One of the e-mails received into the London Shoes in-box this week, was from a lady in New Zealand, who said how much she enjoyed following the website, especially reading about the London she emigrated from many years ago.
She enquired as to whether I had considered ‘blogging’ some of the old east end café’s that might still be around – as she has wonderful childhood memories , of visiting her grandparents in Bethnal Green, and regularly being taken by them to Pellicci’s in the Bethnal Green Road, for a good old ‘fry-up’.
So – with that in mind, and on this ‘Shoes’ followers suggestion – I headed off this week to Bethnal Green-E2 – an area I know well from my ‘drinking’ nights out in my teens back in the 1970’s, and later in the 1990’s when I worked just down the road at Barclays in Mare St-Hackney.
Anyway – the subject matter of this week’s publication onto the London Shoes website is all about the legendary Pellicci’s Café in the Bethnal Green Road.
The history of this iconic café goes back a long way, and it is very much a ‘family affair’, and a fascinating story.
In 1900, an Italian from Tuscany named Priamo Pellicci started working at a little café in Bethnal Green – and when the owner decided to sell the business, Mr Pellicci, with a little financial assistance from his family, decided to buy it – and ran it successfully with his wife Elide, whilst also raising their 7 children – all living above the café.
When Mr Priamo Pellicci passed away in 1931, his wife Elide took over the reins and the café continued to thrive and throughout the subsequent decades the business continued to be run by their children – as it still is to this very day.
Pellicci’s became (and still is) a very popular haunt for, not only market stall holders and cabbies, but all the local community, and even today, it is one of the social hubs of the area, where customers are treated like family.
Throughout the 50’s & 60’s it was regularly frequented by the notorious Kray twins, and legend has it that they would often have a ‘quiet word’ in the ear of anyone heard swearing in front of Mrs Pellicci.
When my wife Angela first started work back in 1973, at Barclays Bank in the Bethnal Green – she recalls that the branch Messenger (back in the days when most branches had messengers), used to cross the busy Bethnal Green Road to Pellicci’s, to collect the Branch Managers dinner, which was then placed on a silver salver, and with a silver lid on top, he then used to negotiate crossing the busy road, back to the branch. To this day, my wife says that the Pellicci toasted cheese sarnies are the best ever!!
Apart from its regulars, Pellicci’s has also been a popular stopping-off place for local east-end celebs throughout the decades – and today, because it has been around for so long, it is now also popular with tourists and sightseers.
This small café seats 33 inside, and there are now also a few seats outside – and the place is always extremely busy.
Many of the original fixtures and fittings are still in place such as old formica tables – an old style push-down till – wall panels of ornate wooden marquetry – a couple of small stained glass windows – old decorative ceramic tiling – plus paintings and photos of the departed Pellicci ancestry – and as a result, this wonderful establishment is now, quite rightly, designated a Grade II listed building.
So – with all the social changes there have been since the Pellicci’s first started the cafe here, way back in in 1900 – and in a world where almost every high street in every town is dominated by faceless corporate coffee conglomerates such as Starbucks, Costa & Nero etc – I personally find it comforting to know that there are still places like Pellicci’s café around, that have a bit of history and a vibe about them – and long may they continue to serve their communities.
No ‘cheeky’ beer for me this week, but instead I had a bacon roll washed down with a ‘tantalising’ tea – at Pellicci’s of course.