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Leo Bonarti was the father of Mario Bonarti, who set up his first Italian cafe/restaurant business with his father's help, using the premises of Snape's Cafe on Rosamund Street after owner Sylvia Snape and her husband Bernard moved to Newcastle upon Tyne.

A proud man, Leo had firm ideas as to how the cafe should be run, saying it should be strictly along traditional lines. This brought him into conflict with Mario who had been in the UK for five years, as opposed to his father's three months, and felt he knew better what would succeed in the country. Their very first customers, Doreen Lostock and Audrey Plant, seemed to prove the son right when they looked askance at unusual items such as bolognese and ravioli and opted for cups of coffee instead. Much the same happened with the next customers, Frank and Ken Barlow, together with Nancy Leathers who asked for egg and chips.

Leo took a shine to Elsie Tanner when she paid a visit with Dot Greenhalgh and managed to persuade her to try the bolognese, tutoring her how to eat the dish with a spoon rather than wrapping it round her fork which she did with some difficulty, commenting that it was like eating tripe through a veil.

A week later, he had his work cut out when Ena Sharples called in to collect a free meal she had won as the third prize in a raffle. She demanded food that was plain and wholesome and he needed Mario to translate the demand. He persuaded Ena to try scampi followed by spaghetti veronese with pork and cheese, saying it would meet her requirements. Leo did ply her with wine which went down very well and got her into such a tipsy mood that she invited him to sit down with her, praising his food although saying he was lucky that she had won the raffle as others would have been too quick to criticise his offerings. Even though his English was limited, she asked him about Italy and how he found the weather in the UK.

Leo got to know the regulars, including Florrie Lindley and commiserated with her on the poor trade they both suffered due to house demolitions although he assured her that a proposed block of flats would lead to an upturn. After a few weeks, Mario installed a jukebox in the cafe on a week's trial, telling a dubious Leo that they needed to attract the younger customers and move with the times. When Florrie called in again looking for an umbrella she had left behind, Leo offered her a cup of coffee and some soothing music from the jukebox, but his attempt failed and she was blasted with loud jazz music.

List of appearances

1961

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