Meet David Toscano from Cin Cin

Cin Cin’s journey commenced in 2013 when David Toscano, a former lawyer, transformed a 1972 Fiat 850 van into a mobile haven of Italian bubbles and delectable bites. He rolled into the Street Diner food event on Queens Road, Brighton, and Cin Cin was officially born. However, much led up to this moment and followed it.

David, born to Italian immigrant parents in Sydney, Australia, was fortunate to be immersed in the world of exquisite Italian cuisine from an early age. He grew up surrounded by his extended family’s culinary traditions, where homemade salami and freshly baked bread were everyday delights. In 2005, after relocating to London to pursue a career in law, David decided to embark on a new path, one that would allow him to share the extraordinary flavours of arancini, cured meats, crostini, and, of course, handmade pasta that had been an integral part of his upbringing.

Trading in his suits for chef whites, David started catering for friends and family. In 2010, following his move to Brighton, he took a significant step by launching the van in 2013. It was during the subsequent year that David crossed paths with Head Chef Jamie Halsall, and together, they set the stage for their creative culinary journey.

Please can you share a whistle-stop tour of your career?

My hospitality career started with Cin Cin in 2012 when I bought a vintage ice cream van and converted it into a street food van selling Italian antipasti and Prosecco. I opened the first Cin Cin restaurant on Vine Street in the North Laine in 2016, then on Western Road in Hove in 2018 and then opened in Fitzrovia, London in 2021.

What prompted your career change from lawyer to restaurateur?

I was a lawyer for almost 20 years and was bored by it most of the time. It’s a very repetitive job with almost no outlet for creativity. I knew pretty early on that I would have a second career in something I am passionate about and hospitality is it for me.

What was your vision for Cin Cin and have you realised it?

The vision for Cin Cin was to create a modern Italian neighbourhood restaurant with a seasonal menu. Somewhere you could go every week if you wanted to. I think we have made that vision a reality.

From a food truck to an award-winning restaurant, how did this happen?

The short version is launched a food truck in 2013, started pop ups in 2014, ran events in 2015, opened restaurants in 2016 and 2018, survived COVID in 2020, opened in London in 2021 and have been holding on since. In between, there was a lot of hard work mixed with passion and determination. But the biggest factor was meeting my business partner and first head chef, Jamie Halsall, in 2014. We clicked straight away and had a similar vision for what good food looked, felt and tasted like. Together we’ve been able to bring that vision to life.

Do you still take Cin Cin out in the food truck?

Unfortunately not. The van was sold a few years back as we had too many restaurants to run.

Is there a moment in your career that stands out above the rest?

I still remember the end of the first week after opening our Hove restaurants. I had both the Brighton and Hove teams there for drinks after closing, we were all together, toasting the fact we had two restaurants. That felt like an amazing achievement in less than 18 months. I felt so proud.

Who has inspired you along the way?

Brighton is full of so many inspiring restaurateurs and one of the greatest gifts of getting into hospitality has been the support they have given me – Ben and Pam McKellar at Gingerman group, Alun & Dawn Sperring at The Chilli Pickle, Paul & Sam at Fourth & Church, Dav & Rupert at Fatto a Mano… I could go on but it’s a long list of people who are always happy to help you along the way with a bit of advice or even just a pat on the back when you need it.
exterior shot of the Fourth and Church restaurant in Hove

What has been the biggest challenge for David Toscano?

Learning everything along the way. I don’t come from a hospitality background so I have to make it all up as I go along. It’s also a great strength because I can decide how we do things at Cin Cin without feeling I should follow any set rules.

Tell us about the challenges facing hospitality today?

The key challenge is staffing.
There are not enough skilled candidates, especially chefs, for the jobs that need to be filled and not enough young people choosing hospitality as a career for the next generation to come through. Our challenge as hospitality leaders is to build businesses that show that this is an industry that promotes creativity, that rewards capability with progression, and is a long term career.

What needs to change to help restaurants thrive?

Decision makers in central and local government to take the hospitality industry seriously and support it with programs for training and development of staff and for growth of a sector who employs over 3 million people.

What are you doing at Cin Cin to adapt to current conditions?

We are always looking to stay nimble and adapt to the changing landscape. As the cost of living crisis started to bite, we brought back our £10 Tuesday offer – a handmade pasta main with a glass of wine or beer for £10. We also have a midweek offer of three courses with a carafe of wine for £40 per person. And our At Home delivery service got us out of COVID when we could not serve customers in the restaurant but it’s still going because it is a way to reach people who are eating out less or have not tried us before. It’s never one thing that gets you through tough conditions, you need to pull a few levers.
David Toscano and business partner sharing a laugh at Cin Cin restaurant

How important is the team at Cin Cin to its continuing success?

Obviously restaurants are all about the people and that is no different at Cin Cin. We have amazing teams in Hove and London who bring our vision to life every day for our customers. My job is to listen to what they need, support where I can and let them do what they do best which is giving customers the best Cin Cin experience.

What is next for Cin Cin or David Toscano?

I have just promoted one of my London managers to an operations role so he will be taking on a lot of my day to day stuff so I can focus on the next round of growth for Cin Cin so, watch this space!

What is the one, most important, piece of advice you would give to an aspiring restaurateur?

The best advice I ever got was to design and open a restaurant that I would want to go to, that way I would like what I had made and all things being equal, would attract people who like the same things.
I love the restaurants I have made so I can’t ask for much more than that can I?

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