Dozens of millionaire Manchester City players tucked into a seven-hour, 15-course banquet at a humble Italian restaurant to bid farewell to captain Fernandinho.
More than 90 staff – from kit men to stars including Jack Grealish, John Stones, Kevin De Bruyne – attended the sumptuous banquet at Sul Lago, in Daisy Nook, Grtr. Manchester, last week.
Just days later the team went on to win the Premier League title at The Etihad.
Head chef and owner, Aldo Lucci, laid on 15 courses for the diners, with dishes including king prawn arancini, braised octopus and penne with porcini mushrooms and black truffle.
And for dessert, the team was treated to tiramisu, rum baba with pistachio cream and Delizia al Limone, among other classic Italian sweets.
Pasta courses at the restaurant range from £8.95 to £15.95 – well within the budget of the most junior player.
Aldo said that the restaurant was booked out on the instruction of Brazilian player Fernandinho, who is leaving the club after spending nine years at City.
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And during the meal, the captain gave a speech thanking staff and players, before he was presented with a photo of himself, inscribed with messages from the team.
Aldo said: “Fernandinho made a speech to say goodbye to everybody and give them all a message. He said some very nice words.
“It was a speech for all his mates and his staff – and it was very, very pleasant. He speaks perfect Italian. Most of the staff are Italian anyway.
He added: “I met Jack Grealish, and I met John Stones. They’re very, very pleasant, very, very nice. They enjoyed the restaurant and enjoyed the food.”
Aldo, 50, explained that he had arranged the 90-guest party on May 16, just a week before Manchester City’s 3-2 victory against Aston Villa, after he was contacted by staff at the club.
He said: “One of the staff from City said Fernandinho wanted to book the restaurant – he’s already been before, so basically, he booked the party.
Aldo said the team had arrived after training, at around 2 pm, and had a “fabulous” time as they dined on classic Italian speciality foods.
He said: “They came after training about 2 pm, and then they left about 9 pm, and they had a fabulous time.
“They always leave the menu to me. Whenever they book a table, whenever they come to eat, I am the one who decides what they eat.
“So we did about 15 different courses. I had to get the burrata, like a mozzarella, I get that especially brought in direct from Italy, for the players, they quite enjoy that.
“We also do octopus, stuff like that. They enjoy all kinds of dishes.”
“They had a few drinks with the meal, but nothing over the top. It was just nice and pleasant. They brought all the staff with them – all the backroom staff as well.”
He added: “The way I do the menu is I do different dishes, and we put them at the centre of the table, and they share with one another.”
Aldo’s restaurant, a ristorante pizzeria, set in the rolling countryside around Oldham, is a regular favourite with footballers who play at both City and Manchester United.
He has also welcomed judges, coronation, film stars and X-factor winners in the past.
But the owner said it was a special joy to serve all of the City team, and their backroom staff, at once for the first time.
He said: “We used to have (Cristiano) Ronaldo coming to the restaurant as well – with lots of people from show business.
“And when Roberto Mancini was there at City, we used to have the staff and players coming to the restaurant.
“We have been here 22 years, and we often see footballers and people from music industry backgrounds.
“But I hadn’t met some of them before. It was nice to see them all. All the medical staff and the physios, they also came to the restaurant – all the doctors.”