Lou and Caterina Polledri opened Bar Italia in 1949 and then their Son Nino took over the reins in the 1970s and he in turn handed over to his son's Antonio and Luigi and sister Veronica.
The three of them run Bar Italia, the restaurant Little Italy next door, and it's sister restautrant Nolita, in Hertfordshire.
Undoubtedly one of the secrets of Bar Italia is the coffee.
Why is it so good you ask? Because we don't try and deviate too much. We have a coffee machine that doesn't have a water filter on so it doesn't have any salts running through it. The temperature on our Gaggia machine is set at less than boiling so it doesn't burn the coffee going through it.
We use a very good coffee which is supplied to us by Signor Angelucci who was next door to us for many years.
He started in 1947 and we still use him. We have a loyalty to Signor Angelucci. He has a secret blend of coffee which we have always used.
We have been offered a lot of deals by big coffee manufacturers. They offer free machines and all the bits that go with it, but I have always declined because I have a basic product which everyone loves so why change? There is another element to this. When you come into Bar Italia you are not just a number.
With our coffee you can tell the barrista exactly how you want it. Tell him twice and you will never have to tell him again. He will know you and he will know how you want your coffee, and he will get it right every time. We think that the personal touch is very important. We keep it very simple.We prefer a European route which is where we believe the best coffee is, especially Italy. Good cappuccino, good espressos, good espresso macchiatos, no gimmicks, no nonsense, it is the real deal.
One of the first things that will hit you when you walk into the Bar is the big picture of Rocky Marciano behind the counter. That picture was sent over to Nino and his wife Vera, by Barbara, Rocky Marciano's wife.
Every picture in the Bar has an importance, every one tells a story. There are images going back to 1949. The photo's of Soho back then, make it seem very open with not many people around which is a big contrast to this day.
Another important part of Bar Italia is the large screen television which shows all the Italian sports. Bar Italia is the home of Italian football.
When there is an important game on there is no better place to watch it than Bar Italia. Italians are fanatical about football. Before Sky and satellite TV in general was available, we used to get the Italian football results phoned through every Domenica (Sunday) from Italy and then shout them out to the crowd.
The nights when Italy won the World Cup in 1982 and 2006 will live long in the memory.
In the 1980s there was a major transition in Soho. The majority of the sex shops closed down and they were replaced by cafe and restaurants.
This is where the cafe culture of the 80's began. Soho went through a huge renaissance in the 80s and music played an enormous part. Ray Petri of the Buffalo organisation, along with people such as Nick and Barry Kamen, all used to use Bar Italia as their office.Ray Petri actually used to have his castings in the Bar. Adam Ant did his record cover Vive Le Rock at Bar Italia. A great guy.
Nino was actually in the video for Sade's Smooth operator video along with Antonio.
Celebrities love Bar Italia because they can blend in and be left alone to have the best coffee in town. Regular faces include Suggs, Rupert Everett and Kylie Minouge and Boy George. Francis Ford Coppola drops by when he's in town, as does David Bowie. We even had a song Bar Italia written about us by Pulp. Truth be told, there is not one pop star in London who has not been into the bar to have a coffee, either day or night.
You can go anywhere in the world and then you will come back into Soho and you will see that a road has changed direction, a shop has closed, a new one has opened. Soho is constantly changing but the one thing that remains the same is Bar Italia. I think by staying as we are, we maintain the attraction and the passion that so many people have for the Bar.
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