A RESTAURANT has undergone an “unbelievable” turnaround to be named the best in Cheshire.

Giuliano Ristorante in Handforth has been named the county’s best restaurant at the Englands Business Awards.

Lulzim Culaj, 40, took over the struggling Italian restaurant in 2019 despite having no experience.

Despite a difficult start, he has been delighted to see his efforts pay off with this latest accolade.

He said: “It still hasn’t sunk in, thinking about it makes me emotional.

“The restaurant wasn’t working for the previous owners, it was running at a loss and it was a real task to turn it around.

“It’s been hard, Covid hit soon after we took over.

“Since then though we have never looked back and the restaurant has gone from strength to strength.

“It’s been an unbelievable turnaround.”

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Chester and District Standard: Lulzim took over the restaurant in 2019Lulzim took over the restaurant in 2019 (Image: Lulzim Culaj)

Lulzim is originally from Albania but has spent most of his life in Cheshire and Manchester.

He decided to take on Giuliano’s, which opened in 2012, as a way of combining his managerial skills with the culinary abilities of his business partner.

Lulzim admits he is still learning about life in the hospitality industry, including the awards that come with it.

“We didn’t know what the award was until we received a letter saying we’d been nominated by the public and had reached the final,” he said.

On Sunday (September 17) Lulzim and some of his staff went to the awards ceremony at the Mercury Hotel in Manchester and didn’t expect to win.

He added: “It was unbelievable when they called my name out, I had to do a speech I wasn’t prepared for.”

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Chester and District Standard: Inside Giuliano in HandforthInside Giuliano in Handforth (Image: Lulzim Culaj)

Asked what the secret to their success is, Lulzim said: “I don’t think there’s another restaurant like us who connect to the customers in the way we do - they feel at home and we think of them as part of the family.

“There are places that probably do better food than us, places that are more beautiful and there is probably places that are even more welcoming but I don’t think there is one place that has it all like us and there is hundreds of reviews to back that up.

Now, Giuliano Ristorante will be in the running to be crowned the best restaurant in England, with the final taking place in November.

“I’m actually more confident about winning that then I was the Cheshire competition!” Lulzim said.

Chester and District Standard: Lulzim is confident his restaurant can win the national awardLulzim is confident his restaurant can win the national award (Image: Lulzim Culaj)