Gran Canaria
Mauro y Carmelo

Mauro & Carmelo

‘Mogán is fantastic. The climate, the people, getting up every day to this sunshine. We’re lucky to have made our dream come true here.’

Carmelo and Mauro are the heart of soul of the restaurant Mi Vida, a unique spot that is just a hop, skip and a jump from the marina in the small town of Puerto de Mogán. In the early days of their relationship, Mauro, originally from Milan, and Carmelo, from Gran Canaria, dreamed of a life together. A little over two years ago, they made that dream come true and opened Mi Vida. Their restaurant serves up good times, with a sprinkle of creativity, good humour and a deep love of cooking.

Why did they choose Gran Canaria?

Mauro: Actually, I didn’t choose it. I’m here because of a piece of luck and...for love. We met when I was on holiday. I had a week off work in October and I wanted a beach holiday, so I decided to come to Gran Canaria. It was my first time visiting the island and I met Carmelo working in the hotel where I was staying.

It’s a very romantic story. For the next 2 years we went backwards and forwards, finding ways to see each other every couple of weeks. But we got to the point where naturally, you say “We want more!” So, we had to make a decision “either you come to Milan or I’ll go to Gran Canaria...” We thought long and hard about it, but in the end, it’s hard to resist the sunshine... Throughout those first 2 years in a long-distance relationship, we had a lot of dreams because dreams bring you closer together when you are far apart. Our dream was a life together.

Carmelo: We dreamed of projects for the future.

Mauro: Yes, projects that were easier to bring to life here. Projects that were swirling around us, more than a project. Well, it was a dream-project that has come to life as Mi Vida.

Mauro and Carmelo in the Mi Vida restaurant in Mogán
Mauro and Carmelo in their restaurant.

And how did this project for Mi Vida restaurant come about?

Carmelo: The project came from a daydream, and we weren’t sure whether to go ahead with it. In this daydream, he and I wrote the things that we would like to do if we ever had a restaurant. We used to write how we’d like it all to be, even the menu.

Mauro: Yes, when we were apart, we spent hours on video calls. I remember starting a video call at 7pm and we had dinner together and talked until 4 in the morning. We talked about everything and began to dream about doing things, making a life together. In my head, there was always the dream of opening something by the sea, in the sunshine. But, of course, I thought I’d be older, later on. I’d never have imagined it at the age of 40.

Carmelo: I remember in Milan, we used to go to the markets and buy lots of things without knowing if it was going to go ahead. I used to say to Mauro, “Let’s keep it in case we ever open that restaurant!” In fact, there are little boxes in Mi Vida, that we use to bring the bill and the change, that we had kept for just that, in case one day we got that restaurant. We were always dreaming. And suddenly, one day, with him still in Milan and me here, I told him that some premises had come on the market here. It was really expensive, and I said, “Oh well, there’ll be others.”

After that, I carried on looking from time to time on the internet, just out of interest, because I wasn’t really looking seriously... But that place kept coming up, and the price was lower every time. Until I reached a point when I said “I’m going to talk to them because maybe…” I talked about it with Mauro and I said, “Perhaps this is our chance to be able to do what we want.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Mauro and Carmelo in the Mi Vida restaurant, Mogán.
Mi Vida restaurant, Mogán.

Who does the cooking?

Mauro: Carmelo takes care of most of the cooking as he’s got more experience. You might say that he invents all the dishes. Right now, he doesn’t do any of the prep but he’s in charge of everything. And I’m front of house.

Carmelo: Luckily or unfortunately, it’s me [laughs] The heart and soul of the kitchen! And I often take a peek into the dining room to see how the guests are enjoying the food, to see the look on their faces. I’m watching their faces to check if our diners are happy or not. That’s really important.

Carmelo writing the day’s menu.
Carmelo writing the day’s menu.

How would you describe the cuisine in Mi Vida?

Carmelo: It’s vast [laughs]. The cooking is tasty, healthy, with lots of texture and flavours. Why? Because, in our kitchen, we try to devise dishes with no fat, no cream, no ready-made sauces. It’s all made by us.

You won’t see any tins in our kitchen, ever. We’re always exploring how we can make a dish more authentic and healthier. And plenty of fusion. We like fusion, playing around with products from the Canary Island, the Mediterranean, Asia. There’s nothing stopping us.

Mauro: Yes, we like to amaze diners with different dishes.

Carmelo: Exactly. That’s what we’re looking for, how to make the dish as healthy as possible, avoiding any type of animal fat, making it sufficiently tasty when it comes to eating it. When you’re eating one of our dishes, we want you to notice that it is tasty and also healthy.

Which are the most popular dishes on your menu?

Carmelo: I’d say that our star meat dish, for example, would be the duck magret, cooked in a natural pear and sherry sauce with cinnamon, orange peel and lemon peel. As for a fish dish, there’s sea bass steamed in banana leaves. And as the top starter...

Mauro: We had a special, off the menu, that people really liked, an aubergine pastry with chickpea hummus. People liked it so much that we included it.

Carmelo: Also, the filo pastry with palm honey. We have a coconut risotto for example, that is pretty popular. In general, our menu is designed for everything to go down well with diners, in other words, there is no dish on the menu that no one ever orders.

Mauro: We design the menu, and we see how it works, what people eat and what they don’t and, over time, we have improved and removed things that don’t sell as well. However, on the whole all the dishes get ordered and people like them.

Which products from the island do you like to add to the menu?

Mauro: Mango, Mogán avocados, because they are so tasty.

Carmelo: Canary Island cheese, one hundred percent goat, we’re mad about it; you’ll find it in a lot of our dishes. Our papaya is also used a lot, like in our papaya risotto. As a special, we usually have oven-roasted black pudding in filo pastry with a mustard vinaigrette, our boiled Canary mojo sauce. We also use squid, Teror chorizo, we make our Angus burgers using Teror chorizo. And we use the little meringues from Moya. We do tend to use quite a lot of products from the island.

Who’s currently in your restaurant team?

Carmelo: There are 8 of us in all plus the dog, Marcelo, who is the real boss at Mi Vida [laughter].

Mauro strolling through Puerto Mogán.
Mauro strolling through Puerto Mogán, with the boss.

How would you describe the typical diner at Mi Vida?

Mauro: I think our typical customer is adventurous.

Carmelo: Adventurous people, bohemian. Receptive, very open-minded. All ages and both Spanish and foreign visitors.

Do you have many loyal customers?

Carmelo: Oh yes, foreign residents, local people. From Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and all over the island. We’re very happy about that aspect.

Mauro: Yes, that makes me very happy because, in one way or another, some customers become your friends. I really miss my friends in Italy, my lifelong friends, and sometimes when you see someone coming back time and again, there’s a special connection with them, and that’s really satisfying.

Mi Vida restaurant. Puerto de Mogán.
Mi Vida restaurant. Puerto de Mogán.

Do you remember the day you opened? The first day?

Carmelo: I do remember it. We took €5.20 [laughs]. It wasn’t really the official opening. We opened on 4 December 2019 and, a few days earlier, although we didn’t have everything ready, people wanted to come in and sit down. So, one day before opening, I said to Mauro, “Well, we’ve finished everything already!” It was about 6 in the evening or something like that and I said, “Why don’t we open?”. The kitchen wasn’t ready that day, but we just opened for drinks and took it as it comes. We made €5.20 or something like that.

Mauro: On the real opening day, I remember the first lady who came into our restaurant. I remember that she sat in my favourite chair. All our chairs are different, and she sat in the chair that was my favourite at the time, a very pretty chair, and I said to myself “That’s great!” And I remember that lady to this day.

Mauro, in his restaurant Mi Vida.
Mauro, in his restaurant.

Mauro, what did you do for a living before coming to live in Gran Canaria?

Mauro: Something completely different. I was a great restaurant customer because I ate in one practically every day, but I had never worked in hospitality. I had a very different life before. I ran a child modelling agency for 10 years and it was very successful. We worked with major brands, the best in the world and in just a few years, we had built up a very important fashion agency. It was very gratifying; I was happy there but not one hundred percent.

Hospitality is a completely new experience for me, very nice. Now, I love what I do. I’m much happier than before, much calmer.

How has your life changed since you moved to Gran Canaria?

Mauro: My life has changed entirely. I work much longer hours than before, but I’m happier. We spend 14 hours a day in the restaurant, we don’t have a private life yet. It’s true that I am much more tired physically but, in my head, I am free.

It’s a little absurd, because you’d think that working more, being more tired would make you unhappy, but for me it’s the opposite. It’s physical work that tires me out. It’s robbed me of my free time, but I don’t know why, I’m much happier here. Less time, but better quality.

Mi Vida restaurant, Mogán.
Mi Vida restaurant, Mogán.

Do you think that the surroundings influence this, being in Gran Canaria, in Mogán?

Mauro: Yes, absolutely. I fell in love with this island as soon as I set foot on it. On my travels, I have visited places that seem prettier than Gran Canaria, aesthetically. But there is a positive energy here that personally, I have never found anywhere else. I get very positive vibes on the island.

Why did you choose Mogán? Carmelo, were you already living here?

Carmelo: Yes. Apart from already living here, I believe that Mogán is a really special spot on the island. Although Gran Canaria in general has many pretty places, in my opinion Mogán is fantastic. The climate, the people, getting up every day to this sunshine. What’s more, we’re lucky to have made our dream come true here in Mogán. So, everything came together for us.

Carmelo laughing as he talks.
Carmelo laughing as he talks.

What do you think tourists are looking for when they come on holiday to Gran Canaria?

Carmelo: They’re after sun, beaches, good food, well-being, they want to relax, visit the countryside... There are so many options.

Mauro: I believe that this island’s major advantage is its climate, as the weather barely changes throughout the year. It’s always the same, and more so in Mogán, where it’s sunny practically 365 days a year. In winter, it’s cold all over Europe and warm in the Canary Islands, so it’s where people come for some natural sunlight. That’s the great strength of the Canary Islands: the light, the sun and its lovely weather.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Mauro: What free time? [laughs].

Carmelo: We don’t have any free time, because there’s always stuff to do on our day off.

Mauro: Even more so now that we have decided to open La Pasión, a second restaurant… So, you can imagine the last few months, we work 6 days a week and take one day off, so that’s the only day we spend on the other restaurant.

Mauro in the early days of the new restaurant, La Pasión, Mogán.
Mauro, in his new restaurant.

What can you tell us about La Pasión, your new restaurant?

Mauro: It’s also here in Mogán, in a little square. It’s very close by, so it will be easy to manage because we are close and can pop from one place to another. We’re thrilled because it’s a completely new concept, something different.

Carmelo: Well, it’s a little bit of Sicilian fusion with Canary touches.

Mauro: In theory, it’s going to be an Italian restaurant, but not the classic Italian place that everyone recognises, because Italian cuisine is very complex. It varies widely from one region to another. So, we wanted to bring in a few of those little-known dishes and create a fusion with the place we’re living, because we love fusion.

Mauro popping between his restaurants.
Mauro popping between his restaurants.

And if you had any free time, what would you do?

Carmelo: If we had more time: sleep, sleep and more sleep [laughs]. I’m joking, there are times when I fancy jumping in the car with Mauro and Marcelo, the dog, and looking for places on the island that he hasn’t seen before and where I’d like to take him.

Is there anywhere on Gran Canaria that you’d recommend?

Carmelo: Arinaga is a lovely spot. The promenade, eating in the village and watching the waves roll in... I also like the area around San Felipe or watching the sunset from Sardina del Norte.

Mauro: I’m going to be more obvious, for me Maspalomas beach is just wonderful.

The first time I went, I remember that I was listening to music, completely alone, barefoot and I just started to walk and walk and walk along that never-ending beach. The dunes rose up to my left and on my right, there was the wild sea, letting loose, completely natural. I love waves and watching the sea, I find it relaxing and walking along that beach listening to music is one of the things that made me fall in love with this island.

4 years have gone by, but I clearly remember that I came across all types of people, and nobody stared at anyone else. An old lady or a family with children can be strolling along next to a transexual, homosexual, lesbian or gay couple, who are kissing or holding hands, and nobody minds, nobody stares.

And I thought to myself‘How can it be that in Milan, which is such a cosmopolitan city, if two guys kiss in the street, everyone turns round to stare because it still seems strange in 2021, and here, on a tiny island, two guys kiss and the 90 year old lady or the couple with a one-year-old baby don’t turn a hair because it’s the most normal thing in the world?’

I always tell him that. It’s one of the things that made me fall in love with this island: its freedom.

Which other restaurants or bars on the island would you recommend?

Mauro: Apart from Mi Vida…

Carmelo: There’s one I haven’t taken him to yet, in Vegueta: Casa Montesdeoca. I love it, it’s gorgeous. Another restaurant that we like and that we’ve been to is Valle de Mogán, in the village of Mogán. It serves Canary-Thai fusion food. The restaurant is set in beautiful surroundings.

Mauro: The views are stunning! We also like La Cucina in Maspalomas, run by two Italian guys. It’s a tiny restaurant. They have an eye for detail, the cooking is very good, very tasty and fresh.

What is your favourite season in Gran Canaria?

Mauro: Before meeting him, it was summer but when I met him, he said to me “Summer? I hate summer!” Of course, I’m Italian. For me, summer meant freedom, sun, light, because it’s really cold in winter. Now that I live here, I understand why he hates the summer, because it’s really hot here in summer, but you know what? The things I used to love about the summer are also here in the winter, but it’s not as boiling hot.

Now, winter is my favourite time on the island because the colours are different. In winter, everything is more luminous, greener, the sunset in October and November is really pretty.

For me, November has always been the worst month of the year, the saddest, but here, it’s the prettiest. Funny how life can change! In November, the sunset has magical colours: pink, blue, purple and orange. And although I’m not mad about sunsets as a rule, it really makes me stop in wonder, I love it.

How would you describe life in Gran Canaria in just three words?

Carmelo: Harmony, happiness and well-being.

Mauro: When I think of Gran Canaria, I think of well-being, well-being for your soul; peace, freedom and happiness: it’s a happy island. Now I understand why they call in ‘the Fortunate Isle’.

Do you see yourselves in Gran Canaria in 10 years’ time?

Mauro: I can see myself in Gran Canaria in 10 years’ time as my point of reference and my home, but I don’t think I’ll be doing this job. I love my life now, because I know it’s only going to be for a short time. Right now, I am sacrificing part of my private life for a dream. In 10 years, I hope that I can be doing what I love most, which is travelling. With a base, which can be here and Milan, but travelling a lot.

Carmelo: Yes, we’ll always be bound to Gran Canaria.

Mauro making a drink.
Mauro making a drink.
Mauro and Carmelo in their restaurant.
Mauro and Carmelo in their restaurant.
Gran Canaria