Swiss cafés in England

In past centuries the endemic poverty of valleys in Southern Switzerland forced many inhabitants to leave their families on a seasonal basis - and sometimes even forever - to work, preferably in the cities of northern Italy, and later, in other parts of Europe or further afield.

In the early 16th century when Venice was an independent republic, it was the largest trading power in the world. Coffee had come to Venice through its trading links with the Arabian Peninsula, where it was cultivated. The cafés of Venice had become very successful as meeting places for politicians, intellectuals, and artists. Around 1570, thanks to a treaty between the Republic of Venice and the Free State of the Three Leagues – now Canton Grigioni - Swiss emigrants were able to practice a profession in Venice.  Young Swiss men became apprenticed in the coffee shops, bakers, and pastry shops where they learned the secrets of the trade, and many went on to establish their own shops and cafés. However, in 1766, following a political crisis, the entire Swiss community was expelled from the city. These confectioners or pastrycooks had developed a wide range of skills in pastries, coffee, chocolate, ice cream and liqueur products. They came from different culinary cultures, and pastry chefs with their traditional recipes from Canton Grigione, were amongst the best in the profession. When the Swiss confectioners were forced to leave Venice, they took this high-quality professional experience to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, and Russia, and later to England, France, Holland, and Belgium.

During the 19th century, the expanding populations and poor harvests in Europe forced more emigration. Hundreds of Italians and Swiss-Italians left Italy and Cantons Ticino and Grigioni to go to other countries. Emigrants from the Valtellina had gone to Rome and by 1820 some Catholic shopkeepers from Valposchiavo had followed them and settled there. They established restaurants, bakeries, and shops selling liquors, and soon there were about fifty of these in the hands of Poschiavini in Rome. Their descendants prospered there until the Second World War. In Canton Grigioni, those confectioners who went abroad were mainly from the Reformed community, and they experimented with new products by creating original recipes with chocolate and marzipan. In southern Italy, they introduced the sterilization of milk and the use of butter and cream - ingredients then almost unknown in those parts. The walnut cake and the famous Swiss Roll were popularized at this time. Despite its name, the latter is believed to have originated in the 19th century in Central Europe, most probably Austria.

Many emigrants arrived in England from around 1850, firstly from Canton Ticino, and then from Valposchiavo, to open Swiss restaurants and bakeries in towns along the south coast and elsewhere. These were now accessible by railways and were becoming fashionable holiday resorts. High-quality pastries and confectionery were served, and the Swiss restaurants became very successful. It is probable that those immigrants from Valposchiavo heard about the opportunities in England from their compatriots in Ticino, as they did about Australia and America.

The word café in Italian means bar, so it is more correct to describe Swiss Cafés as restaurants, some of which became meeting places of cultural life. Giovanni (Uncle Johnnie) Rocca, the youngest brother of our grandfather Louis Rocca, owned a Swiss Restaurant in the Kings Road, Chelsea, London, and one of his regular patrons was the famous painter, Augustus John. It is said that "Il gattopardo" (The Leopard), the legendary novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and regarded as a classic of European literature, was largely written on the tables of the Palermo restaurant of a family from Canton Grigioni who also owned numerous other restaurants and shops in Naples, Brindisi and Catania.  

Thus, many families from Valposchiavo have ancestors who were pastrycooks and confectioners. Some of these emigrants were highly successful and they returned to Poschiavo when they retired. They were able to have mansions built in the 1860’s at the southern end of Poschiavo, and these became known as the Palazzi. Others who had made their fortune abroad, helped to create a flourishing hotel industry.

 Antonio Fanconi was thought to have come to England around 1850, although we have not been able to confirm this from published data. However, we know from census records that the Compagnoni and Semadeni families were amongst the earliest arrivals from Valposchiavo, in the 1850s and 1860s. In the small communities of the valley, many people were related or knew each other, so it is not surprising that they came around the same time. They were important because they brought others to England in subsequent years, and often employed members of their families and friends, as we shall see.

In our own family, Frederico Marchesi and his family arrived at Broadstairs, Kent, around 1883 and opened first a bakery and then a restaurant, which were very successful and have only recently passed out of the direct control of the family. Several other members of our own family came to England and opened Swiss restaurants. We give details of these family members first, followed by Hans Semadeni, as he was a pioneer of emigration to England, and then the other families where we have photographs.

Federico 1839 – 1922, and Elizabeth Marchesi-Claxton 1845-1922.

Federico was the eldest son of Giuseppe Marchesi and Anna Maria Marchesi, née Gaigher, and he went to Australia in 1858 on a sailing ship, in search of gold. He married in Australia and in 1875, he returned with his wife Elisabeth and family to Poschiavo. They came to England around 1883, as there were plenty of opportunities in England for Swiss restaurants. He bought a bakery in Broadstairs, Kent, and then opened a Swiss restaurant. The growth in railways at this time was enabling people to visit the seaside for a holiday, and the business became very successful. It was still run by direct descendants until recently, enjoying a high reputation as the oldest family run restaurant in England! Federico and Elizabeth were buried in the Poschiavo cemetery. Our grandfathers, Erminio Marchesi and Louis Rocca, worked for Federico at Broadstairs, after arriving in England.

Giuseppe, 1867-1916 and Teresin Marchesi-Lardi, 1879-1962.

Giuseppe (Joe) Marchesi was born in Heathcote, near Melbourne, Australia, where his father Federico had gone in 1858 to search for gold. His parents decided to leave Australia when the gold was harder to find, and the family travelled back to Poschiavo via Liverpool on the SS Great Britain in 1875. In 1883, they came to Broadstairs, England, and established a very successful business, in which Joe worked. By 1891, he had moved to Glasgow as a cook, at the Swiss Restaurant of Fortunato and Rosa Ferrari, from Canton Ticino, to gain more experience.

Joe married Teresin Lardi in Poschiavo in 1900. By 1901, he and Emilio Crameri, 1872-1918, had opened their restaurant at 5, George Row, in Northampton, and Joe’s sisters Ida and Matilda and brothers Federico and Adolfo were on the staff, together with Louis Rocca and Celesta Colombero, who became our maternal grandparents. Benedetto Lanfranchi and two other young waiters from Poschiavo also worked there. Giuseppe died in London in 1916 and Teresina went to live in Poschiavo and died there in 1962.

Emilio, 1872-1918, e Ida Crameri-Marchesi, 1876-1959

At the time of the 1891 England Census, Emilio was a waiter at the restaurant of his uncle Luigi Longhi (1853-1939) in 12 Harbour Street, Folkestone, who eventually moved his business to Margate. Emilio went into partnership with Giuseppe (Joe) Marchesi in their Swiss Restaurant at Northampton around 1901. He also had his own Swiss restaurant in 79 High Street, Gravesend in 1901. He and Ida Marchesi married in 1909 and by 1911, had returned to their Swiss Restaurant at Gravesend.

Sadly, Emilio died in Poschiavo in 1918, leaving Ida with their two young daughters Vera and Lidia, and they went to live in Poschiavo. Emilio had inherited the Ragno vineyard near the border at Tirano from his parents, Carlo and Teresa Crameri-Rampa, but Ida was unable to maintain this. Fortunately, it remained in the family as it was taken over by Doctor Giuseppe Marchesi and is now owned by his grandson Paulo De Vecchi and his wife Elisabetta.

Erminio 1871-1936, and Mary Marchesi-Danaher, 1873-1951.

Erminio came to England in 1886 accompanied by his friend Luigi Rocca from San Carlo. They worked for Erminio’s uncle Federico Marchesi, who had left Australia and come to England to establish a bakery and a Swiss restaurant at Broadstairs, Kent. We believe that he may also have spent some time with Emilia Semadeni in Kensington, who was like a second mother to him. In the 1891 England census, he shared lodgings with Pietro Crameri in Margate, Kent, and they may have been working at a restaurant there. In the 1901 England Census, Pietro’s uncle Luigi Longhi, who was from Privilasco, San Carlo, Poschiavo, had a Swiss restaurant at Marine Terrace in Margate, but we do not know if this was the same one.

At Broadstairs, he met Mary Jane Danaher, 1873-1951, and they married in November 1896. They opened their own restaurant in 1896, at 77, Prince of Wales Road, Norwich. Later, he took over Langford’s Restaurant at 50, London Street, in the centre of Norwich, and a bakery and confectionery shop at nearby Davey Place. These successful enterprises had been established by two sisters, Christiana Langford, and her sister Elizabeth, and they also had a restaurants Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, and a teashop at Wells-next-the-Sea, on the Norfolk coast.

 By 1901 he had established Swiss restaurants/tearooms at Cromer, and at Sheringham, on the north Norfolk coast. He became very successful, eventually supplying catering services to Sandringham where the Royal family have a summer residence, and at the Royal Norfolk Shows, as well as to many other important venues. He was hospitable and loved company, and his niece Elena Vassella-Marchesi told us that he was remembered for his generosity and the esteem in which he was held by the many people who knew him. Like many emigrants he retained a great affection for his hometown.

Louis Marchesi 1898-1968

Langford’s London St., Norwich

Louis Marchesi was the eldest son of the family of Erminio and Mary Marchesi. When he was about 8 years old, he and his brother Terry were sent to stay with their grandparents, Luigi and Maria Marchesi-Dorizzi, in Cima Villa, Poschiavo. They travelled before the Bernina railway was completed and so the last part of the journey over the Pass would have been in a stagecoach drawn by 4 horses.

 They attended the school for a year under the guidance of Maestro Antonio Vassella and lived the life of ordinary pusc’ciavín boys. At the age of 17 and a half, Louis joined the British Army and served in the Near East and India during World War I.

After the war, Louis worked in his father's restaurants in Norwich and gradually took over the business. In 1927 he was the founder of the Round Table movement. This is an international organization with over 30,000 members and is active in local communities in 60 different countries.

Louis, 1869-1938, and Celesta Rocca-Colombero, 1873-1963

Nina Rocca, Louis Rocca, Celesta Colombero ca1902

Luigi (Louis) Rocca was the eldest child of Pietro and Maria Rocca-Lanfranchi, of San Carlo. He came to England around 1886, with his friend Erminio Marchesi, to work for Federico Marchesi in Broadstairs, Kent. To gain experience, Louis worked in several other Swiss restaurants, including those of Hans Semadeni in Brighton, and Federico's son, Giuseppe Marchesi in Northampton. He opened his own restaurant at 15 Narrow Bridge Street, Peterborough ca. 1902, and married Celesta Colombero, in 1903. We have his book in which he meticulously recorded his recipes, over many years. He was a generous man, for his daughter Vera told us that he often gave bread to people in the very poor part of Peterborough. In the following years he helped his sister Nina Rocca, 1872-1957, and his brothers Pietro Rocca, 1878-1939, and Giovanni Giuseppe Rocca, 1890-1968, to come to England and found their own Swiss restaurants.

Louis and Celesta moved from Peterborough to a shop in Clapham, London, then in 1929, to 136 High Street, Tonbridge. and we know this as we have postcards addressed to them here. This restaurant was once owned by Gaspard and Franca Semadeni-Lardelli, who were there at the time of the 1911 England Census. Finally, they purchased Robinson's, a restaurant at Leek in Staffordshire. with a patisserie on the ground floor. Local workers bought meat pies for their lunches, at this shop. Louis died in Newcastle-under-Lyme, but is buried in Tonbridge, Kent. They had retained their home in Tonbridge, and we remember enjoying our visits to our grandmother there.

Sebastiano, 1873-1924, and Nina (Caterina) Longhi-Rocca, 1872-1957

Sebastiano was born in Precasaglio, near Ponte di Legno, in the Alta Valtellina, in the Province of Brescia, Italy. His father was Bartolo Longhi, a farmer. In the 1901 England Census, he was a restaurant waiter living in Knightsbridge, London. He moved to Peterborough and was the manager of a photographer's shop in Narrow Bridge Street, near Louis Rocca’s Swiss Restaurant.

Nina was working for Gaspero Fanconi in his Swiss Restaurant in Southampton, England in 1891, soon after she arrived here at the age of 18. Later, she worked as a parlour maid for a vicar in Cumbria and then for her brother Louis Rocca when he opened his Swiss Restaurant in Peterborough. In 1904 Sebastiano married Nina Rocca at All Souls Catholic Church, Peterborough, and shortly after this, they moved to London. In the 1911 England Census, Sebastiano and Nina were running a restaurant in Dale Street, Chatham, Kent, and they had two daughters, Dolores and Isola, and twin baby sons, Pietro and Oreste.  The two boys were taken to meet their Italian grandparents but died after drinking some milk from a sick cow. They were brought back to England to be buried in Croydon, Surrey.

By 1913, Sebastiano and Nina had moved their business to a restaurant called The Creamery in West Croydon, England. Sebastiano died in 1924, leaving Nina to run the business and take care of their family. We do not know if he was related to Luigi Longhi who had Swiss restaurants at Folkestone, Kent, and later at Maidstone and finally at Margate. Luigi and his wife both came from Privilasco, San Carlo, and further research in the church records in Poschiavo is necessary to see if there is a family connection.

Pietro, 1872-1939 e Giulia Rocca-Diehl, 1888-1955

Pietro was born in San Carlo, Poschiavo, Switzerland, and he was the second son of Pietro and Maria Rocca-Lanfranchi, of San Carlo. His elder brother Louis encouraged him to come to England and in the 1901 census, he was working as a cook/chef at a restaurant at 92 High Street, Maidstone, Kent. Pietro Crameri, 1872-1964, (see later), was also working at this restaurant, which was owned by his uncle Luigi Longhi from Privilasco, San Carlo. We do not know if he was related to Sebastiano Longhi, Pietro's sister Nina’s husband.

The manager of this restaurant was a Giuseppe Lanfranchi and on the staff were Paolo Menghini and Katherina (sic) Holdener, all Swiss subjects from Poschiavo. Pietro became known as Peter and married his wife Giulia in 1911. They had two daughters, Olga and Nina, and owned a Swiss Restaurant near the seafront at Herne Bay, Kent.

Giovanni Giuseppe, 1890-1968, and Sabina Rocca-Maiolani, 1883-1948

Giovanni (Johnny) Rocca is said to have been born in the Lanfranchi munt in Cadera, Poschiavo, which belonged to his mother's family. A munt was a mountain hut usually with thick stone or wooden walls, which the families used in summer when their cows grazed in the alpine meadows. In those days, there was no running water in the munts and families took this from a nearby pump. Giovanni was the youngest son of Pietro and Caterina Rocca-Lanfranchi of San Carlo and came to England to work at the Swiss Restaurant of his brother Louis, at 15 Narrow Bridge Street, Peterborough. He and Sabina married in Peterborough in 1912, at St Peter and All Souls Church, Peterborough.

Eventually, he bought the Radnor Restaurant, at 93-95, King's Road, Chelsea, London, and he and his family lived above the restaurant. This was a very fashionable establishment, and with his Italian style good looks, his accent, and his extrovert personality, he was popular with the bohemian Chelsea set, including the artist, Augustus John. Short of money in his early days, Augustus once paid for his meal with a sketch of Uncle Johnnie.

Johnnie Rocca was a shrewd businessman and in due course he moved his restaurant business to Richmond, Surrey, and later to Fyfe Road, Kingston, Surrey. Sabina sadly died in 1948 and he married Gemma Maolani in 1955, who was also from Sabina's family. He died in Kingston, Surrey.

Hans, 1836-1913 and Louisa Semadeni-Betrix, 1846-1941

Hans Semadeni emigrated to find work, first to Italy and then to Australia in search of gold. After some time there, he returned to Europe and trained as a pastrycook in his brother’s business at Charleville, France. From there, Hans went to London to improve his English and work as a pastrycook. After gaining more experience, he established what became a very successful Swiss Pasticceria at 48 Preston Street, Brighton, in 1868. He married Louisa Semadeni-Betrix, 1846-1941, in 1870 in Brighton.

By 1881, Ilon Geng was running the business and we believe that he was related to Hans, but we cannot confirm this. By 1891, Andrea Compagnoni, 1862-1940, a second cousin of Hans, was running the business with his wife Margherita Compagnoni-Pozzi, 1864-1942, and we give details about them later.

In the years between 1868 to 1888, more than three hundred Poschiavinis emigrated to England and Scotland, including Hans’s brother Giulio, and many other family relations and friends. Our maternal grandfather Louis Rocca, aged 22, from San Carlo, was working for Hans at his Swiss Restaurant in Brighton, in 1891. Hans helped many to establish themselves independently and so he can be regarded as a pioneer of the emigration to England from Valposchiavo.

Hans Semadeni and his family returned to live in Poschiavo and by 1901, he had sold the business to Tomaso Schumacher, 1864-1934, who was indirectly related to both the Semadenis and the Compagnonis. Hans’ two sons Hans Gaspard and Adolfo did not want to continue in the business, but his daughter Annetta married Pietro Rodolfo Lardi and they owned two restaurants in Southampton, as we shall see later. 

Adolfo Vittore, 1872-1959, and Maria Teresa Bondolfi, 1872-1963

Adolfo and his wife Maria owned this Swiss Restaurant at 21 Cornfield Road, Eastbourne, Sussex. They were listed on the 1901 census and in the 1911 census there was a Mary Marchesi aged 19, on his staff, but she was not one of our direct family. The photo was taken in the 1960’s.

Giuseppe, 1857-1923, and Monica Compagnoni-Peita, 1849-1918

In the 1891 census, Giuseppe, a baker and confectioner, and his wife Monica, were running their restaurant at Eversfield Road, Hastings. Giuseppe was Andrea Compagnoni’s elder brother, and his father was a nephew of Hans Semadeni’s mother. On his staff were Domenico Semadeni, pastry cook, aged 19, and Alma Fisler, aged 18. They married in 1893 and by 1901, had their own Swiss Restaurant at Ifracombe – see details later.

In 1901, Giuseppe and Monica were at their restaurant at 120 Terminus Road, Eastbourne, Sussex, and they were still there in 1911. The photograph of the Compagnoni Brothers’ restaurant suggests that his brother Andrea also had some part in the business.

Andrea, 1862-1940 and Margherita Compagnoni-Pozzi, 1864-1942

Giuseppe and Giovanni Andrea Compagnoni

In the 1881 census, Giovanni Andrea Compagnoni, 1862-1940, known by his second name, was on the staff of Hans Semadeni’s restaurant at Preston Street, Brighton, which was then being run by Ilon Geng and his wife. Andrea was a confectioner, aged 18 and his father was a nephew of Hans Semadeni’s mother. By the time of the 1891 census, Andrea and Margherita had their own restaurant at 73 King’s Road, Brighton, Sussex.

In the 1891 census, Hans Semadeni is still recorded at his Brighton restaurant, but his wife and two younger children were not listed, so we think that the family had returned Poschiavo. The other staff there were young and maybe Andrea was helping Hans with the management of the business, as well as running his own with his wife at King’s Road, Brighton. Andrea’s brother, Giuseppe and his wife Monica, were at Eastbourne, and we think that Andrea also had an interest in that business.

Tomaso, 1859-1939 and Margherita Compagnoni-Schumacher, 1868-1939

Tomaso was a pastry cook and confectioner, and at the time of the 1891 England Census, he and his wife Margherita were running their restaurant at 5 South Street, Broadwater, Worthing, Sussex. They married at Dover in 1888 and went on to have a family of 6 daughters and 2 sons. He was a brother of Giuseppe and Andrea Compagnoni, and their parents were Giovanni Hans Compagnoni, 1821-1888, and Anna Maria Schumacher, 1820-1892. She was the sister of Margherita’s father. Tomaso and his brothers were 2nd cousins of Hans Semadeni.

Margherita was the sister of Tomaso Schumacher,1864-1934, who bought Hans Semadeni’s business at Preston St, Brighton. At the time of the 1901 England Census, she was running the restaurant at Worthing on her own, so we presume that her husband also had other business interests to manage.

Pietro Crameri, 1872-1964, and Edith Crameri-Elliston, 1873-1943

Pietro Crameri and his brother Luigi

At the time of the 1891 England census, Peter was working as a waiter and was lodging in Margate. Erminio Marchesi, described as a pastrycook, was also staying at the same address, so he and Pietro may have been working at a restaurant in Margate.

Pietro and his brother Luigi, 1877-1958, were sons of Tommaso and Maria Margherita Crameri-Longhi, from San Carlo, and had come to England to work as waiters for their uncle Louis Longhi. Louis and Maria Longhi had a restaurant in, Folkestone in 1891, but by 1901, they had moved their business to Margate. We do not know if this was where Pietro and Erminio had worked. By 1903, the Longhis had their restaurant at 92 High Steet, Maidstone, but they returned to Margate and in the 1911 census they were at 20-24 Marine Drive, which was nearer to the seafront than before.

Pietro and Edith married in 1898 and in the 1901 England Census, they had their own Swiss Restaurant at 16-17 High Street, Maidstone, employing his younger brother Luigi as a baker. They were at the same address in 1911.

Around 1907, Luigi Crameri returned to live in Poschiavo and married Orsola Bassi. They had a family of two sons and three daughters. Pietro never returned to live there.

Bartolo, ca1860 and Vittoria De Piazzi, ca1860

Bartolo was a baker and confectioner. He and his wife Vittoria both aged 41 in 1901 Census, ran their Swiss Restaurant at 4 Cliftonville Parade, Margate.  He was from Madonna di Tirano, just over the border from Valposchiavo, and she was from Borgo San Lorenzo in Florence. They were friends of the Marchesi family at Broadstairs. By the time of the census in 1911, they had moved to run a Swiss restaurant at Wimbledon, London.

Aristide 1883-1972, and Teresina Luminati-Lardi 1890-1978

Aristide was on the staff at Hans Semadeni’s Pasticceria at Brighton before he bought this Swiss Restaurant at Gosport from Ermano and Maria Godenzi, and he and his wife Teresina were running it at the time of the 1911 census. The Godenzis also had a Swiss restaurant in Kings Rd, Southsea, when the 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses occurred. Aristide and Teresina had the Gosport restaurant until 1920 and in 1927, they returned to Poschiavo, where they bought and restructured the Hotel-Restaurant Bernina in Via da Mez.

Pietro Rodolfo, 1866-1942, and Annetta Lardi-Semadeni, 1872-1955

163, High Street, Southampton

179, High Street, Southampton

Pietro was born in Granada, Spain, where his father had a Swiss Restaurant. He and his wife Annetta married in 1894, and were proprietors of Pasteleria Suiza in Granada, Spain.[1] Annetta was Hans Semadeni’s daughter. By 1911, they had taken over the two Swiss Restaurants in Southampton at 163 and 179 High Street, owned by Gasparo and Maria Fanconi. You can see the Fanconi name in the windows of the restaurants. On the staff at 163 High Street, was Delfina Grassi -Tuena, and we have provided some details of her life, in the chapter for Swiss Cafés without photos.

In 1911, Franca Semadeni, 1880-1978, was managing the restaurant at 179 Above Bar, Southampton. She married Antonio Fanconi in 1912, and her mother was a Lardi, so there were family connections with the restaurant at Southampton.

Pietro Rodolfo and his family returned to live in Poschiavo, around 1912, but their son Pietro Rodolfo junior, known as Dodo, 1895-1978, carried on running the restaurants, as noted in Kelly’s Directory of 1920. He went on to buy the restaurant of Giulio Semadeni at Claremont, Hastings in 1926, as we will describe.

Pietro Rodolfo Lardi junior, 1895-1978

Pietro Rodolfo Lardi junior was born in Granada, Spain, where his father had a Swiss Restaurant. He worked for his father in Southampton and served as a private soldier in the British Army during World War 1. He married Lilly Almina Semadeni, 1901-1986, in Southampton, in February 1922 and they had one child during their marriage - Rodolfo Lardi, 1923–2008. Lilly was born in Barnstable, Devon, and her parents were Domenico and Alma Semadeni-Fisler. (See details below). She died on 30 May 1986 at the age of 84.  On 1st May 1926, Pietro bought the Pasticceria Semadeni at Claremont, Hastings, owned by Giulio Semadeni (see later). He died in Southampton, on the same day as his younger brother Rudolf - 19 February 1978, but we do not know the circumstances of this.

This restaurant was very badly damaged in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. You can see photographs of this in the gallery for Swiss Cafés in England.

Pietro Rodolfo Lardi, senior on the right, next to his son Dodo, at 163 High Street, Southampton, with two employees.

The interior of the Swiss Restaurant at 179 High Street, Southampton, Hampshire. Seated at the first table on the right is Pietro Rodolfo Lardi, (Dodo).

 Carlo Rayna, ca 1860-1931, and Luisina Rayna-Peroni, 1871-1951

Café Royal, 59 London Street, Norwich. (Now Nationwide Building Society).

Carlo Angelo Rayna (originally Raina) and his family were close friends of Erminio Marchesi and his family, and his restaurant was at 59 London Street, Norwich, very near to Langford’s, owned by Erminio. Carlo was born in Milan, and we do not know when he came to England. He became a naturalised British subject in July 1901 and collaborated with Erminio on important civic and other functions in Norwich. For these reasons, we provide details of Carlo’s restaurant in Norwich.

We know from a photograph that Carlo visited Erminio and his brother Giuseppe at the Ragno vineyard in Tirano, at the time of the vendemmia (wine harvest), and we were told by his grandson, Ian Sayer, that they sometimes stayed with Erminio at Devon House, in Poschiavo, owned by Domenico Semadeni (see later).

Tomaso, 1864-1934, and Margherita Schumacher-Pozzi, 1870-1924

Tomaso, aged 26, and his first wife Anna Maria Crausaz, 1860-1901, were recorded as the managers of a restaurant at Snargate Steet, Dover, in the England Census of 1891. His sisters Maria and Anna were on the staff. Sadly, Anna Maria died in 1901, and he married Margherita Pozzi in Brighton in September 1903.

Tomaso bought Hans Semadeni’s Pasticceria at 48 Preston Street, Brighton, when Hans and his family returned to live in Poschiavo. He is shown as the owner in the 1901 England Census. On the staff there, was Antonio Fanconi, 1879-1958, a baker aged 22. He was the brother of Giulio Fanconi, married to Tomaso’s sister, Anna Fanconi-Schumacher, 1870-1962. The photograph in 1906 shows Tomaso and Margherita in the doorway of the shop in Brighton. By 1909, Tomaso and Margherita had moved to own a Swiss restaurant at 94, St Mary St., Weymouth.

Tomaso was related very indirectly to the Semadenis as his father, Tomaso Schumacher, 1830-1903, was the brother of Anna Maria Schumacher, Hans Semadeni’s aunt-in-law. He was also indirectly related to the Compagnonis, because his sister was married to Tomaso Comagnoni, 1859-1939, who was also Hans Semadeni’s second cousin.

Here are other examples of the way in which those pastry cooks who were amongst the first who arrived from Poschiavo, helped their family and friends to come to England and establish their own enterprises.

Domenico 1872-1939, and Alma Semadeni-Fisler, 1873-1965

The Promenade, Ilfracombe

Domenico Semadeni, a pastrycook aged 19, was on the staff of Giuseppe Compagnoni’s Restaurant at Eversfield, Hastings at the time of the 1891 Census. Alma Fisler 1873-1965, aged 18, was also on the staff. They married on 17 Jun 1893, at Bath in Somerset, and by the time of the 1901 Census, they were running their own restaurant in The Promenade, on the seafront at Ilfracombe, Devon. They had three sons and two daughters who were all born in England, but in 1908, they purchased Devon House on Via di Palaz, from Pietro Pozzi, the original owner. Domenico died at Poschiavo in 1939 at the age of 67.

Our grandfather Erminio Marchesi had an apartment at Devon House when he visited Poschiavo, and the present owner, Hans-Jörg Bannwart, discovered a photograph of the wedding of our parents Terry and Pip Marchesi, and other family photos, in the loft. Hans-Jörg has restored the house in a most sensitive manner, and during the summers, film shows are presented in the garden.

Although Domenico’s parents were both Semadenis, we have not been able to establish a direct relationship between him and other members of the wider family who came to England. However, their daughter Lilly Almina Semadeni, 1901 – 1986, married Pietro Rodolfo Lardi in 1922 in Southampton, Hampshire, where his father had two restaurants, and his mother was a Semadeni.


Giulio, 1851-1910, and Giuditta Semadeni-Lanfranchini, before 1852-1935

Semadeni Café at Worthing

Semadeni Café at 6, Claremont, Hastings

Giulio was Hans Semadeni’s half-brother as their father married again after his first wife died. He was a confectioner and in the 1871 Census, he was on the staff of Hans Semadeni’s Swiss Pasticceria at Preston Street, Brighton. He and Giuditta married in October 1875, and by 1881, they had their own restaurant at George Street, Hastings, employing Giuditta’s brother, Giulio Lanfranchini aged 20, and Gasparo Fanconi aged 20. Giulio Semadini also owned another restaurant at Worthing, Sussex. Gasparo Fanconi went on to own restaurants at 163 and 179, High Street, Southampton, and our great aunt Nina Rocca worked for him, as we have already described.

By 1891, Giulio and Giuditta Semadeni had bought the Swiss Restaurant at 6, Claremont, Hastings. However, the business was managed by Gasparo, ca 1867-1930, and Franca Semadeni-Lardelli, ca 1863- ? In 1926, this restaurant was bought by Dodo Lardi, 1895-1978, son of Pietro Rodolfo and Annetta Lardi-Semadeni.

To see more photographs of these families, click here: - Swiss Cafes In England.


You can see a list of these for whom we have no photographs by clicking here