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Italian food business marks 50 years in Stokey

Connie Swift with Marco and Michele Mori

Italian deli Gallo Nero recently celebrated 35 years in Stoke Newington High St. 

But this family-owned business first started in the street 50 years ago when husband-and-wife Luigi and Ina Mori bought the freehold of the café she worked in – they later converted it to a restaurant and their sons Roberto and Michele oversaw its eventual evolution to a deli.

Now the third generation of the Mori family is getting more involved as Michele reduces his hours and his son Marco steps up. 

Marco, a professional photographer, has worked in the store since the age of 15. He said: “This place has such huge sentimental value - I couldn’t bear the thought of Dad selling it and retiring.  I want to keep it going for another 20 to 30 years.”

Ino and Luigi Mori

Ino and Luigi emigrated from Tuscany in 1956. The war years had been tough, and work in Italy was hard to come by.  Luigi had found work near Genoa building motorway tunnels, but the work was hard and dangerous.

In London, they found work in cafes and restaurants. Luigi trained as a chef and, when the freehold of the Northend Café on Stoke Newington High St came up for sale in 1974, they leapt at the chance.

They plunged their savings into the business and bought a house on Tyssen Road for £1,500.  Michele went to William Patten Primary School.

He said: “I’ve spent more of my life in Stoke Newington, even though I don’t live here anymore, if I had to recommend one place in London to live, it would be here!

Brothers, Michele and Roberto Mori

“As a teenager I would work in the café on Saturdays. In 1980 my brother decided to come into the business, and we converted the café to a restaurant – Trattoria Da Luigi.”

The brothers launched a second business – Gallo Nera Deli in Newington Green in 1985 and it proved so successful that three years later they converted the High St restaurant to a deli too.

Their parents Ina and Luigi, now aged in their 90s, have spent many a day in the store post-retirement. Michele describes them as: “our very own CCTV.” He added:  “They’d sit at the front and back of the shop and keep an eye on everyone who came in.”

Michele, 65, added: “40 to 45% of our customers are Italian – there are quite a few Italians living locally. This type of business is becoming increasingly rare. There are probably only 10 delis like this left in London.

“With a family business you tend to work a lot more and put more into it – because it’s your own, because you know what’s gone into it before and you want it to succeed. I think about it at home a lot.”

The store sells food from across Italy and the islands and Michele’s tiramisu is legendary. They also make fresh pasta sauces and pesto and recently launched a range of merchandise.

And though Michele is stepping back and reducing his hours, he’ll have lots of support from his son Marco and Connie Swift, 25, who joined the team when she was 15. 

Michele added: “I’m going to be 66 this year – I’ve been working here since I was 17 and I really want to take a bit more time. 

“I’ve been very happy here. I don’t want to stop – I’ve known people who have stopped, and it hasn’t been good for them (going from one extreme to another).  I still wake up at 5.30am every day.  But with Marco more involved I’ll be able to spend more time with the grandchildren and play a bit of golf!”

Three generations in, this family business is thriving and there’s a chance one of Michele’s four grandchildren could one day step up and secure it for a fourth generation.


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