My boys are very keen on four-cheese pasta, just about the only ready-made food I still buy: tortelloni with a mixture of cheeses. Waitrose has sold an own-brand version for years, and that is what I've always bought them. Until this week, when it had vanished from the shelves, in its place a branded version made by Del'Ugo.
On the back of the unfamiliar new pack I found a letter from the owner of the business, Paul Ugo, about its history. And I realised that Paul's grandfather was the man my grandfather bought pasta from for three decades. Let me re-wind a little here.
My grandparents met in 1915 in Italy, both members of a Red Cross unit led by the historian GM Trevelyan which served the Italian armies fighting the vicious mountaineering war on the Isonzo front. My grandmother was a VAD nurse, my grandfather the unit administrator. Amongst other legacies of that terrible time, my grandparents were left with a lifelong love of Italy and Italian food (also the ability to talk in fast and fluent Italian when they didn't want us to know what they were saying).
Luigi Ugo arrived in London in 1921 aged 14, and began making fresh pasta by hand for restaurants. He opened a shop in Gerrard Street in 1929, which soon expanded so that he was able to import machinery from Italy to establish a small fresh pasta factory.
And so on Saturdays, my grandfather, on his way home from work at the British Museum, where he was Keeper of Incunabula, would walk to Soho to Luigi Ugo's shop to buy fresh pasta. When they moved to Oxford, they missed Luigi's shop - I remember them pining for it. Instead, they befriended the Italian proprietors of the Luna Caprese in North Parade - but that's another story of family connections, discovered at the school gate when my younger daughter was five years old.
PS the photograph shows my grandfather arriving at our wedding on the arm of my uncle, who is now about the same age as my grandfather was when the picture was taken
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