Author Topic: Belfast pizza cafes, the Fusco and Forte families  (Read 194 times)

Oldbelfastboy

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Belfast pizza cafes, the Fusco and Forte families
« on: February 15, 2021, 01:05:00 PM »
 I'm sorry I missed the interesting posts on this subject last year  as it was the 80th anniversary of a wartime tragedy which affects many Italian families to this day, so I thought I would raise a new topic to reflect this sad chapter in Belfast's history, as told to me by the late Peter Forte, a lovely man who was an Italian teacher.
First the pizza: I had my first pizza in the Continental Cafe in Castle Street about 1957, to be honest the soggy specimen put me off pizza for a very long time! The Continental Cafe was Belfast's first pizza parlour and was started before WW2 by Peter's uncle Giuseppe Forte who also owned the Lido Cafe opposite the station in Gt Victoria St. The Continental was blown up in the early years of the Troubles.
Uncle Joe was a well respected businessman and a leader of Belfast's Italian community, as well as the Fasci, the organisation for Italians abroad, including the 20,000 in Britain. Membership was essential if you needed anything from Italian officialdom, such as land ownership matters etc. Although founded by Mussolini the Fasci had little connection with Germany's fascism and most of its members wanted only to get on with their hard-working lives.
By early summer 1940 the Germans had raced across Europe, leaving Britain to stand alone until the first US soldiers landed in Belfast in mid-1942. There were fears of a 'fifth column' poised to commit sabotage and spying, so in June all German and Italian-born males over 16 were arrested and interned.
They included  Giuseppe Forte and his Fasci deputy, Antonio Fusco. But the police arrested the wrong Fusco, the deputy they wanted skipped to Dublin and they arrested Antonio from the Fusco family who owned a chip shop on the corner of York Street although Antonio wasn't even a fasci member. His younger brother Freddie, who owned the family's second shop on Crumlin Road and was one of Belfast's great characters, told me his story at the age of 92. They were taken to Liverpool and sent for internment in Canada aboard a ship called the Arandora Star.
Another internee was Angelo Morelli of Portstewart, who told of waiting to board on the quayside when soldiers stopped the man in front of him, saying that the ship was full. He was interned on the Isle of Man instead, to be released when Italy surrendered and freed to build the business that plays such a key part of Portstewart today.
Next day the Arandora Star sailed with twelve hundred German and Italian prisoners, guarded by two hundred soldiers. At about eight-thirty next morning she was torpedoed by a U-boat 75 miles west of Ireland and sank in half an hour. There was not enough lifeboats to begin with, and two were destroyed in the explosion. That afternoon many were rescued by a Canadian destroyer which answered the ship’s distress call. But more than 800 of the 1600 men aboard lost their lives, including Guiseppe Forte and Antonio Fusco, their bodies being washed ashore for weeks along coastlines from the Hebrides down through Rathlin, Donegal, Sligo and Mayo.
The Arandora Star was one of 58 ships sunk that month by the U-boats. Its grim legacy to Ireland is told in a 40-minute video. Can't post link so google youtube Arandora Star Ireland's Legacy.

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Re: Belfast pizza cafes, the Fusco and Forte families
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2021, 03:19:10 PM »
https://digitalfilmarchive.net/media/super-8-stories-extra-footage-the-580

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trainfield16

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Re: Belfast pizza cafes, the Fusco and Forte families
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2021, 08:56:08 AM »
I'm sorry I missed the interesting posts on this subject last year  as it was the 80th anniversary of a wartime tragedy which affects many Italian families to this day, so I thought I would raise a new topic to reflect this sad chapter in Belfast's history, as told to me by the late Peter Forte, a lovely man who was an Italian teacher.
First the pizza: I had my first pizza in the Continental Cafe in Castle Street about 1957, to be honest the soggy specimen put me off pizza for a very long time! The Continental Cafe was Belfast's first pizza parlour and was started before WW2 by Peter's uncle Giuseppe Forte who also owned the Lido Cafe opposite the station in Gt Victoria St. The Continental was blown up in the early years of the Troubles.
Uncle Joe was a well respected businessman and a leader of Belfast's Italian community, as well as the Fasci, the organisation for Italians abroad, including the 20,000 in Britain. Membership was essential if you needed anything from Italian officialdom, such as land ownership matters etc. Although founded by Mussolini the Fasci had little connection with Germany's fascism and most of its members wanted only to get on with their hard-working lives.
By early summer 1940 the Germans had raced across Europe, leaving Britain to stand alone until the first US soldiers landed in Belfast in mid-1942. There were fears of a 'fifth column' poised to commit sabotage and spying, so in June all German and Italian-born males over 16 were arrested and interned.
They included  Giuseppe Forte and his Fasci deputy, Antonio Fusco. But the police arrested the wrong Fusco, the deputy they wanted skipped to Dublin and they arrested Antonio from the Fusco family who owned a chip shop on the corner of York Street although Antonio wasn't even a fasci member. His younger brother Freddie, who owned the family's second shop on Crumlin Road and was one of Belfast's great characters, told me his story at the age of 92. They were taken to Liverpool and sent for internment in Canada aboard a ship called the Arandora Star.
Another internee was Angelo Morelli of Portstewart, who told of waiting to board on the quayside when soldiers stopped the man in front of him, saying that the ship was full. He was interned on the Isle of Man instead, to be released when Italy surrendered and freed to build the business that plays such a key part of Portstewart today.
Next day the Arandora Star sailed with twelve hundred German and Italian prisoners, guarded by two hundred soldiers. At about eight-thirty next morning she was torpedoed by a U-boat 75 miles west of Ireland and sank in half an hour. There was not enough lifeboats to begin with, and two were destroyed in the explosion. That afternoon many were rescued by a Canadian destroyer which answered the ship’s distress call. But more than 800 of the 1600 men aboard lost their lives, including Guiseppe Forte and Antonio Fusco, their bodies being washed ashore for weeks along coastlines from the Hebrides down through Rathlin, Donegal, Sligo and Mayo.
The Arandora Star was one of 58 ships sunk that month by the U-boats. Its grim legacy to Ireland is told in a 40-minute video. Can't post link so google youtube Arandora Star Ireland's Legacy.
I remember the Lido and the Continental cafes, my mother worked at the Lido and got my sister and I a weekend job as waitresses here too. During the week we were PA's, I worked at the Mater Hospital fulltime, and my sister had a fulltime job at the Belfast Exchange Telephone House.  They provided a taxi service to run us home as the buses were stopped in them days and we would have had to walk....very considerate to staff.  Such a sad ending to the families. RIP.
Gerry in Coventry (Geraldine but Gerry to my pals on BF)  :)