Search

One of Hampstead’s best loved restaurants celebrates 50 years

20:32 05 March 2012

Bernardo (left) and Androulla Stella (middle), who started La Gaffe restaurant 50 years ago, with son Lorenzo (right), who now runs the business. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Bernardo (left) and Androulla Stella (middle), who started La Gaffe restaurant 50 years ago, with son Lorenzo (right), who now runs the business. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Opening one of Hampstead’s best loved restaurants was not foremost on Bernardo Stella’s mind when he left Italy in 1957 to avoid military service.

His wife-to-be Androulla was seeking refuge in London to avoid punishment for disarming a British soldier in Cyprus.

Little did they know half a century later they would be celebrating the 50th anniversary of La Gaffe.

The restaurant in Heath Street grew from humble beginnings as a workmen’s cafe in 1962 into today’s bar, restaurant and hotel.

Bernardo and Androulla, aged 76 and 74, will celebrate the milestone with a party this evening (Monday, March 5).

“We’re having a party to say thank you to our customers,” said Bernardo. “Fifty years is a happy thing, but many of our customers have passed away. The years have gone by in a flash but I always loved the work.”

The couple named the restaurant La Gaffe, meaning “the mistake”, as they joked an Italian and a Cypriot opening a French restaurant in north-west London could be nothing else.

But it quickly proved popular with the rich and famous.

Actress Maureen Lipman and her late husband, playwright Jack Rosenthal, were regulars when the restaurant first opened.

Former US president Lyndon B Johnson’s wife Lady Bird ate there, whilst boxer Mohammed Ali, movie star Clint Eastwood, and US president Jimmy Carter’s son Chip all visited in the 1970s.

Even the Queen Mother wrote Bernardo a letter praising his pate.

But he revealed the secrets to La Gaffe’s success are good food and simplicity.

“If you try to be too clever then you pay the price,” he said. “My policy has always been to treat everybody equally. I treat the dustman the same as a prince.”

He added: “My luck is my wife. I have always been a dreamer so I need someone solid like her behind me.”

His son Lorenzo, 45, now runs the restaurant.

“I am very proud of what my parents have achieved and I know the cost of it,” he said. “When people talk of blood, sweat and tears, never were truer words spoken.

“I haven’t changed too much about the restaurant and I don’t want to change much because I think what we have here is good. I don’t want to lose what is special about who we are.”

He is most proud that the restaurant has maintained the same clientele for decades.

“That’s more important that anything,” said Lorenzo. “People say they feel at home when they are here and that is the nicest thing they could say to us.”

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

00:01
An international poker player is locked in a row with his Highgate neighbour over a driveway. Picture: Nigel Sutton

An international gambler is locked in a row with his Highgate neighbour because his driveway belongs to the house next door – meaning he can’t legally access his own home.

Yesterday, 19:03
Thieves have been stealing post in the Frognal and Fitzjohns area of Hampstead

A gang has been stealing private school bills from doormats in Hampstead and doctoring them to make unwitting parents pay thousands of pounds into the fraudsters’ accounts, police have warned.

Yesterday, 18:38
Belsize Park Gardens

A terrified mother told how she was strangled until she lost consciousness and robbed in front of her two-year-old daughter.

Yesterday, 17:26
The Magdala. Picture: Polly Hancock

Hampstead’s world famous Magdala pub has closed its doors as its current landlords say they have been “unable to agree terms and conditions” on the lease with the company that owns it.

Yesterday, 16:37
Michael Otshudi, of Highgate, has been jailed for violent disorder

A 37-year-old from Highgate Village has been jailed after a man was shot at a wake for trying to break up a fight.

Yesterday, 13:31
Jonny (left) and Ruth Tamir (right) with Noam (centre)

A Belsize Park father has spoken of his pride after his son donated 61 per cent of his liver to save his life.

Yesterday, 12:56
Hodaya Mason (left) and Maryam (right) at an interfaith cultural exchange visit between the London Islamic Cultural Society at Haringey Mosque and Muswell Hill Synagogue

Muslim and Jewish women and girls came together to learn from one another’s culture and religion, with high hopes of kick-starting joint initiatives to help the refugee crisis.

Yesterday, 12:48
A  fire at a sheltered housing block in Belsize Park was apparently caused by a cigarette which had not been properly extinguished

A partially sighted man was led to safety by firefighters after a fire broke out in a sheltered housing block in Belsize Park yesterday evening.

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Champagne experience

This Valentine’s Day, the Coca-Cola London Eye is the perfect destination for lovebirds, offering a range of romantic experiences from Friday 12th February - Sunday 14th February 2016.

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe