This is a collective ramble through the lenses of two of London’s most pioneering and iconic Italian restaurants. It's a conduit for some of the more interesting testimonies, written by those who've had first hand experience of these restaurants.
I'm collecting them because the unique world which I've had the rare privilege to experience is often so interesting. I've never made notes, and besides, memories are better written by the protagonist's pen.
My siblings and I grew up in the footsteps of two fantastic parents, extraordinary hosts, who started their little labour of love in 1963 as humble Italian immigrants. They faced the challenges and opportunities of an era which had simpler outlooks. There was no personal computing, no internet, no mobile network. Sunday shopping didn’t exist, credit cards were not yet mainstream, VAT was below 10%, and olive oil was only available from the chemist as an ointment.
Childhood flashes of Robin Day's dickie bow, Grace Coddington's flaming hair, Mick Jagger's fingernails, Paul McCartney's lilt, Ava Gardner's eyes, Lord Snowdon's double wristwatch, Twiggy's angelic mouth, Mr Freedom's comic strip clothes, Mr Chow's moustache, Peter Sellers' enigmatic smile. It's hard to convey the exotic, eclectic novelty of those times.
London was a smiling post-war child entering the rabbit hole of a new wonderland. Food culture was so rarified that the way we experience dining today is tantamount to a social revolution, where food has become a media pursuit, an elitist discourse, an inexhaustible craving, and an affirmation of how far the landscape has lurched from the simplicity of socialist idealism to the burgeoning preoccupations of materialism and it's many consequences.
As a little boy I didn't realise. I simply sat on the knees of giants; creatives, artists and musicians, nonchalantly observing some of the most beautiful, intelligent, charismatic men and women of a generation, and drawing pictures of Apollo 11 on my waiter's pad. I didn't realise how lucky I was.