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The Pellicci Museum

June 12, 2021
by the gentle author

This is Lucinda Rogers‘ drawing of E.Pellicci in the Bethnal Green Rd, London’s most celebrated family-run cafe, into the third generation now and in business for over a century – and continuing to welcome East Enders who have been coming for generations to sit in the cosy marquetry-lined interior and enjoy the honest, keenly-priced meals prepared every day from fresh ingredients.

E.Pellicci is a marvel. It is so beautiful it is listed, the food is always exemplary and I every time I come here I leave heartened to have met someone new.

I found Lucinda Rogers’ drawing on the wall in one of the small upper rooms that now serves as an informal museum of the history of the cafe, curated by Maria Pellicci’s nephew – Toni, a bright-eyed Neapolitan, who has been working here since he left school in Lucca in Tuscany and came to London in 1970. He led me up the narrow staircase, opened the door of the low-ceilinged room and with a single shy gesture of his arm indicated the family museum. Toni has lined the walls with press cuttings, photographs and all kinds of memorabilia, which tell the story of the ascendancy of Pellicci’s, attended by a few statues of saints to give the pleasing aura of a shrine to this cherished collection.

Primo Pellici began working in the cafe in 1900 and it was here in these two rooms that his wife Elide brought up his seven children single-handedly, whilst running the cafe below to keep the family after her husband’s death in 1931. Elide is the E.Pellicci whose initial is still emblazoned in chrome upon the primrose-hued vitroglass fascia and her portrait remains, she and her husband counterbalance each other eternally on either side of the serving hatch in the cafe. In 1921, Nevio senior was born in the front room here. He ran the cafe until his death in 2008, superceded as head of the family business today by his wife Maria who possesses a natural authority and charisma that makes her a worthy successor to Elide.

As I sat alone in the quiet of the room, leafing through the albums, surrounded by the walls of press coverage, Maria came upstairs from the kitchen to join me. She pointed out the flat roof at the rear where her former husband Nevio played as a child. “He was very happy here,” she assured me with a tender smile, standing silently and casting her eyes between the two empty rooms – sensing the emotional presence of the crowded family life that once filled in this space that is now a modest store room and an office. Maria and Nevio brought up their children in a terraced house around the corner in Derbyshire St, and these days Toni goes round each morning early to pick her up from there, before they start work around six at the cafe she runs with her son Nevio and daughter Anna.

Pellicci’s collection tells a very particular history of the twentieth century and beyond – of immigration, of wars, of coronations and gangsters too. But, more than this, it is a history of wonderful meals, a history of very hard work, a history of great family pride, and a history of happiness and love.

Primo Pellicci still presides upon the cafe where he started work in 1900.

Primo’s children, Nevio and Mary Pellicci, 1930.

Pellicci’s wartime licence issued to Elide Pellicci in 1939 by the Ministry of Food.

Pellicci’s paper bag issued to celebrate the Coronation of Elizabeth II  in 1953 – note the phone number, Bishopsgate 1542.

Mary and Maria Pellicci, Trafalgar Sq, 1963.

Nevio junior, aged seven, skylarking outside the house in Derbyshire St with pals Claudio and Alfie.

Nevio senior and Toni, 1980.

Pellicci’s customers in 1980.

Nevio senior, 1980.

Nevio and Toni.

Christmas card from Charlie Kray, 1980.

Nevio junior and Nevio senior.

George Flay’s portrait of Nevio Junior, 2006. See more at

George Flay’s montage of the world of Pellicci’s.

Nevio Senior, 2005


You may also enjoy reading

Maria Pellicci, Cook

Pellicci’s Celebrity Album

The Meatball Queen of Bethnal Green

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    June 12, 2021

    I love Pellicci’s… I mean I truly LOVE Pellicci’s. I have been there twice – courtesy of a recommendation from the wonderful gentle author – on visits to London from Vancouver, Canada. Tony is a total gem. If Anna is the blonde one, she is also a total gem. The food is very good, but the atmosphere created by their ebullent staff and exquisite, tiny interior makes for an unforgettable experience. I only wish I lived closer – I’d be there all the time.

    And now I am going to share this article on my FB page.

  2. June 12, 2021

    What a rich history of the Pellicci family. I have never visited the cafe, but love Italian culture and the food, so must put it on my ‘to do’ list without delay. I also love that they have made a ‘family museum’ inside. Well done Toni. I’ve sadly lost my two closest Italian friends of many years during the past 18 months, so the thought of visiting Italy again with them no longer there, seems a daunting prospect at the moment.

  3. June 12, 2021

    Also a very nice cafe.

  4. Glyn Roberts permalink
    June 12, 2021

    I visited Pellicci’s for lunch with a friend a few years ago on one of our infrequent trips to Spitalfields. I had read about it on ‘Spitalfields Life’ website The place was really buzzing but, they found somewhere for us to sit. The food was delicious the staff friendly and when we paid the bill the lady at the counter (I don’t know which Pellicci it was) rushed off to the kitchen, came back with a tray of freshly cooked bread pudding and gave us a piece each…
    Glyn Roberts

  5. Linda Whitehouse permalink
    June 12, 2021

    I have yet to visit E Pellicci, my trips to London never seem to allow enough time but after reading this article feel I need to make time to visit, it is an extraordinary place.

  6. Linda Granfield permalink
    June 12, 2021

    Your blogs about Pellicci’s are always memorable. This one, about the two rooms/large family, reminds me of how ‘spoiled’ we are to live where expectations are “a private bedroom” for each child, and multiple bathrooms for one family!

    If we get back to London, a meal at Pellicci’s is on our wish-list–and, GA, you are invited to that meal, as our guest.

  7. June 12, 2021

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for continuing the saga of E. Pellicci’s establishment that you have chronicled through the years. I recall one piece in which you described how they prepared for a family Christmas by closing a few days to make their favorite dishes to serve at home.

    Definitely on my bucket list when I return to London. And I know what I am getting from their menu – Penne Pellicci, with homemade pesto and tomato sauce mixed with pine nuts, fresh baby spinach, parmigiano and olive oil. Can’t wait!

  8. Eric Forward permalink
    June 12, 2021

    Amazing place, an institution. Approaching the frontage and entering is a bit like a time portal, taking you back to the real East End. Always full of interesting characters. I saw Kevin Rolland there a couple of times looking as dapper as one could look, dressed from an era of the early 1900s. I saw Tony the taxi driver from 7 Up another time. Wish I’d spoken to him now, but maybe best I left him in peace to eat his meal.

  9. June 14, 2021

    Great article!
    I have a really interesting photo book called ‘Cafes’ by Cheryl A Aaron (well worth tracking down) that has many photographs of mostly long gone classic London cafes.
    Pellicci’s is in there of course, but there are also photographs of a second Pellicci’s that was at 338 Bethnal Green Road, just along from the one everyone knows.
    The short passage with the photographs says that the second Pellicci’s was opened to give work to the two Pellicci brothers returning from the war. I can find no other record of the second Pellicci’s other than in the ‘Cafes’ book. There is a cafe still on the site, called Cafe 338, but I’ve never been in it, being so close to such a legendary Cafe. Might be worth asking about next time dropping in the wonderful Pellicci’s!

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