How it all started...
Il CARABINIERE : 1948
In the years immediately following the second world war, military service was compulsory in Italy. As an alternative to serving in the Army one could opt for a three year spell in the Carabinieri Police force. Salvo Dammone, seeing this as his ticket to leave his home town of Palagonia in the centre of Sicily’s rugged heartland, did just that. He served 8 years in the Carabinieri until he was garrisoned to Salerno. It was here that he met his future wife Nunzia. Carabinieri rules stipulated then that a serving single officer could not date anyone from the town where they were garrisoned. Faced with the option of choosing between his sweetheart and his career he took the only viable option; he duly left the Carabinieri, married Nunzia and embarked on his journey to England with his newly married wife. This picture was taken around 1948 when Salvo was stationed in Syracuse in Sicily.
A PRIEST'S BLESSING : 1972
It was quite common many years ago in Italy for a priest to bless a new restaurant before it opened. Our father’s restaurant in Salerno was Trattoria dello Sport. The somber looking chap dressed in traditional waiters uniform of white jacket was Commis Waiter Tonino .He is stood to the left of Salvo.
The diminutive chap on the far right of the picture, is the Head Waiter Ninuccio. He had the honorary tile of “Cavaliere Del Lavoro “ which was a title bestowed on someone with 25 years service in the industry. As a young teenager I recall walking along the streets of Salerno with Ninuccio and people doffing their hats of to Ninuccio with the salutation “ Buon Giorno Cavaliere” . Ninuccio was a hunchback and in Southern Italy it was considered good luck to rub the hunch of a hunchback. On one occasion that I was walking back from the market to the restaurant when Ninuccio , with a glint in his eye , whispered to me “ One coming from the left behind us” . Moments a little old lady , dressed in black , made a last minute dash to rub Ninuccio’s “ Hunchback” . Just at the last moment Ninuccio would swerve out of the way nearly sending the little old lady flying. Apparently it was an everyday occurrence for him. Superstitious lot these Southern Italians!
VIA MERCANTI : 1953
Salvo and Nunzia taken in the historic old quarter of Salerno the year before they married. Note the roll top Fiat Topolino in the background.
CHRISTMAS AT SALVO'S : 1977
Salvo seen here enjoying Christmas in the restaurant with his beautiful wife Annunziata (Nunzia), Gip, John and friend Keith.
In 1977 we had completed our first year in Headingley and already had many regulars who came for their weekly fix of pasta and pizza. Other places to eat in the area included Mr natural , now called Café Caliente still owned and operated by Peter and still serving possibly the best Mexican/Southwestern food in Leeds, there was The Nosebag on North lane and Preachers Diner serving American style hamburgers behind the Skyrack. Armstrongs on Monkbridge road, owned by Mr Armstrong, one of my catering college tutors served classic French Cuisine in elegant surroundings. This building is now occupied by Thai restaurant Sala Thai.
Punk, the alternative youth movement that started in ’76 started to rear its ugly head. The underground scene in Leeds was centred around the New Ace of Clubs in Woodhouse, an old cabaret club that hosted the likes of Shirley Bassey and Englebert Humperdink in the 60’s and now had X Ray Spex and the Dentists gracing the revolving stage and velvet curtains. The scene exploded and went ballistic in ‘77 with L.Ps by the Clash, Damned, Sex Pistols and Television amongst others shaking up and changing the music scene forever. Elvis and Marc Bolan died, Star Wars and Skateboards were born, oh and we musn’t forget John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever.
DINNER TIME : 1954
This was Uncle Franco’s First Holy Communion . Being a staunch Roman Catholic country the first holy communion was always an excuse to have a grand party. Grandma Francesca , the tall lady second from the right , would always get out some of her home made liqueur to help wash down the feast that she would have prepared.
On the far left is my Auntie Iolanda who still lives in the same house the photo was taken in , an old house of 3 rooms and a minute kitchen in which my grandparents raised my mother nad her 5 brothers and sisters.Sat down second left and partly obscured is my Uncle Luigi and sat next to her is my Auntie Pina. Next sat down in mum’s best friend Elena who worked with mum in the “ Cottoniere” clothing factory which was responsible for turning out mostt of the uniforms for the Italian Army. Next to her is one of the Neighbours “ Cumpa Pasquale” . It was common for all the people in the apartment block of six houses to cram in to the house for festive occasion of this nature and his wife , “Cumma Immacolata” and daughter Elvira are stood behind him. Leaning over the table is my mum next to her father “ Nonno Pepe” who is getting in the party mood. Uncle Tonino is adjacent to him and last sat on the table in Uncle Franco in all his special first communion suit. The tall lady stood up is my Nonna Francesca and next to her is my great grandmother Fiorentina.
GIP'S 2nd BIRTHDAY : 1957
Birthdays were always an excuse to get ones Sunday best clothes out and have a photo taken in the “ Best Room“. In later years, when I used to visit my mother's old family house in Salerno where this photo was taken, I distinctly remember that I was never allowed to play in this room. Pictured behind the Birthday boy are mum and dad and to their left is Uncle Tonino. To the right of my parents are my Maternal Grandparents Nonno Peppe and Nonna Francesca with my Aunte Iolanda and Uncle Luigi in front of them.
LUCCI'S FIRST BIRTHDAY : 1958
Another picture taken in the front room of the family house in Salerno. Stood behind the birthday boy Lucci from right to left are My Grandmother Francesca ( after whom our famous Francescana Pizza is named, our mother Nunzia, Auntie Iolanda, Uncle Franco holding up a young Gip and at the back Auntie Pina. Auntie Pina is mum’s sister and wife of Pinuccio our former Veteran Pizza Maker who made over a million pizzas in his 20 year career at Salvo’s. In front of our Grandmother Francesca is a bottle of some fancy Liqueur. I recall as a child that, whenever there was a photo opportunity such as a birthday celebration, one of numerous strange liqueurs with unpronounceable names, would come out of a cabinet to be put on display for the photo. The strange thing is that the bottles never seemed to be consumed. I am sure that if I went back now to the house, which my Auntie Iolanda now lives in, I am sure that those bottles would still be there in the cabinet!
MERRY CHRISTMAS : 1978
This photo of Salvo’s Restaurant was taken on New Years Eve 1978. Salvo is shown in a fancy dress T Shirt, not his usual
attire, but sporting one of his usual eccentric poses. An 18 year old John with his hand in the air is shown wearing what was the Salvo’s staff uniform of a tight fitting T Shirt sporting our original logo in brown, together with a small brown check “pinnie”. To the left of Salvo serving a table is long standing friend of the family Mick Daniel who has worked many times at Salvo’s over the decades. The smiling young lady at the back is one of our cashiers Barbara. The restaurant in those days was tiny which just 10 tables and they were all large tables to accommodate 4 or 6 diners. Consequently diners in party of two would be asked to join tables with another couple to share the table. Many friendships were struck over the years with couples meeting each other and often then arranging to come back together at the same time next week. I remember one occasion whereby two solitary diners, who were complete strangers, shared a table one evening and came back to the restaurant six months later straight from the registry office to announce they had subsequently started dating and had just got married. They were anxious to have there wedding breakfast at the place where it had all started and duly queued up for a table to have there own little wedding feast.
ON THE BEACH : 1952
On the beach AKA on the Lungomare
Mum and Dad posing for a photo on the Lungomare seafront in Salerno. Super hip. This is a picture I always get lost in and always brings to mind how stylish the 50’s must have been. Marcello Mastrioani, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Rock Hudson and the like may not have been enjoying the nightly passegiata along the Lungomare in Salerno that evening but the Dolce Vita vibe would still have been in full effect with fabulously dressed and coiffured young people every bit as hip and beautiful as those stars, hanging around, sipping espresso or campari soda and generally scoping each other with languid glances and shy smiles, meeting with friends, looking for someone special or cementing a budding romance, it all happened outdoors in the balmy evenings passegiata.
APPLAUSE : 1972
This photo was taken at the opening of Salvo Dammone’s Trattoria dello sport restaurant in Salerno Southern Italy. Salvo is on the left and next to him is Ninuccio , the hunch back Head waiter. The man on the far right was a local “ dignitary” invited to help perform the opening ceremony for the restaurant. The other solemn looking man must have been his “ minder”!
CHIN CHIN : 1956
This picture was taken in the best room of Nonna Francesca’s house, the one we were allowed in only on special occasions(the room not the house!).
This was my first birthday party; with mum are her 2 sisters Iolanda and Pina and the 2 kids are my uncles Luigi and Franco, I suspect they are already a bit tipsy (runs in the family). Grandad a.k.a Nonno Peppe looks on proudly and the girl in the middle is our next door neighbour whose family still live there today as does my auntie Iolanda.
COOL DUDE : 1953
This snappily dressed man is My Uncle Pinuccio. Many people recall Pinuccio from his years working at Salvo’s making the pizzas whilst singing loudly as he pummeled his way at the dough. In his career at Salvo’s form 1977 to 1996 he made over a million pizzas! The picture is taken from a spot high up overlooking the Bay of Salerno.
FATHER AND SON : 1985
John and Salvo outside the newly refurbed restaurant in the 80’s. This was our 3rd refurb and the frontage had changed from a black frontage with faux pink marble panels to dark glass, white blinds, shiny canopy and pink neon. John's glasses were so large they wouldn’t get planning permission these days unless they were triple glazed.
HONEYMOON IN MILAN : 1954
This picture of our parents Salvo and Nunzia Dammone is them in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan on their honeymoon. Both Heralding from Italy’s South, Milan may as well have been a different country to them. It was shortly after this photo that they embarked on their journey to settle in England.
LA PASSEGIATA : 1950
Mum and friends on their way to the lungomare for the ritual Passegiata in Salerno.
This photo brings back great memories of my times in Italy and Sicily in the 60’s and 70’s.
La Passegiata has always been an integral part of Italian social life, whether in the small rural villages in the mountains, the seaside cities and towns of the coastline or the industrial metropolises of the North, young ‘innamorati’, (couples in love), excited teens, whole families with immaculately turned out kids, and slow moving elders would slip on their gladrags to congregate and meet at a predetermined point and time to chat, flirt, preen and generally have fun in the carnival atmosphere that is the Passgiata.
In Salvo’s home town of Palagonia, a sometimes suffocating hot and dusty place deep in the interior of Sicily, La Passegiata took place at sundown on Via Vittorio Emmanuele, between the news vendor at the top and the Agip garage at the bottom of the street. Furtive glances, shy smiles and charming giggles from the young girls as they sashayed arm in arm along the street assessing prospective future husbands from such an early age! The young men were always striking poses, leaning against their cars and scooters, forever lighting up fags and raising an eyebrow at the same time, all the time casting a wary eye out for mums, dads and big brothers who might spot a real or imagined impropriety and whisk the object of affection back home double quick time.
Men would lounge in groups smoking and animatedly discussing topics of the moment, often politics, the labour situation in town and whether the lack of rain for another year would affect the orange crop too badly. The older Italian women when together seemed to flirt outrageously, their bawdy remarks and sharp observations turning many a young show-off “ Guappo” crimson faced with embarrassment and flustered in front of his highly amused friends.
In Salerno La Passegiata took place on the Lungomare Trieste, stretching along the seafront from Piazza della Concordia which boasted a ship converted into a Seafood restaurant up to the public gardens 2 miles north. The promenade offered many opportunities to stop, mingle, chat and meet ,with lots of beautiful mosaic benches under the palm trees and by the water fountains where you could stop and perfect the pastime of people watching or the art of flirting.
Waiters scurried back and forth across the busy road from the many bars to the swinging gondola seats under the gaudy Algida and Motta ice cream brolleys, serving espresso or iced coffees to the parents taking a customary coffee while the kids ran around squealing or watching a traditional open air puppet show.
Teenagers tended to congregate outside their favourite bars and the seafront area surrounding it, listening to the jukeboxes blasting out the hits of the moment and groups of them would take a walk up the promenade to buy the best lemon gelati on the coast , made daily and served from cast iron booth not far from the Municipio or Town Hall.
In later years the area for La Passegiata seemed to have moved away from the seafront to Corso Garibaldi with its designer shops and along the newly gentrified ancient area ‘Via dei Mercanti’ boasting quaint little shops and cools bars. Times and fashions may move on,
places and streets may change but I hope the wonderful tradition that is La Passegiata goes on forever.
MEAN MACHINE : 1956
Uncle Pinuccio pictured next to a hot set of wheels in Salerno, Italy. This picture was taken decades before he turned his hand to making pizzas and at the time he earned a living travelling the country as a Sales Representative in his families timber merchants business. Versatile chap Uncle Pinuccio. John
NONNA AGATA : 1982
Nonna Agata was our father Salvo’s mum and our Grandmother. Born in the small town of Palagonia in Sicily, she rarely ventured outside of her home town and only spoke Sicilian dialect rather than Italian. So strong was her dialect that when she met her future daughter in law, our mother Nunzia, shown in the picture to the left, they couldn’t understand each other despite the fact that mum only came from Salerno, 200 miles north of Sicily! My overriding memory of diminutive Nonna Agata was eating dinner at the table with her. She belonged to a generation where people dined with a fork and their own personal knife called a “Cuttedu“ which resembled a sharp pen knife. With this she would carve off chunks of bread from the big loaves she would bake in her own oven, or lop off a piece of cheese or just to cut up her meat. The knife would always be with her, residing in the pocket of the apron she always wore. In the picture mum and Nonna Agata are flanked by my two cousins Luciano and Agata.
SALVO'S GIRLS : 1985
A team photo of Salvo’s waitress including , Jane in the middle and Yvette on the right wearing the uniform of the time which featured an apron John and Gip’s Mother Nunzia had made , a pink tie and white shirt. Worn over very fashionable very tight drainpipe jeans.
SCOOTER GIRL : 1952
This Iconic picture of our mum Nunzia astride a Vespa on Salerno’s Via Roma takes pride of place in our first Floor Enoteca bar named after her. It also graces the cover of our 30th Anniversary CD Trenta. Note the classic early 50’s Fiats in the background.
THE BARRISTA : 1962
Uncle Luigi worked as a barrista in Salerno where he would also churn fresh ice cream daily in the basement of the bar, reached by opening a trapdoor and descending some wobbly wooden steps, I remember going to visit him there and exploring downstairs with the smell of vanilla, chocolate, liquorice and coffee everywhere.
THE WEDDING : 1984
Picture of Wedding procession taken in Via Amadeo in Palagonia, our father Salvo’s home town. Salvo’s house was just further up the hill on this road. The house has been in the family for generations and was where Salvo was brought up and is now home to our Auntie Enza. The bride is our Cousin Francesca on her way up to the church at the top of the hill. The church, Chiesa Immacolata Concezione, dates back to the 1600’s. She is being escorted by her brother, our cousin Salvino who gave her away.
THE SUMMIT : 1980
The workers finding a couple of moments for some downtime. The picture shows Salvo to the right with Uncle Pinuccio taking a break from making the pizzas with Restaurant Manager Aldo in the middle.
SING SONG : 1978
Gip on the right and John on the left serenading away accompanied by Salvo on the right, partially obscured by John’s face and Salvo’s friend Nino.
THE SCHOOLYARD : 1957
The class photo is of our Uncle Luigi’s class who is featured in the middle row fourth from the left. Many people remember Uncle Luigi from his time in the 1970’s when he would come to England in the Summer months so Uncle Pinuccio, who did the pizzas for the rest of the year, could take a break to see the family back home in Italy.
THE TEAM : 1981
A shot of some of the Salvo’s team at the end of a busy night. Alan the chef is on the back row on the left with Christine on the far right next to John. On the front row in the middle is waitress Cherie wearing Salvo’s T Shirt. On the right arm of her T shirt the letters QQS were inscribed which were Salvo’s 1970’s motto of Quality Quantity Service.
TRATTORIA DELLO SPORT : 1972
The trattoria that Salvo took over was a much loved institution in Salerno. The flag in the middle of the balcony railings is that of Salernitana Football club, a seahorse on a pomegranate red background, our restaurant manager, Ninuchio, was on the staff of the youth team at the time. Our brother Lucci was goalie for the under 16 squad and if I remember rightly, he got a 500 lire bonus if they won a match. The walls of the restaurant were hung with great sportsmen of the time, mostly footie players like Mazzola, Riva and Rivera along with many cyclists who were also popular at the time. A pizza Margherita was 200 lire (1500 lire to the pound in those days).