One or two good reasons why San Lorenzo is a bit important to Helen and I

I'd like to introduce Laurie and Helen North, two great patrons of San Lorenzo,  to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for indirectly introducing me to my wife, Angela.  Thanks to them, she came to Wimbledon to study English and it was through them that she came to me to ask for a part time job.  She ended up with a full-time one instead, and this is how Laurie remembers it..


Where do I begin? History doesn’t have a starting point, and this applies equally to a romantic history, so I’ll start in Rome where my wife was living and teaching languages — Italian in an American University and English privately. Through this scholastic approach to Italian life Helen met the chief steward of Alitalia. He of course received a constant stream of requests from young ladies who wanted to become airline stewardesses — at that time considered a glamorous profession.

Helen and Laurie North at home in Wimbledon, May 2014.  Photo by Ghigo Berni

Those of the applicants whom the chief steward considered likely candidates would be sent to Helen to have their English improved. One such candidate was a certain Angela Frondaroli.  Angela was very keen to acquire a good knowledge of English and with that in mind asked about coming to England to practice her English. Helen suggested that she could temporarily stay at the flat in Wimbledon with me while looking for a place/room of her own. 

Angela arrived and settled in to the spare room in the Wimbledon flat, and became ‘part of the family’. I was able to point Angela towards language schools and part-time jobs, whilst occasionally benefitting from Angela’s cooking. During this period Angela shed a swain who had appeared on my doorstep with flowers and a despairing look. Angela and I got on well so there was no talk of moving elsewhere.

Well that was background; now to the point of all this: Angela had lost her last part-time job when Benetton Wimbledon closed down (Ghigo assures me that their clothes are always impeccably folded thanks to Angela’s indoctrination there!) and we discussed where she might look for the next. There was a fine restaurant at the end of the road and I suggested that it might be worth trying for a job there. Angela demurred as it was an Italian restaurant and she wanted to practice her English (San Lorenzo Fuoriporta could hardly be anything else!) but decided to try as a job was a necessity.

Angela was successful, she had walked in and met the owner/manager a — certain Ghigo Berni, who, apparently did have a vacancy. So Angela settled in and clearly everyone was happy with the arrangements.

It was only later I learnt that when Angela had walked into San Lorenzo’s that Ghigo didn’t have a vacancy, he had taken one look at the charming young lady who was enquiring about a job, decided that he wanted to get to know her better and employed her there and then. Probably the best decision he had ever made! They will be celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary this year together with their two charming daughters!

I have further learnt that when Ghigo was discussing marriage implications, shortly after their engagement, Ghigo asked her whether she was sure she wanted to give up sunny Latina, the beach, her family, the culture, etc., and she replied that the only thing she would truly miss was a proper pizza.  At this they went to Rome to discover the best pizza. A few months of experimentation later, they had perfected their pizza style and the product went down exceedingly well with their clientele, as I know.  In fact it was an important catalyst in the regeneration of their customer base. 

To illustrate Ghigo’s further good luck in having Angela turning up for a job, is that he has married an intelligent witty woman. I quote: “If ever we go out and meet other people socially, modern women always discuss their respective careers before finally asking Angela what she does, to which she replies: 'Me? Oh me, I’m freelance!’ "

"Ah, freelance.  Freelance what?" they ask

"Ah! I'm a freelance cook, freelance cleaner, freelance teacher and homework supervisor, freelance cab driver, freelance child minder, freelance children's events organiser, freelance PE motivator, freelance adolescent careers consultant, freelance front-of-house restaurateur's wife, freelance anything, really.”

Laurie North