The family story begins in Southern Italy, Caraffa Di Catanzaro, Italy (1946) where Giovanni Maiorana was born. It was one of the most tumultuous epochs in Italian history. Giovanni’s parents, in their wisdom, decided to send him to school for his preparatory tutelage.


When Giovanni was nine, his parents decided to move to Milan in search of new opportunities and a better life. Several years had passed and Giovanni still loathed school. It was at that moment that the twelve-year old Giovanni decided to leave school and work in a local bakery. A few jobs later, Giovanni went on to work at an engineering tool making company which catapulted him into starting his own company, moonlighting at the tender age of 21.


One morning, whilst at work, Giovanni spotted a damsel, Maria, waiting for her friend. It was love at first sight. Serendipitously, a few months later, he found Maria waiting in a doctor’s consultation rooms. A beautiful romance ensued and in 1970 they married. A year later Giovanni and Maria’s first son, Luca, was born. Four years on and another son, Christian, was welcome. Life in Milan, however, was still arduous. Giovanni knew that something had to change and that, possibly, there were greener pastures outside of Italy.


Giovanni recalled that his nephew, Tony Tucci, lived in a faraway country called South Africa. With a brave face, he said goodbye to his family and friends in Italy and jetted off to South Africa. His nephew, the proprietor of a newly established ‘La Cantina’ in Pretoria, suggested that Giovanni open up his own restaurant.


Although he could not speak English, the food was so delicious that people did not mind pointing out their preferred dish on the menu. Customers chose wine by walking over to the cellar and indicating to ‘the Italian’ which wine they wanted – a foreigner who struggled with English could hardly be expected to pronounce Afrikaans wine labels! Armed with the latest gastronomy from Europe, he impressed the locals with unfamiliar tastes. News spread fast and the little café at the airport became a popular choice for anyone and everyone who heard about it. By the end of the year he was able to purchase shares in ‘Villa San Giovanni’. After buying out his nephew’s share in 1983, Giovanni’s other partner decided to emigrate to England in 1985, leaving him as the sole proprietor of the airport restaurant. By all accounts, Giovanni had now established himself and single-handedly introduced Italian food to the northern suburbs of Pretoria. Giovanni began embarking on the transformation of the restaurant. To begin with, he decided to build a pizza oven in the restaurant – an Italian hallmark. This move resulted in doubling turnover in just two months. Once again, long working hours were the order of the day and his two sons, Luca and Christian, were helping over weekends and holidays – both got onto the team, full-time, soon after they finished school.


As the years went by the Maiorana’s made sure that the restaurant’s look and feel kept up with changing consumer tastes and preferences. Christian and Luca can be found sharing and implementing their ideas, hearts and hard work into Villa San Giovanni, carrying on the family legacy of hard work and excellence. Christian and Tanya’s three children (Christiana, Alessandro and Giovanni) spend most of their time at the restaurant. You will find them playing in the sandpit, happily riding their bikes on the premises, insisting on helping their father out in the kitchen. Tanya Maiorana, Christian’s wife, has been running the Villa San Giovanni Hotel since 2008, and is openly praised by her husband for all her patience – few women would put up with a husband spending so much time at work! But somehow this family has managed to find the perfect balance between raising a happy family, growing a successful business and enjoying every minute of it in the process. Christian refers to the last 40 years as merely the beginning of things to come – the family intends celebrating Villa San Giovanni’s 50th birthday by taking Giovanni’s vision to even greater heights.


Sadly, on 16 January 2021, Giovanni after a long debilitating illness, passed away. (Hundreds of people watched the funeral service on Youtube). His spirit lives on in the values he instilled in his children and the wonderful memories imparted to all the people that crossed his path. In his memory, the family is establishing a benevolent trust in his name - The Giovanni Maiorana Foundation – whose objective will be to assist the needy.


The VSG legacy will continue with generations of Maiorana’s to come and whose hearts, minds and souls are fully invested in the business. As a family, they are cognisant of their loyal customers and sincerely appreciate all the support over the years. VSG will always endeavour to give its customers (friends) the best dining experience possible. - Buon Appetito!