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Norwich Italian café owner to retire after 30 years in the business

PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:24 13 March 2019

Roberto Cimelli is hanging up his apron strings after more than 30 years service, Presto, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Roberto Cimelli is hanging up his apron strings after more than 30 years service, Presto, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

He has kept his loyal customers happy with countless espressos and bowls of pasta.

Roberto Cimelli is hanging up his apron strings after more than 30 years service, Presto, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodRoberto Cimelli is hanging up his apron strings after more than 30 years service, Presto, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

But after more than three decades in the restaurant business, Roberto Cimelli is hanging up his apron strings.

Mr Cimelli first opened Cafe Italia - as it was known at the time - in Orford Street in Norwich in 2004, running the business for six years before selling up and retiring in 2010.

But after two years, Mr Cimelli grew bored with retirement and when he saw his old premises was up sale decided to go back into business.

He said: “Holidaying wasn’t enough for us, it was alright for a bit for but then we got bored.”

Presto is set to close, Orford Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodPresto is set to close, Orford Street, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Having returned to the premises in 2012, then renaming it Presto, Mr Cimelli - who is in his seventies - said this time around it felt like the right time to retire, although he said he would miss his customers.

“We have built up a relationship with our customers and 95pc of them have been here since we were Cafe Italia,” he said.

“We’ve created a social club, the customers all know each and they all meet for lunch, they come two to three times a week and I’m going to miss that because they’re almost like family and that’s going to be really hard.”

But Mr Cimelli also said he and his wife, who helps run the café along with his son, who works in the kitchen, were looking forward to a break.

Roberto Cimelli is hanging up his apron strings after more than 30 years service, Presto, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodRoberto Cimelli is hanging up his apron strings after more than 30 years service, Presto, Norwich. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

“My wife is looking forward to [retiring] because it’s hard work and she’s looking to a good rest,” he said.

He said he had seen the restaurant trade in Norwich change significantly over the years - including plenty of closures - but said he felt his café had weathered the sometimes difficult trading conditions well.

He said: “The last five years have been the best we have ever had but then I think we are a little bit different.

“We find that most of our customers are regulars and they keep coming back and they tell me that they don’t go to chain restaurants.”

Adding that he was almost fully booked for his last day of business on March 27, Mr Cimelli said he thought the last couple of days would be quite emotional.

“I’d like to thank all my customers for their loyal support over the years and I feel really sorry that I’m going to lose them, I’ll miss them,” he said.

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