Chapter 1 The early years....1908-1966

Benvenuti – welcome. An accurate description of how each of our customers have felt when they entered Mazzoni’s café almost 100 years ago and how they have continued to feel through its transformation into Arlecchino.

When Nonno Mazzoni (Adolfo) left Castiglione Vara, a small village near La Spezia in 1908, he was 14 years old and looking for work which he found in Cowdenbeath. He worked in an ice cream parlour which was run by other Italian immigrants. When WW1 began, he returned to Italy to serve in the army. When the war was over he returned to his home town of La Spezia where he met his wife Eda. They came to Greenock and rented a small premises and opened Mazzoni’s café in 1921. They had four children: Anna 1922, who died at 2 years of age, Bruno 1924, Dino 1926 and Roberto 1931. The café moved to the current Arlecchino premises in the mid 1930’s and they expanded and built up the business until the outbreak of WW2 when Adolfo was interred briefly on the Isle of Man before being allowed to return to Greenock.

Mazzoni’s café was filled with booths and a lively atmosphere. It was one of the first of its kind – the whole idea of eating out was new to a pre-war Scotland. The café was the heart of the Mazzoni family with Nonna and Nonno living upstairs and the kitchen being the hub for the family.

Roberto returned to his roots in Italy to study chemistry where upon finishing his studies, he had a fulfilling career as a pharmascist. Meanwhile, Bruno and Dino worked in the café which they would eventually take over as Adolfo and Eda regularly returned to their home in Italy before retiring and returning for good in 1962.

In 1951, whilst on a holiday in La Spezia, Dino met Licia and as the result of a whirlwind romance, they were married. Dino and Licia along with Bruno and his wife Gina, ran the café until 1966 when they transformed it into a restaurant. It was to be called Pulcinella but as there was already a restaurant in Glasgow with that name, Licia suggested Arlecchino, translated as harlequin. (Arlecchino and Pulcinella are two of the comedic masked characters of the 16th century Italian Patomime). Licia was determined to keep a strong link to Italy so that her future family would always have La Spezia and family in their hearts, therefore, the restaurant remained true to its Italian roots throughout all the changes made throughout the years.