I’ve been honoured to receive a number of comments on posts in this relatively new blog. People have engaged on several of the posts. I received a great email yesterday from Teresa Arrigo, together with this classic wedding photograph taken in 1933 outside Bianchi’s in Frith Street. I did not rewrite the information in the email, rather I have produced it below. It’s powerful to hear the story in Teresa’s own voice. As mentioned on the Home page, Bianchi’s is now Little Italy restaurant.
The story is useful backdrop to the story of the Italian community in London. A large Italian immigrant community emerged in Clerkenwell in the late 19th century and is still evident today. St Peter’s Church on Clerkenwell Road remains a central location for the community. Soho saw a number of Italian cafes and restaurants emerge during the 1930s, including Gennaro’s on Old Compton Street and Bianchi’s in Frith Street.
Difficult times emerged for the Italian community from 1940 when Mussolini declared war on Britain. This resulted in angry mobs attacking Italian establishments. Italian men between the ages of 16 and 60 were interned in the Isle of Man and some were later deported to Canada and Australia. Tragically 471 Italian men died when a ship on the way to Canada was torpedoed. This tragedy is commemorated in St Peter’s Church.
Following this period, the Italian community began to return to the catering trade and of course the Polledri family opened Bar Italia at 22 Frith Street in 1949.
Here’s Teresa’s email in its entirety:
“I used to stay nearly every weekend above Bianchi’s Restaurant at 21 Frith Street with a relation called Elda Grigioni who lived on the top floor and did cleaning and waitressing in the café downstairs. My father worked a lot in Soho although we lived in Golders Green, the connection being that lots of restaurateurs were interned in the Isle of Man during the war together. This photo was taken about 1933. It depicts my aunt Rosetta Balma, who worked for many years in the Café Torino in Old Compton Street, and Uncle Battista Niconello who was sommelier at the Piccadilly Hotel. The very small boy in the front is my eldest brother. Bianchi’s was an establishment managed by Elena Salvoni before she married and opened L’Escargot.”
Also published on Medium.