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

53 minutes ago

The headteacher of a private school believes that sport in school should be used to engage the majority rather than burnish the few amidst reports that not enough young people are doing enough exercise each week.

07:00

Simon Happily is an award-winning comedian who comperes the annual Pup Aid event in Primrose Hill and hosts his fun weekly pub quiz at the Lord Palmerston (Dartmouth Park Hill) every Tuesday at 8.15pm. He has appeared on television including Richard & Judy and The Big Breakfast on Channel 4 and has hosted comedy as various festivals, including London Mardi Gras. Simon lives in Belsize Park with his rescue dog Teddy. You can follow him on Twitter @SimonHappily.

Yesterday, 19:06

A petition to save the number 13 bus route has been handed to City Hall by Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party campaigners - setting up local members for a clash with Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has the final say on proposed changes.

Yesterday, 18:00

A church community centre is considering stepping up security after its post office was raided for the second time this year.

Yesterday, 15:00

Sadiq Khan will carry out a wide-reaching inquiry into foreign companies buying property in the capital - amid concern the flood of investment has fuelled rocketing house prices in local boroughs.

Yesterday, 13:06

The Ham and High can today reveal the filthiest local restaurants and takeaways which officials say need “urgent improvement”

Yesterday, 13:00

A police officer will not face criminal charges after being filmed repeatedly striking a man with his baton during an arrest even though the police watchdog found he has a case to answer.

Yesterday, 11:38

Firearms officers raced to Prince of Wales Road in Kentish Town on Thursday evening to reports a man had been gunned down.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Interested in purchasing a flat and want to know the rules, rights and regulations as a leaseholder? Or maybe you are already a leaseholder and want to find out more about extending your lease?

Scores of people visited the opening of Composite Door Master’s first public showroom in Hayes at the weekend, where they were treated to a spectacular show by award winning magician, Marc Oberon.

You’ve got cash, you’ve got style and you’ve got a bursting social calendar, but no time. These Crouch End studio suites to rent could be your dream come true.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate 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

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

As we grow older it becomes more and more important to have means to travel about safely and quickly. Our friendship groups and families grow and the need to have a car that is not only safe but also fast and big enough for all our needs is ever more important. There are many cars on the market for such needs but none deals with them as efficiently or as neatly as a VW Golf Estate. These cars are build strong, long lasting and spacious for a reason. They cater to the needs of many and are some of the most popular cars currently on the market.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now