Mamma's owners bid farewell after 40 years in the pizza business
The family behind Blackpool's pioneering Mamma's pizzeria said they had mixed feelings, but the time was right to hang up the pizza cutters.
Giuliano Giacomini and his wife Susi have decided not to reopen the Topping Street restaurant which was forced to close its doors in March under the coronavirus lockdown.
The couple who have run the popular eaterie for almost 40 years said they would be sad to say goodbye to customers and their team of staff, but felt that with Susi having to self-isolate due to health issues and since Giuliano was coming up to 80 years old, it was time to take a step back.
Susi said: "It has been wonderful, we have made so many friends and worked with so many wonderful people, we are going to miss it. But with everything that has gone on and the health restrictions, we think it is time to retire.
"It is both happy and sad in a way, Mamma's Ristorante has been so popular and people always wanted to come back.
"We had customers who brought their children all those years ago, and their children grew up and came back and now they bring the grandchildren too. Giuliano and I loved having the children in Mamma's and we will miss them all."
Giuliano said: "I miss the people and the restaurant and sometimes, it does make me cry, but at my age, this coronavirus came along and helped to make up our minds to retire. We have had so many lovely messages."
The couple met in 1965 in the Beehive Cafe, a popular venue for young people in Blackpool at the time. Giuliano had come over to England in 1962 as part of his training in the restaurant industry.
He had worked since the age of 11 back in Senigallia, a seaside town on the Adriatic coast south of Rimini, as the family was poor in the aftermath of the Second World War.
In Blackpool he also pursued his love of football, playing for many local league teams and later refereeing and even had a trial with Blackpool FC in the early 1960s.
Sadly, that never worked out as strict work visa restrictions in those days meant he could only work in the catering sector, but he remained a fan, along with Juventus in Italy, going to home and away Seasiders games until the decline in the latter Oyston era. He still enjoys playing waling football.
Susi said it was fortunate that they got together as they met only briefly in the Beehive and it was some time later that they met again by chance in the street after she had to get off the bus at an earlier stop than usual while he had driven a different route from his home in Cleveleys to town.
"I was walking with my dog and heard a screech of brakes. It was Giuliano who stopped to talk to me again."
Giuliano worked in several places before opening his first restaurant Da Vinci's in King Street. But he realised that there was big market in England for pizzerias and set up his own, Mamma's Ristorante, with the special pizza oven in June 1980.
Susi said: "I think it was popular because of the atmosphere as well as the food. The Italians are well know for welcoming children so it had real friendly family atmosphere. Giuliano loved having the children in and very often it was the children that persuaded the parents to come back to eat at Mamma's. Very often they would run up to him and give him a hug."
The menu at Mamma's changed very little over the years, with just a few additions following holiday trips back to Italy.
Susi added: "We must have trained half the owners of the Italian restaurants in Blackpool, they all worked here at Mama's at one time and we have loved every minute."
The couple have three daughters and three grand children. Daughter Giuliana who works in Manchester said: "Dad is nearly 80 but he loved working and was always busy.
"But the coronavirus has brought forward the decision to retire. Mamma's has been so popular so he and mum have done a wonderful job and we are all very proud of them."
Giuliano said once the coronaviurs crisis eased he would spend more time with his family, watching football and would visit Senigallia more often.
He said: I have loved every minute of it and would like to than everyone we have world with and all the customers. We will miss them all."