Our High Road: How long have you been managers at The Italians? Francesco, Floor Manager: I’ve been here less than a year Michele, Operations Manager: I’ve been here since day one, so four years. I started as Head Barista in the cafe, then I was promoted to Shop Supervisor, and then for the last four - five months I’ve been Operations Manager.
OHR: Do you also live locally? F: I’ve lived in Chiswick for a year and a half, before that I was up near Stansted. Too much countryside! M: I’ve been in London for 7 years, never lived in Chiswick, always towards Brentford & Isleworth but since I’ve worked at The Italians for four years, I know Chiswick very well. Actually, when I come to Chiswick, I know many people from working on the High Road. Many customers always say “Hi”.
OHR: If someone hasn't been to The Italians before, what would you want them to know about it?
M&F: Definitely, when a customer comes here for the first time it might be difficult for them to understand what we really do because we do so many different things.
What I would say to a customer coming here for the first time is “here, you are in Italy”. When you come into the shop you are in Italy: you get the meat, you get the coffee, you get the wine, you get the freshly baked bread. We have everything regarding Italian food here. That's what I would say.
OHR: As regulars, we love the unique shopping experience here: with so many zones, is there something underpinning all of it? M: The main thing here is that we sell quality. What we want the customer to understand when they come into the shop is that we sell quality, traditional, family business products. Something that is not very common nowadays. That's what we want the customer to understand. F: We try to give them the Italian atmosphere. So we always try to welcome them, let’s say, in a more Italian way, as best we can. It’s a mix between those things.
OHR: It’s clear, you really champion your producers. Are there any personal favourites that spring to mind for you? M: Yesterday evening we had a staff meeting and we tasted a wine that comes from
Tuscany [Salcheto Winery, Montepulciano]. I really like that supplier, because they use the renewable energy that they generate: they use only renewable energy, they pump their own water, they are off-grid. They are great, I’ve actually been there collecting grapes and making wines with them. I actually made this wine with my own hands. Plus, of course, it’s delicious!
F: We do go to Italy as a team, on business trips every two months (not right now unfortunately), to go and meet the producers and see how they actually make the products that we’re selling. It’s really inspiring. We do this because we want our staff to really know what we’re serving. I have to be honest, I like a lot of the products we sell, but the things that we make here are special too. Like the bread and croissants that we bake every morning, the guys get in at 4 o’clock in the morning, I see how they make this everyday. It’s special, this is like our family.
OHR: What makes you happiest in your day to day work? M: First of all, I feel at home. Living abroad for seven years, working in The Italians for four, I don't miss home. I don't miss it because I work with Italians and 50% of our customers are Italian. I really live in Italy every day, nothing has really changed for me since I came here. There is such a big Italian community around here, London is the biggest Italian city outside of Italy: after Milan, Rome, Florence, Turin, Naples there is London... and then Buenos Aires! F: I think it’s the atmosphere: you know, we work very hard but we are enjoying it very hard as well.
OHR: What do you enjoy most about Chiswick & West London?
F: I like that it’s a really green area, there are lots of parks.
And the people that live in Chiswick, I have to be honest, it’s a really nice community. The shops are really nice. You know, it's a really good atmosphere.
M: I don’t feel that I live in London: it feels like a small village inside London, that’s how it feels to me. Having a family here, I really like Chiswick because I find it very safe, and clean so I like it. It’s very nice.
OHR: Do you have a favourite local establishment?
OHR: What does your ideal night out look like? F: It depends, because I like to change, so I don’t like to do the same thing every time. Sometimes I might go to central London, I might go to The Blues Bar, (but I think that was closed because of the virus). The one in the Carnaby Street area. But there is never one perfect night, because I like to try something different every time!
M: ...I don’t remember when my last night out was, I think more than 3 years ago, before my first child! (F: that’s why I don't have kids yet!) You know, my best night out is when my kids go to sleep. I like quiet places, I don’t like loud music, so I would probably have relaxing, soft music, a chilled bar where you can have a glass of wine and enjoy the soft atmosphere.
F: In summertime I like Richmond a lot, in front of the river. It's actually really nice, lots of people sitting there. It's quite relaxing. It's a great atmosphere.
OHR: If you were Il Presidente della Chiswick for a day, what would you do?
F: In Italy we do this thing, La Notte Biana, roughly translated as White or Bright Night, it’s where for one night we close everything, the shops stay open all night, there's music, it’s like a big party in the street. I’ve started to dislike all the traffic, so I’d make it a bit greener. I’d probably be a bit more selective on some of the new shop openings: you know, to keep the kind of atmosphere that we already have but to try to do it more, and not lose it.
M: I’d liven up this end of the High Road: there’s only one thing I don’t like and it’s this part of the High Road between us and Sainsburys, it’s really dead. I came here 4 yrs ago when we opened the shops and nothing has changed. I think it would give us a big boost too because we’re sort of hidden away here.
A big thank you to Francesco & Michele, and thank you too for reading.... more coming soon in our People of Our High Road series.
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