Soho Italian delicatessen

I Camisa and Son has been saved from closure after it signed a new lease allowing it to stay open for two more years.

Soho’s last Italian delicatessen ended last year with hope, following successful negotiations with the site’s owners, Shaftesbury plc.

Camisa’s future as one of Soho’s last independent shops was in doubt last year after the landlord raised rents to match pre pandemic levels, despite the store not reporting a parallel level of trade.

Its manager, Cristina Onuta said in December that the deli was on “a dangerous kind of terrain”.

Onuta, who had been with the business since 1999, explained that one of the challenges with running the store was the lack of reliability of imported food.

She said: “Lately we’ve had difficulty with importing, because the fresh stuff takes a longer time to get here and sometimes you don’t get it on time, and sometimes it expires before it gets here. You place an order for pasta and you get half an order and you don’t really get an explanation why.

“Every time prices go up every time. We don’t really like to put our prices up, but sometimes you have to do it.”

Sales to restaurants have also declined due to competition with wholesalers, Onuta said.

“We used to (do it), but most of the restaurants we serve have closed over the years, and some of them have moved to wholesalers.”

The campaign to save Camisa included a petition signed by over 5,700 people, and even attracted the support of some high profile figures including Stephen Fry and Miriam Margoyles.

Tim Lord, the campaign coordinator, described Camisa as “like going back five decades”.

Speaking on Soho Radio, he said: “I just think it’s such a beautiful place. You walk a yard off Old Compton Street into that shop and it’s like going back five decades.

“And in terms of the experience, it’s a magical thing. Every aspect of the shop when you walk in in terms of its visual experience, from the way the floor is done to how things are displayed, the old metal cabinet, the marble top table. I mean it’s just an exquisite thing.

“It’s like being in a little movie, and I think people will really miss that if we lose it.”

Camisa was set up by the Camisa brothers, who opened at the current location in 1961. In 2007 the business was sold to Italian importer Alivini, while the freehold was transferred to Shaftesbury plc.

Main image: Tim Lord/Soho Society.

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