To walk into Italo is to see all of the reverence and care of his mothers approach to food married with a relaxed aesthetic that is Charlies trademark. With an emphasis on Italian produce, home-made fresh ravioli and great bunches of herbs sit next to plump tomatoes and crusty fresh bread, while staff bustle behind the counters, making coffee and generously stuffed panini for customers to linger over at an outside table. Its the very picture of bonhomie.
Three years ago, a boarded-up shop occupied this now-thronging corner of the square. Its owner, who had stoically seen the area was fought over by squatters and developers, had retired; the squatters won and created a peaceful network of streets abundant with greenery and a mildly eccentric personality. Into this scene stepped Charlie, with no retail experience but an abiding passion for Italian produce and a fan of the square, after soaking up the atmosphere from the Bonnington Café opposite. He, with his friend Luigi – whose own family had closed their deli not far away – decided to create their own shop. “I have a very strong dislike of expensive food shops and that whole Borough Market thing – the effect where quality translates into high prices and exclusivity,” says Charlie now. “People can feel excluded from the food revolution going on.”They dont at Italo. The shop stocks essentials and store-cupboard basics unusual and good-quality brands, often Italian, along with wine, Rococo chocolates owner Chantal Coady was once a Bonnington activist and treats including Gelato Delight ice-creams – worth a detour alone.Sadly, one item no longer in stock is Arabellas home-made terrine. “I was making two a week, which was fun, and they were very popular,” she recalls. “But it was quite tedious after the hundredth.” Lucky visitors, however, may spot her on one of her occasional visits to her sons shop.
Also a semi-regular fixture at Charlies shop is his son Frank, 24. Frank is the wild-haired, youngest of the clan, and his zest for life and what his brother Jackson calls “enormous charm, enthusiasm and grit” make him an asset to the familys operations, which he helps in the long gap between his bars opening months of July to September.