Comfort and comfort food as E. Pellicci embraces customers old and new

The stylish interior of E.Pellicci. Pic: Promita Guha

The east London institution that is E. Pellicci, has two reasons to be famous: established in 1900, it can easily claim to be the oldest family-run café in London, And it is clearly the only café that has been awarded Grade II listed building status.

Sited on the busy and bustling Bethnal Green Road, E Pellicci offers respite and comfort, like a cozy fireplace in a cold night. And that is without the food.

The interior, slightly redone after a small fire in 1946, boasts an architectural style and decor symbolic of the stylish Italian cafes that flourished in London in the post-war years.

As soon as one enters, apart from the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that hits your senses, there is a warm welcoming vibe amidst the bustling crowd of patrons crammed in the tiny space.

Pic: Promita Guha

“They are not customers, they are friends!” said Nevio Pellicci Jr, who now runs the show along with his sister Anna and mother Maria. “It isn’t like you are stepping into a cafe. It is more like you are stepping into my living room to have a good laugh along with a good meal. That is what sets us apart. The atmosphere.”

Over 100 years, it has catered for the gangster Kray brothers to celebrities like Tom Hardy and David Schwimmer of Friends’s fame,

What makes the cafe so resilient, however, resonates in the family’s attitude towards the changing times. As a strong antidote to the modern cafes and coffee shops that might lure customers away, he believes what keeps them afloat is how rooted they are in their ways. E Pellicci serves as an antidote to High Streets dominated by chains.

“Nobody can replicate what we have. Not only in terms of the food, which is freshly made every single day, but the way every single person walking in is embraced in a way, say a Starbucks would not. People like that. People want that.”

The spirit of this little haven is captured in the 77-year-old Maria who still refuses to use a chip-maker, preferring to do it by hand because she says, the quality of chips is way better that way.

Nevio Jr. with his mother, Maria. Pic: Promita Guha

With some of their regular customers frequenting them over six generations, the rapport the cafe has built with the community is priceless. “The community too has been a massive support in keeping our spirits high and keeping us going no matter what,” said Anna, who gives a friendly nod to a known face ready to place his order once again.

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