Gozo mourns loss of top restaurateur Ino Attard

Attard's passion for food, wine and hospitality made him an inspiration to those in the catering industry

Ta’ Frenc restaurateur and Gozitan businessman Ino Attard, from Victoria, passed away suddenly on Sunday morning at the age of 58 as a result of a brain haemorrhage.

The owner and director of Ta’ Frenc, Attard was a pioneer in the restaurant industry, with Ta’ Frenc being the first fine dining restaurant on the island of Gozo, and the Ta’ Frenc Estates being opened in 1979.

Gozitan restaurateur Alex Scicluna of Jubilee Group, said that Gozo has lost a true inspiration to the catering industry. “Ta’ Frenc was at the forefront of the restaurant industry in Gozo. Though there were other restaurants in Gozo at the time, this was the first top of the range restaurant in Gozo that was successful.”

Scicluna insists that the restaurant owes its success to the passion for food and wine that was part and parcel of Attard’s style of doing business. “An hour before he died he was at a wedding at Ta’ Frenc, ensuring the bride and groom did not want for anything. He has a fantastic team and did not need to be there. He had been in Sicily with his wife and flew back to make sure everything ran smoothly. This is the attitude that ensures success in this industry.”

They were also the first on the islands to pay such close attention to sourcing of local ingredients. The herbs used in the dishes served at Ta’ Frenc are grown in the gardens of the Xaghra restaurant, while chickens, quails, pheasants and other poultry are bred by a neighbour especially for the restaurant, and fresh fish is sourced from a local fisherman minutes down the road.

A new olive grove, with trees from locally taken cuttings, has been established close to the restaurant, which is producing sufficient olives for pressing into extra virgin olive oil. This is served prior to the meal with local salt from Gozitan salt pans and warm bread baked in-house.

Attard’s passion for food and wine was the same from the day he entered the catering industry right until his untimely demise. Though Attard’s duties lay mainly behind the scenes, he was present at the restaurant on most nights, meeting guests and ensuring every minute detail was in order.

He worked closely with long-time colleagues, executive chef Mario Schembri and food and beverage manager Joseph Tabone. Schembri has been at the helm in the kitchen for 30 years and is highly respected for his creativity and consistency, while Tabone joined Ta’ Frenc in 1996 and adds his vast knowledge of wine and flambé cooking to the team.

Like the managing team, many of the kitchen staff have learnt the ropes at Ta’ Frenc and have become part of the family – some nearing the 10-year, others the 20-year mark.

Ta’ Frenc has been consistently voted in the top 150 restaurants in Malta and Gozo by The Definitively Good Guide, with awards for food, and particularly for fine wines as well as taking the best overall award in 2006, and best fine dining restaurant in 2008, 2009 and 2010. 

Attard leaves to mourn his loss his wife Mary Grace and his three children, Rebekkah, 21, Isaac, 19 and Jakob, 16.