Elena Salvoni has lived in London all her life. She worked as a well-loved matre d'htel in several popular restaurants in Soho and the West End.
Salvoni's parents married in 1910 at St Peter's Italian church in Clerkenwell. Remarkably, they were both from the same orphanage in Cremona, Italy, but they met each other for the first time in Britain. Her father worked as an asphalt-layer and her mother ran a boarding house at their home on Air Street Hill.
Elena and her three brothers and sisters went to school at St Peter's Italian school. The area surrounding the famous church and school was popularly known as London's 'Italian Quarter'. Following the family tradition, Elena married her husband Aldo in the same church.
Elena left school at the age of 14 and began working as a seamstress for one of her mother's boarders. She entered the catering business in 1942, initially to provide cover for the jobs left vacant by men sent away to war. Although at the time it was unusual for women to work on the restaurant floor, Elena discovered she had a natural flare for the job. She spent three years waitressing for Joseph Paccini at Caf Bleu on Old Compton street in Soho, and then went on to work for him at Bianchi's on Frith Street, where she stayed for 30 years. Eventually she became the restaurant manager.
Regular clientele at both Caf Bleu and Bianchi's included celebrities such as Malcolm McDowell, John Lennon, Marianne Faithful, Melvyn Bragg, Cameron Macintosh and Ronnie Scott. In spite of food shortages and bombing raids, customers continued to visit the restaurants throughout the war and, even when the owner was interned, Elena helped to provide them with a good service. Finishing work in the afternoon, she was able to fit her busy career around her two children.
In 1981, Elena left Bianchi's to work at another restaurant in Soho called l'Escargot. In 1991, on the strength of her good reputation and easy rapport with customers, Roy Ackerman, a long-term fan and owner of 'The Restaurant Partnership', asked her to work for him. In 2006, as a sprightly octogenarian, Elena managed a restaurant on Charlotte Street named after her: Elena's l'Etoile.
What are these?
Social Bookmarking allows users to save and categorise a personal collection of bookmarks and share them with others. This is different to using your own browser bookmarks which are available using the menus within your web browser. Use the links below to share this article on the social bookmarking site of your choice. Read more about social bookmarking at Wikipedia - Social Bookmarking.