Wales

Treorchy Italian cafe to close after 84 years

Station Cafe
Image caption Station Cafe in Treorchy opened its doors to customers in 1935

One of the few remaining Italian cafes in the south Wales valleys is to close its doors after 84 years in business.

Station Cafe in Treorchy, which opened to customers in 1935, will close for the last time on Saturday.

Dom Balestrazzi and his wife, whose parents came to Wales from northern Italy, are retiring - and their children do not want to take it on.

"It will be a sad occasion when I think of my parents and all that they put into the establishment," he said.

His parents Guiseppe and Maria decided to emigrate to Wales due to a lack of work in their hometown of Bardi, near Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Dom Balestrazzi's parents Maria and Giuseppe, also known as Joe, came to Wales from Bardi, in Italy in 1935

The booming mining industry in south Wales at the time provided the allure, and he said the culture made his family feel at home.

"There was a camaraderie which was similar to the Italian way of life. It interacted well with the Welsh community," he explained.

Mr Balestrazzi, 78, started work in his father's business after leaving school in the 1950s, and has been at the Station Cafe ever since.

With original Rowntree glass jars full of sweets behind the counter, tobacco for sale, a glass case full of pasties and cakes and a steaming coffee machine, little has changed since the shop opened.

Image caption Dom Balestrazzi in the Station Cafe with his daughter Anna

In its heyday, the cafe was packed on a daily basis.

"My parents used to come here in the 1960s when they were courting and apparently at that time it was the place to be in Treorchy on a Friday night," said Nerys Bowen.

The cafe still has regulars - schoolchildren come in before and after lessons along with those who have always come here.

Islwyn Kingsley said he was sad at the news.

Image caption The cafe has retained its classic look and feel

"He's a one off - old school - and the old school come here. So they'll have to change their ways now," he said.

The cafe is opposite the town's Park and Dare Theatre, and Mr Balestrazzi recalled a visit from one particular performer.

"There was one night, a very famous gentleman was there performing - Ken Dodd," he explained.

"He came in here for a tea or a coffee. I can remember that vividly. He had his poodle and his wife with him and then he went on his way."

'Touched'

The couple will continue living on the site. Since the announcement, he said they had been overwhelmed by the support.

"It has touched me very, very much the way that people have reacted," he said.

"There have been people I haven't seen for a while that have come in and wished me all the best."

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