At 17, Lello enlisted in the Carabinieri, which gave him the opportunity to have an important life experience. Having abandoned his uniform in 1970, he felt he had to continue the restaurant business handed down to him by his grandfather Mattia.
A few years later at the suggestion of his father, manager of Cirio S.P.A. for which he carried out organizational activities in the province of Modena, he moved to Modena.
Here, in 1974, with his cousin Carmine Pagano, who already managed another restaurant, he opened his first Pizzeria.
The success did not take long to manifest itself, and in the following years he opened, launched and resold several premises in Modena and the province.
In 1975 he married Anna Maria Imperato, who shared his aspirations, always supporting him in his work and life enriched by the birth of Carla and Mattia Diego. The most significant step was taken when, in 1985, “Lo Smeraldo” opened in Pozza di Maranello, near the Ferrari factory. Thus began to host great personalities from the world of sport (including Enzo Ferrari), entertainment and politics.
In a short time, his notoriety went beyond the provincial boundaries.
At that time the Head of State conferred the honor of Knight of the Republic on the enterprising manager of good food, who on 27 December 1997 received a further recognition from President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, that of Commendatore. On the same occasion, his wife, Anna Maria Imperato, received the honor of Knight of the Republic.
A few months after the collapse of the two towers of New York, in the presence of the American Consul General, Minister Carlo Giovanardi, military institutions and celebrities and local finance figures, he organized a dinner event for charity in favor of the families of the catering staff, who died in the attack.
In November 2002, Lello inaugurated the completely renovated “Lo Smeraldo” realizing the dream of transforming his restaurant into a temple of catering, with high-class lounges and furnishings, completely designed to give the best of comfort and delicious service. paying particular attention to all the trappings of quality in every aspect: setting, kitchen, professionalism, functionality.
In the following years, the popularity of the Emerald grew incredibly, thanks to the Apicella family’s passion for great cuisine and the continuous innovation of the services offered.
“A good Chef is capable of cooking everything”. Raffaele Apicella almost withdraws to ask him what the specialties of the Emerald are. It would be too easy to devote oneself only to fish, in the name of Neapolitan origins, or to some typical dish of the Emilian area of adoption. “We cook any dish at the top, from traditional local to the most sought after, from fish to meat to all types of homemade pasta.
What “Lo Smeraldo” really deals with is the quality of the raw materials … fresh fish, only fished and the meat is of the highest quality.
To see and admire the Enoteca dello Smeraldo: seven hundred labels, almost ten thousand bottles, a computerized archive to find the right bottle and an almost maniacal care in order. A large table in the center suggests that the place is also used for special tastings. If the wine list is unique, the Smeraldo is not limited to this and adds a card of Italian oils, with the characteristics of each one and the most appropriate use, a card of mineral waters.
The pastry is entirely made in-house and is unparalleled, as recognized by the many customers who have had the opportunity to taste it.
The attention to detail, which can be seen from the set of dishes and silverware, can also be seen in the menu, large and clearly written, with the utmost attention to detail.
One last big thought for the legendary Pizza dello Smeraldo: Pizza by the meter before this place in Maranello introduced it, nobody knew about it in the area. The Apicella family has proposed it and it continues to be the best of its kind … In this regard, Lello said during one of the many interviews that now this specialty is made by everyone, but that no one can equal that of the Emerald. Now the possibility of enjoying it in a high-class environment is added. “We brought this Pizza, it is we who also guide the evolution of the place in which to taste it”.
When tradition is combined with high quality, the result can only be exceptional. This is confirmed by all the numerous and loyal customers of the Emerald.
Many VIPs, from the entertainment world and Formula1 drivers who over the years have returned to the Smeraldo to taste the dishes of Apicella, including the great champion Michael Shumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and finally in recent times Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
In April 2019 the event “The Legend Mauro Forghieri” took place, a magical day created by Lello Apicella in his Lo Smeraldo restaurant in Maranello, to celebrate the legendary world champion engineer.
A unique party in the world, which has told the Myth through a special journey.
During the evening many drivers who have made the history of Ferrari, together with VIPs and great personalities of the show … A day that will always remain in the hearts of Prancing Horse fans …
Lello has realized the dream of transforming his restaurant into a temple of catering and speed, where you continue to enjoy the best Pizza in the area, but above all, you can taste dishes and wines from Gran Gourmet.