Alessandro Nannini cafe chain doing Asian circuit with KL outlet opening by March

ALESSANDRO Nannini, the Italian eatery set up by a former Formula One ace of the same name, is set to expand in Asia.

After two outlets in three years - one in Jakarta and another in Singapore - the Sienese restaurant will have a presence in Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers by next March. Three more locations are being explored, according to the general manager of the Singapore branch, James Jabbar.

The KL outlet will be about the same size as the one here at the Paragon, where it has done reasonably despite starting off right smack in the middle of the economic crisis in 1998.

Alessandro Nannini was a prominent Italian F1 driver who started his racing career on motorcycles back in 1975. After winning several championships on two wheels, he moved over to cars. Having clinched titles in famous circuits such as Le Mans, he finally graduated to Formula One, where he jostled with the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. He was with the Ford-Benetton team when their helicopter crashed, severing his right forearm. Although doctors managed to sew the limb back and Nannini tried to make a comeback, he failed. So he retired gracefully from the tracks and joined his family business: baking and brewing coffee. He started a cafe serving traditional Sienese pastries, and soon there was a second one.

JM Investments, an Indonesian group, holds the Alessandro Nannini franchise for Asia. Among other businesses, the group also opened Planet Hollywood in Bali, and Lawry's (prime rib and roast beef) in Jakarta and Singapore. The Singapore outlet has a broad menu of Italian fare, and is known for its fresh sauces, al dente pastas, thin-crust pizzas, and excellent wines and champagnes. And of course, the coffee takes the chequered flag.