IT'S THE WEEKEND: La dolce vita lives on in Gwent's Italian cafes
2:50pm Sunday 15th September 2013 in News
Carini's Ice Cream shop, Beaufort. The team at Carini's, (left to right) Giovanna Carini-House, Melanie Wertheim, Ann Marie Carini and Marco Carini. (1097464)
CARINI’S, in Beaufort, Ebbw Vale, is one of the oldest cafés in the Welsh valleys. Giovanna Carini-House is the third generation to run the café, which was opened by her grandfather.
“My grandfather came over with one of the Sidolis,” she explained.
He arrived by boat from Bardi, in northern Italy, with his two brothers. The Italians landed in Liverpool, before getting a train down to South Wales and ending up in Cwm.
In December 1921, the three brothers opened the shop in Beaufort. Giovanna’s uncles were next to run the shop, while her father, Marco Carini, worked for the gas board. But eventually they decided to sell, making way for Giovanna.
In May 1989, Giovanna and her two sisters, Melanie and Annemarie, gave up their jobs and took over the shop. She said: “My father persuaded us to give it a go.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s more rewarding and the people we’ve met, they keep us going. It’s just the community here, they love to come in and see us.
“A lot of people come in because they met here and people come back for that.”
Her 77-year-old father still comes into the café every morning. The menu has slightly changed over the years but the home-made ice-cream, made on the premises, remains as Italian and well-known as ever.
The renowned Sidoli’s, which now supplies ice-cream to more than 1,700 businesses, was founded in the 1910s.
Benedetto Sidoli arrived in Cwm, from Bardi, in search of work, at the age of 12. He began selling tea and coffee to miners before opening a café in Cwm.
Around 1946 he opened Sidoli’s factory in Ebbw Vale and the company now supplies more than 1,700 businesses, with 40 employees, and has cafés in Ebbw Vale and Bridgend.
Like others, the cafés hold onto their Italian roots and are still run by members of the family, but continued ambition and business sense have enabled them to grow.
Bar Piazza, in Newport city centre, opened in 1999. It nestles in the corner of John Frost Square, andAngelo Attorre and his family have been serving up Italian coffee, baguettes and paninis for more than 14 years.
His father was a tradesman and came over after the Second World War, where he worked in a Cardiff restaurant. Born on the southern coast of Italy, in Puglia, Angelo came over when he was two years old and like Rocco, having a Welsh wife meant he never really went back.
Angelo, his wife and children, who also work in the café, are now struggling through the halting development of John Frost Square, and Angelo admits that like so many others they are reliant on loyal customers.
But the pastas and deli counter are still popular with Newport’s city centre workers, and when I spoke to him it was a busy lunchtime. The all-Italian products keep customers coming back. He said: “We have a little bit of Italy in the corner.”
Angelo is hopeful for his business and the future of the city. “We are holding our own,” he said.
While some are just focused on getting through the recession and changes to our high streets, a pair of Italian twins in Newport have seen it as an opportunity to grow. Sergo and Pasquale Cinotti have just opened their new bigger and better Gemelli’s café and restaurant beneath a huge Tesco supermarket on a retail park.
This couldn’t be further from the original setting, but as Pasquale explained, the priorities are the same – to be part of the community – and whether we are ready to accept it or not, Spytty Retail Park is attracting far more of the community than the city centre.
The sumptuous décor is all designed and created in Italy, and echoes their smaller establishment in Bridge Street, Newport.
The twins studied at a food academy in Italy, but came over to Nash College in Newport for a six-month course to learn English.
“But when I was here I met a girl,” Pasquale smiled. They may be the first generation of their family in Newport, but the stories echo so many of the other Italians who have come before them.
The pair started out making cakes from a small unit in Kings Place, but it grew quickly and within a year they were hiring 12 staff.
The twins are from a town just outside Rome, and most of their family remain in Italy. Pasquale has already been back nine times this year.
As their reputation increased at the same rate as their cake order rate (they now have to refuse orders) Pasquale thought it was time to expand.
So he took the risk and so far it seems to be paying off. The incredible chocolate sculptures and decadent cakes adorn the counters of the bar either side of the latest addition, Italian gelato.
“The passion comes from behind the food. The more feeling and love with food, the better,” he said.
The passion is something Pasquale wants to share, and this autumn he is inviting groups of schoolchildren to come to sessions to learn about the preparation of food to “give them the enjoyment of cooking”.
Things have changed in all these cafés, but what has remained is the sense of community. There are faces behind this food. There is a relationship between them and the people whose country they came to, and this is a love affair that won’t be ending anytime soon.
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