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

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.”


Latest News Stories

Neelu Berry

An activist making claims of satanic abuse at a Hampstead church could face three new charges of witness intimidation.

Yesterday, 15:00
Hornsey Town Hall Appreciation Society members. From left Amanda Carrara, Chris Currer, Mark Afford, Miriam Levin and Dave Winskill.

The fight for community ownership of Hornsey Town Hall continues, even though the council officially invited bids from developers last week.

Yesterday, 08:00
Expedition 45 Commander SCOTT KELLY took this selfie photograph during a 7-hour and 16-minute spacewalk. This was the first spacewalk for both Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren; the two will venture outside the International Space Station for the second time on next Friday. Kelly becomes the U.S. astronaut who has lived in space the longest during a single U.S. spaceflight, and on Monday, Nov. 2, the crew celebrates the 15th year of a continuous human presence in space aboard the station. (Credit Image: © NASA/ZUMA Wire)

Young gardeners are preparing for a close encounter of the herbaceous kind when they attempt to grow seeds from outer space.

Yesterday, 08:00
Keir Starmer arrives with his wife Victoria at the election count. Picture: Polly Hancock

It’s been six months since Sir Keir Starmer won the safe Labour seat of Holborn and St Pancras by a huge majority.

Saturday, November 28, 2015
Volunteers plant a new herbaceous border to mark Waterlow Park's 125th anniversary. Picture: Polly Hancock

Volunteers armed with gardening forks and spades replanted a herbaceous border to mark a Highgate park’s 125th anniversary.

Saturday, November 28, 2015
Bridget Cherry pictured at Hornsey Tower

Bridget Cherry's book, Ivy-Mantled Tower A History of the Church and Churchyard of St Mary Hornsey has been published by The Hornsey Historical Soc. Picture: Nigel Sutton

In telling the story of a long-vanished parish church, architectural historian Bridget Cherry has delved into the heart of what was once Hornsey village.

Saturday, November 28, 2015
Paul Young, 18, who won the Personal Journey award and was named Inspirational Young Person of the Year at the Camden Youth Awards. Picture: Dieter Perry

Paul Young struggled to cope after suffering mental health problems, being bullied at school, and having to care for his unwell mother.

Friday, November 27, 2015
Crouch End Festival Chorus at St John's Smith Square. Photo: Emily Soppet

The Crouch End Festival Chorus is taking a deep breath and running a 12-hour sponsored singing marathon this Saturday to raise funds for a major recording project.

Most read news

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


Nike Trainers

Nike’s motto is ‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.’ With this in mind it’s no surprise why Nike is the preferred training gear for most A-list athletes. Get an extra boost in your run or height in your jump with £500 to spend on Nike trainers.

MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder