Italian restaurant, “open bar” and astonished fans… What was this evening with Zidane and the 1998 world champions?

2023-12-05 18:17:50

Gianluigi Epifani is a proud and happy restaurateur. Monday evening, this 56-year-old Italian received the 1998 world champions in the establishment in the 15th arrondissement of Paris which bears his name, for the second time after last January. “For a restaurateur, cook and football enthusiast who loved these people, having them here is a pride, an honor, many things,” says this absolute Juventus fan, originally from Puglia.

Around the staff, with Aimé Jacques, Roger Lemerre, Henri Emile and Philippe Bergeroo, among others, a dozen players now mostly in their fifties spent the evening together from 6:45 p.m. to around midnight. Some (Zinédine Zidane, Lionel Charbonnier, Robert Pires and Vincent Candela) started the reunion with a padel. The quartet then went to the restaurant, without Didier Deschamps, still in trouble with his back, nor a few other Mondialists (Youri Djorkaeff held back by other obligations, Fabien Barthez, Thierry Henry, etc.)

“I am very attached to them,” continues the boss of Epifani, who since 2014 has been offering market cuisine and specialties from Salento, the heel of the Italian boot. Mbappé and Griezmann won the World Cup, but for me, as I think in many French hearts, this team made history by becoming world champions for the first time and also winning the Euro [2000]. »

It all started in Parma

Each time, the Blues defeated the Squadra Azzurra, in the quarter-final (1998) then in the final (2000), after epic matches. But Gianluigi Epifani clearly doesn’t hold a grudge against the French footballers he started working with when he was officiating at Parma: “I cooked food for Micoud, Djetou, Boghossian, Bravo, Sabri Lamouchi, Lilian Thuram…”

It was through Lamouchi, a friend of a restaurateur on the Champs-Elysées, that the now “quinqua” arrived in Paris, to be exact on “February 25, 2002”. But it was Henri Emile, historic steward of the Blues and regular at Epifani who made the link with the 1998 world champions, who insist on their discretion and that nothing filters out of their discussions.

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On the other hand, we know what they drank and ate and, my goodness, they did not have to have yogurt to settle their stomachs once they arrived home:

  • aperitif: appetizer, canapes…
  • drinks: “open bar” with or without alcohol
  • grilled vegetables with cold meats
  • sauteed forest mushrooms with truffles
  • fritto misto (Italian specialty with squid, langoustines and fried prawns accompanied by tartar sauce)
  • risotto with parmesan cream and truffles
  • lobster bisque ravioli
  • two cakes in the shape of football fields

Meanwhile, outside, the most attentive onlookers were inevitably intrigued by this meeting of celebrities which had not been announced, unlike the invitation launched by Zizou to his former colleagues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their most beautiful trophy in his 5-a-side football complex in Aix-en-Provence, on July 12. “They thought it was a cocktail, as usual, so some were surprised,” laughs the owner. They turned their heads, then turned them around, saying: hey, he’s Laurent Blanc, he’s Zidane. »

The prize for patience goes to this supporter who hung around in front of the restaurant with a blue jersey, despite the weather which did not invite immobility. “On leaving, the players signed autographs and took photos,” explains Gianluigi Epifani. They are always available. » And ready to do it again next year, no doubt.


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