AWARD-WINNING restaurateur Max Romano wants his diners to sit, relax and enjoy authentic Italian cuisine.

The 45-year-old is happy when customers can "enjoy the experience" - and has a track record of offering the best service, including pouring a US President a vodka martini.

An expert in his craft, Max has clocked up two awards running Max’s Bar and Brasserie, on Oxford Street in Southampton

The Daily Echo caught up with Max on a Friday lunchtime to hear his journey from Sicily to Southampton.

Presidential vodka martini

Max arrived in the UK 24 years ago and started working as a bartender at Lainston House Hotel in Winchester in 1998.

It was while at the Lainston he met the late US President George W Bush senior, who was staying at the luxury hotel in 2003.

Max remembers serving the late President during his stay and the occasional fishing trips President Bush would go on.

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He said: “I served the former US President a vodka martini with olives in the Cedar Bar but once I also served him in his room at Lainston House in Winchester.”

Max spent four years at Lainston. He said: “I learnt a lot while at Lainston, in terms of beverages and management skills which taught me a lot.”

He went on to work at another hotel in Cheltenham and many others in London which helped him to build the portfolio for what was to come.

'Always authentic'

In 2012, while working for White Horse in Romsey, Max began dreaming of opening his own restaurant, which finally became true two years later when he opened Max’s Brasserie on Christmas eve in 2014.

Max said: “The first year was hard because I opened the restaurant on Christmas eve. The first months were tough but when people started trying my food, they started to like it and found it interesting.

“At the time I had an English chef, Robert, who agreed to join me for a year. From the very beginning, it was always authentic Italian food.”

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Daily Echo: Salmon Pasta with creamy sauceSalmon Pasta with creamy sauce (Image: Salmon Pasta with creamy sauce)

The vision of the restaurant remained the same from the very beginning until now, almost eight years later, which is to deliver an authentically Italian experience.

He said: “You need to work in a family environment, using authentic ingredients, imported from Italy which is what impresses the customers and makes the Italian experience that my customers love.

“When you come to a restaurant, you’re not coming for fast food, no you sit down, and relax and that’s what people should expect when they come here, to enjoy the experience.”

Daily Echo: Sword Fish PastaSword Fish Pasta (Image: Pasta dish)

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For two years in a row, the eatery won the British Restaurant Award for the best restaurant in Southampton, in 2018 and 2019, something which made Max very proud and happy that his hard work had been recognised.

He said: "It felt very good that we had won this award."

When asked what appeal we would make for new customers to visit his restaurant, he said: “What is important when you come to a restaurant is to enjoy and relax, that’s the main thing.

“And this is a place where you can come and have authentic Italian food, with authentic ingredients the way it should be, without any problems.”

Max and his wife Bojana, 43, take care respectively of two shops in Southampton, Max’s Bar and Brasserie on Oxford Street and Piggy’s coffee shop and restaurant on Victoria Road in Woolston.

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