The Spaghetti Tree, UK First Edition, 2008
Subject of the book
This book by Alasdair Scott Sutherland looks at the growth of foreign - and especially Italian - cooking in the UK in the 1950s, centred in particularly around Soho in London.
The name in the title comes from the famous BBC Panorama programme of the 1950 in which a spoof report claimed that problems with the spaghetti 'harvest' in Italy would mean a shortage of the pasta in Britain. The author explores how two restaurateurs - Mario Cassandro and Franco Lagattolla, owners of La Trattoria Terrazza in Soho - were the architects of the modern cuisine experience in London and the centre of an expanding cultural universe in London in the sixties.
Len Deighton was at the centre of this world in the sixties, as a gourmand and cookery writer and of course a famous writer he was one of the many celebrities who dined in style in the new, swanky Italian eateries. The 'Trat scene' has become a part of sixties folklore.
Famously, in The Ipcress File, Deighton gave Terrazza a plug through the Harry Palmer character, who says: "In London with a beautiful girl, one must show her to Mario at the Taerrazza."
Mario Cassandro died in June 2011.
Deighton recounts how he became well acquainted with Soho through his time at St Martin's College of Art there, where he worked as a waiter during his student years. Coming back through Soho in the early morning after work, he'd get to know the restaurateurs and the shopkeepers of the area. Deighton ended up knowing many of the big name owners and chefs, and recounts some of the tales of what swinging Soho was like in the sixties over three pages.
'In the sixties Hollywood came to London. Show-biz correspondents, notably Peter Evans, brought top American film stars to La Terrazza. With the instinct that made them a world-wide success, Mario and Franco didn't put their stars on display but tucked them away in the inaccessible Positano Room. It was a canny move. Even when the Positano Room held only wannabees like me, the buzz said that Frank and Liz were downstairs and Cecil Beaton had been stopped at the door for carrying a concealed camera.'