Image: Luigi Terroni established L Terroni & Sons, the first delicatessen in England, in 1878 at 138 Clerkenwell Road, next door to the RC Church of St Peter, on a block which is owned by the church. The Anissa family bought the business in 2003 and Terroni’s was revamped in 2012.
From the Hidden London website:
“Also once known as Italian Hill or the Italian Quarter, Little Italy’s boundaries have historically been recognised as Clerkenwell Road, Farringdon Road and Rosebery Avenue.
Over the course of the 19th century the Saffron Hill area – as it was earlier known – gained a growing population of working-class Italians. The authorities were glad to see these industrious immigrants progressively supplanting the pickpockets and fences who had made the area notorious and were vividly portrayed by Dickens in Oliver Twist (1837–8).
The Italian consul published a report in 1895 estimating that his countrymen in London numbered around 12,000, with southern Italians traditionally making their home in Little Italy while those from farther north were establishing a newer base in Soho.
The Soho contingent consisted of tailors, watchmakers, artists, domestic servants and those working in what would nowadays be called the hospitality industry. In Little Italy the principal occupations were all of an itinerant variety: “organ men, ice vendors, ambulant merchants, plaster bust sellers, models for artists, etc.”
The plaster bust trade features in the Sherlock Holmes adventure The Six Napoleons, in which the villain is of Italian origin and Inspector Lestrade calls upon the help of a colleague who has made a speciality of “Saffron Hill and the Italian Quarter”. While some observers looked down on the Neapolitans and Calabrians of Little Italy – and Conan Doyle certainly depicted a few of them in a poor light – most acknowledged that they were generally striving to make an honest living.
The concentration of Italians in this area reached a peak around the time of the consul’s report and during the 20th century the community spread itself more thinly throughout the capital.
Still, at the time of the 2011 census, almost 5 per cent of Little Italy’s residents were actually born in Italy, compared with just 0.75 per cent in London as a whole. (The census didn’t attempt to count how many British-born residents are of Italian descent.)
Giuseppe Mazzini, the writer, patriot and revolutionary, lived in Laystall Street and founded an Italian language school in nearby Hatton Garden in 1841.”