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Eastender April 2018

Eastender E. Pellicci

E. Pellicci is an east London institution that’s been serving up a fine English breakfast for almost 120 years. Priamo Pellicci proudly opened the doors to his café on Bethnal Green Road in 1900, which he managed with his wife, Elide. It has remained in the family ever since. Three generations later, we caught up with Anna, who now runs the family business with her mother Maria and brother Nevio Jr.

You’re Italians who happen to make the best English breakfasts in the capital. What’s the secret?
I think that the most important thing is that you need to want to be there; it makes everything you do better. As corny as it sounds, what we eat needs to be made with love – that’s the secret ingredient.

As rents rise, how do you balance that with keeping your prices down?
We’re incredibly lucky that we own our small building. It was bought by my grandparents when the East End was a slum, and it wasn’t worth much at all. We probably would not be able to do so today.

Can people really start their day with a proper cooked breakfast and still stay in good shape?
Of course they can. Opt for poached eggs, grilled tomatoes and bacon, maybe add some spinach and top the tomatoes with olive oil and basil. It’s probably better for you than most of the sugary breakfast cereals out there!

You’re an institution in east London. We saw that Ray Winstone popped in the other day. Which other big names have been through your door?
We’ve served the likes of Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Frank Lampard and Idris Elba. There are lots more but I can’t recall them all now. We have a celebrity album book at the café. Ray Winstone is one of our own though.

Is there a lot of pressure working for a business that’s been in your family for 120 years?
Of course, there has been 120 years of hard work to build up a reputation. We’re extremely grateful for what we’ve inherited but it also comes with a responsibility to carry on the good name and to honour the hard work that our parents and grandparents put in before us.

What are the biggest challenges of running the business?
The pressure of price increases, constant new competition, all the extra paperwork and making sure everything is kept up-to-date. Every week something seems to go wrong, like the fridge breaks, or the coffee machine fails.

Families argue at the best of times, so what’s it like working with your siblings and cousins?
When we were younger, my brother and I would argue a lot but since both having children, it’s made us appreciate how and why our parents worked so hard. I think we’re both on the same page now. We do argue sometimes but it’s quickly forgotten. It’s great but it’s hard work and often tiring, and sometime a worry, which can affect ‘life-life’.

Is someone already lined up to be the next head of the family business?
Nev and I run it together with Mum. It would be lovely if one of our kids wanted to run it, but I don’t know if they want to do it. We would never force them. It’s hard graft.

Who cooks at Christmas?
I bloody cook at Christmas!!! Well, Mum prepares the most wonderful meat-filled tortellini and broth that we have for our first course. I do the roast… and my mother-in-law usually prepares the puds, so it really is a family affair, much like in the café.

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