01:30PM, Friday 27 January 2017
It's served everyone from school kids, to builders, van drivers and even a millionaire footballer.
And now Palmieri’s, in Furze Platt Road, is celebrating a full decade feeding the hungry mouths of Maidenhead.
The popular eatery, which dishes up every-thing from coffee and cake to lasagne and cooked breakfasts, marked its 10th anniversary on Sunday, January 15.
Run by 52-year-old Neapolitan Roberto Palmieri, the family business also has his brothers Claudio and Salvatore as shareholders.
Salvatore’s wife Teresa works in the kitchen, with second cousin Enzo and Teresa’s nephew Giuseppe also making up the close-knit team.
Brought up in Naples, Roberto moved to the UK about 30 years ago after the family relocated from the city to a small village which ‘didn’t really offer much experiences for a young person’.
Although a lack of English initially limited his opportunities, he ended up spending 10 years in the food industry, including working at Boulters Lock Hotel and a brief stint at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, in Bray, before striking out on his own.
“This is an adventure I always wanted to do,” he said about the restaurant he calls his ‘baby’.
“I always wanted to own a business and this has been the drive for me.”
As successful as the cafe may be now however, 2007 was a tough time to start a business. Within just a few years of opening, the credit crunch and recession had hit.
He said: “When we started 10 years ago we were more like a deli, serving mainly coffees and paninis. Then, during the recession things were very hard and we turned it into more of a coffee shop and started to do the English breakfasts, which is now one of our core items.
“It was very tough then and it still is.
“Restaurants as a business have to walk a very fine line and we have to be very careful in what we do – food wastage, wages and tax can all be very high.”
Throughout this time, one of the secrets of its success was encouraging people to come back again and again – Roberto estimates about 90 per cent of its business comes from regular customers.
As well as helping keep the cafe afloat, this loyalty has also manifested itself in other ways.
Earlier this month (January) the restaurant was broken into and a pair of charity boxes stolen, but the money was quickly made up again with a flurry of donations.
Of course the loyalty has been won on a reputation for good food as well – food so good that in 2012 it even saw an impromptu visit from then Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli (pictured second left below) to sample the meatballs.
For now however, although the difficulties of restaurant trade remain as pressing as ever, Roberto is fortunate Palmieri’s receives few complaints, one being that he doesn’t open on Sundays.
“My idea eventually is to have Palmieri’s open even in the evenings,” he said.
“But as a family we already spend about 80 hours a week here each and so Sunday is the only day off that we can have.
“Part of the problem of having staff to run the business from outside the family is that there’s a danger of losing that connection with the community and a lot of people come here because of us.
“But I’m trying hard to find the right formula.”
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