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Farewell to East End's favourite cafe proprietor
By Penny Wrout, Communities Editor.
Nevio Pellicci's cafe was a bi-word for welcoming hospitality, and East Enders turned out en-mass for his funeral.
Pellicci's is an East End institution. Situated on Bethnal Green Road, its combination of home-cooked dinners, traditional English breakfasts and the crunchiest chips in town has ensured its popularity for over 100 years.
The Pellicci family arrived in London from Southern Italy in Victorian times and set up their cafe in 1900. Nevio Pellici was born above the cafe 83 years ago. He worked there from the age of 14 until shortly before he died.
Nevio knew everyone and everyone knew him. As the cortege for his funeral gathered outside the cafe, traffic was brought to a standstill and passers-by struggled to make their way along the pavement on either side of the street. This was a traditional East End send-off, from the people whose appetites he had dedicated his life to satisfying.
But Nevio's success was not just down to the food he served (cooked by his wife in the kitchen). He was a genuinely friendly man, able to chat easily with anyone and put them at their ease. His tiny cafe, which can cram in about 30 people all-told, is rarely anything but packed.
Over the years various film-stars, most of the cast from Albert Square and some of East London's more notorious characters have eaten at Pellicci's. Years ago I was covering the funeral of the eldest Kray, Charlie, for the BBC. Reggie Kray was the last surviving brother and was escorted by prison guards for the occasion. As the procession passed by Pellicci's Reg surveyed his old stamping ground and I saw him looking out for a familiar face. He gave a big grin and a wave when he spotted Nevio on the pavement.
One of the mourners at Nevio's funeral said of him, "He didn't cast judgment, he made everyone equally welcome". That remained true even as Pellicci's began to feature on some of the tourist trails of East London, with its characteristic interior with wooden walls inlaid with marketry.
Pellicci's is to this day the archetypical family-business. Nevio's son, also called Nevio, has continued the tradition of hospitality, ushering in customers with a 'Sit down young man', even when the diner is clearly already drawing their pension. When asked if the family cafe would continue, Nevio Pellicci junior said; "Of course! Dad would kill us if we closed".
last updated: 12/12/2008 at 13:51
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