The boss of an Alton restaurant at the centre of an illegal worker row has vowed to clear the eatery’s name – insisting it’s business as usual and there’s nothing to hide ahead of an appeal.

Gentian Nela and his staff at Cucina Dei Sapori have shown a united front since a licensing committee stripped the Italian restaurant of its alcohol licence in April.

Food is being served and wine, beer and spirits are flowing as usual at the High Street restaurant as the licence has been restored pending the outcome of an appeal.

Mr Nela is confident the hearing – which will soon come before magistrates – will exonerate him and his restaurant after a difficult couple of months.

“There’s a lot of people that work here who I care about,” said Mr Nela, who believes “100 per cent” that someone has a vendetta against his business.

“A lot of the people here are working to pay for university or debt and we’re a close team. I’ve got 20 or 30 people in the payroll here and they all have the right to work.”

He added: “We want to show the community we’re not employing illegal workers and everything is fine. 

“We’ve done our paperwork, sorted out due diligence and there’s nothing underhanded going on here.”

Mr Nela was fined £30,000 after four illegal workers were found onsite during a January 2023 visit by immigration enforcement officers, with another visit following in February. 

There’s been a dispute over the “illegality” of two workers with the restauranteur showing the Herald screenshots of documents in a bid to prove the Albanians involved had the right to work in the UK.

But the EHDC licensing sub-committee hearing wasn’t delayed amid claims of a processing lag, resulting in the restaurant having its alcohol licence revoked.