charitable organizations to help give a voice to those in need. Francesco has spent time working with homeless shelters, food organizations, and public schools throughout Italy and New York. He was awarded in 2011 for his charitable donations and fundraising by Children for Peace in addition to being recognized by Pope Francis in 2015 for his charity efforts. Francesco was awarded in 2012 for “National Excellence” by Gambero Rosso celebrating its 25th anniversary, and in 2016 he was given prestigious an award from the National Italian American Foundation for Italian Excellence for his work at Antica Pesa.
In 2018 Francesco partnered with premier restaurant and nightlife group, TAO Group, for their first joint venture partnership with a critically acclaimed restaurateur. Together they opened Feroce in the Chelsea district of Manhattan in March 2019 and quickly became known worldwide as a point of reference for those looking for locally-sourced Italian cuisine focused on deep-rooted traditions. Feroce is a lively yet intimate indoor/outdoor destination fusing Italian traditions with contemporary refinements, with seasonal menus that reflect the cuisine found across a variety of Italian regions utilizing imported, select ingredients from historic brands and small producers from across Italy with sourced fresh produce from the best local purveyors in New York.
In addition to his restaurants, Francesco is known worldwide as a voice for Italian cuisine through his popular television programs, which air throughout Europe on The Food Network, Gambero Rosso, and The Discovery Channel. In 2011 he began hosting his first show “Il Mio Piatto Preferito” (My Favorite Dish), which aired on Gambero Rosso Channel HD on the digital platform on Sky. In each episode of this talk show, he invited a celebrity and a famous chef to prepare the celebrity’s favorite dish while discussing food and wine. Francesco interviewed Christian DeSica, Carlo Verdone, Mara Venier, Lino Banfi, Marco Giallini, among many others through the three consecutive seasons of the show in which Francesco is credited as host and writer. In 2013 he started a new TV show “Brooklyn Man” shot in NYC, where he shows the most unusual spots of the city for dining and shares the personal stories of culinary leaders in New York. The show has aired for six consecutive seasons and became a book in 2014, published in Italian by Newton Compton Editore. The television generated significant interest in the New York travel industry for viewers and has inspired international travel to the locations highlighted in each episode. In 2018 Francesco began to host a brand-new television concept in collaboration with Magnolia and Banijay Productions for Discovery Channel Nove called “Little Big Italy” the first season aired in the spring of 2018 and has been successfully on air for three consecutive seasons with the fourth being planned. On this competition show, Francesco travels the globe to find the most authentic Italian restaurants in various locations such as Paris, Spain, New York, London, Boston, San Francisco, among many others. In each area, three Italian ex-pats living in the city show Francesco their favorite Italian restaurants, and he chooses the winner of the most authentic. Thus far, the show has been well-received worldwide for sharing the international culture of Italy.
Francesco continuously works to give a voice to the gastronomic culture of Italian cuisine through his work in his restaurants and television programs, but also as a consultant in creating unique concepts and formats within the food and beverage industry worldwide to share the story of Italian cuisine evolution