Sabatino and Angela Rosa Arcari (nee Grilli) first came to the UK in the late 1800s, settling initially around the Kent area. Like many other families of the time, they came here to escape droughts, food shortages and poverty in their homeland. Most of the families in these photos are from Southern Italy and the areas around the Comino Valley, in particular, Picinisco, a very beautiful tiny mountain top village in the heart of the Abruzzo range, adjoining the National Park. Although some Swansea café owners came from the North, contrary to popular belief, a great number also came from the South, including others not featured here.

They began business to suit the seasons, taking a barrel organ around in Winter and an ice cream hand-cart in Summer, in particular on Whitstable beach. Angela Rosa’s nephew, Michael Grilli, also took a handcart around the beach. Like most of the Italians who came here, they were not only entrepreneurial but very ambitious. They saved every penny they could until they could achieve their dream of owning their own business.

They moved to Morriston in the early 1900s to open a café on Woodfield Street, not far from the café of Sabatino’s sister, Nascenza Pompa and her husband, Ferdinando. Another brother, Guiseppe first went to Merthyr with his wife, Domenica D’Ambrosio, then settled in Glasgow, where they opened a very busy and popular café on Sauchiehall Street.

After a few years, Sabatino and Angela Rosa moved to the Palace Café on High Street, directly opposite the Theatre (see photos). The whole family were expected to help in the business. Their daughters, Adelina and Serafina (Sophie), would take ice cream across to the theatre to sell in the intervals while the sons and daughter in law helped in the cafe. Even the youngest, at age 7, would get up between 3 and 4 am to help make the ice cream for the coming day, before going to St Joseph’s School. They would open at 5 am for the Railway and other workers, and close around midnight. The family were respected and loved by all who met them and they made many friends in Wales, with the children marrying into Welsh families.

The business thrived until around the war years, and Churchill’s “Collar the Lot” call, referring to the internment of immigrants, started to turn the tide in the other direction. Cafes were stoned and looted, and it is recalled by former Lord Mayor, Charles Thomas, that Cascarini (Joe’s) café in Fabian Street, now Fabian Way, was one of those threatened by a wild mob. They were saved by a group of Dockworkers who were regulars at the café and were determined to protect Miss Cascarini at all costs, who formed a protective human barrier in front of the café. The café survived until the 60s when a compulsory purchase order was made to enable road widening.

Meanwhile, the Arcari family gave up their business and later lived in Ormesby Terrace and later Wern Fawr Road. Many of the Italians formed a very popular accordion orchestra, of which Francesco Arcari (youngest son of Sabatino), his brothers Alfonso and Luigi, Len Demarco and others were members.

Photographs and report by Anita Arcari

Photo 1: Angelarosa Farm
Photo 2: Angelarosa in Studio
Photo 3: Arcari house 2009
Photo 4: Aunts and Uncle Alf, Angie and Sophie at High St. Shop circa 1929
Photo 5: Capella 11a
Photo 6: Capella Before Renovation
Photo 7: Casa 13a - Feb 08
Photo 8: Coronation Day Party 1937
Photo 9: Filippo, Pasqua, Maria, Lucia Grilli Folkestone
Photo 10: Grandparents 1910
Photo 11: Great Grandfather Raffaele, Sabatino's father 1932
Photo 12: Great Grandfather Raffaele, Angelarosa Sabatino on Farm
Photo 13: House in 2010
Photo 14: Michael Grilli (Sabatino's Nephew)
Photo 15: Palace Café circa 1922
Photo 16: Picinisco Hills
Photo 17: Raffaele Funeral Outside Home 1934
Photo 18: Raffaele House 1932
Photo 19: Raffaele Grandparents Farm
Photo 20: Sabatino and Angelarosa Arcari
Photo 21: Sabatino in the Italian army
Photo 22: Sabatino on bicycle circa 1894
Photo 23: Uncle Guiseppe and Aunt Domenica, Glasgow circa 1929

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to leave a comment