I read with great sadness today of the the passing of Joe Gazzano in Matthew Fort´s eloquent obituary, Guardian 25th October. Gazzano´s up until 2004 was such an important part of my life.Unfortunately I wasn´t around to witness the opening in 2006 of the newly re-built premises and the cafe in the Guardian Museum.Hardly a day went by without me popping in on my way to work to pick up fresh cheeses, salame, prosciutto, and the only non-Italian thing in the shop Pasteis de nata, Portuguese custard tarts.On most days I would probably pay a second visit to the shop in the afternoon.
Gazzano's is something of an institution around the Farringdon Road. Four generations of the same family have worked here since arriving from Italy's Amalfi coast just after the war.
The founder was originally an olive oil seller from Liguria and in the 30's he travelled abroad to sell his produce each year - this routine was abruptly interrupted by the onset of the second world war.Almost a century later Joe Gazzano continued the family tradition, running the shop supported by his sister, with her wonderful La Dolce Vita retro beehive and false eyelashes. From very young his children Joe and the lovely Lucia, were brought up in the family run salumeria and managed it in their fathers absence or day off.
The original shop felt like a little corner of Italy in Clerkenwell (which is, anyway, the area of London where Italian immigrants traditionally settled). I loved this place and have missed it so much since moving to Portugal. Gazzano’s still to this day sells all the fine quality Italian ingredients, dry pastas, cheeses,hams, salame, coffee, prepared foods, home made fresh pastas/ravioli/gnocchi,dried pastas and risotto rices stored in old fashioned grocers drawers, mozzarella,tins of olive oil, amaro, pane e cioccolata. The I want list is never ending and not so uncomfortable on the pocket. I defy anyone to find sausages equal to the Napolitan spicy ones I used to buy, weighing in at only £6 a kilo. I especially loved going there on a Sunday morning when all the old-school Italian families popped in for supplies after service at the Italian church in Clerkenwell Road.Joe Gazzano was a traditional shop owner, with a kind and sincere heart,and a strong poitical voice that witnessed the changing face of Little Italy, Clerkenwell. He always showed a strong interest in my then local business panini etc, and was ever supportive of it. I gleaned so many culinary tips from the man.
I thank him for this and will always remember not only shopping there, but our daily conversations, and putting the world to right.
God bless Joe Gazzano and all power to him for securing the future of an important and loved family business in the shadow of a changing environment,government and tough economic climate.