Our tribute to Nino Lanzetta

The day before he died on 6th June 2019, Nino Lanzetta gave an interview to The Knaphillian for a feature we were about to publish about him, his life and his restaurant  in Knaphill – La Bella Amalfi. Nino’s family were pleased to read the article to see what he had said and asked if we would still publish some of the details of his extraordinary life.

We are honoured to do so.

Nino Lanzetta came to England from the Salerno Coast in the Amalfi region of Italy in 1976, to work as a pizza chef in a small restaurant called Sinuessa Pizza and Spaghetti House, in Woking.

The Sinuessa restaurant and Nino became legendary in the town because of Nino’s public and entertaining displays of spinning dough to make pizza bases in front of the customers. While working there in 1980, Nino was asked to appear on Larry Grayson’s Generation Game and demonstrate to contestants how to make a pizza professionally, including spinning the dough. His brother-in-law Silvio (the owner of Sinuessa) then judged the contestants attempts.

Nino kindly provided The Knaphillian with the video clip of his TV appearance from that show and his family are happy for us to share this with you. Nino’s TV debut can be seen at 15 minutes 42 seconds into this YouTube video clip. You can watch it by clicking here.

Soon after his TV debut, Nino went back home to the Salerno Coast and opened his own restaurant Mama Mia in 1983. In 1985, he came back to the UK where he met Franco who is La Bella Amalfi’s talented chef, when they both worked at Franco’s Uncle’s restaurant Franco Filippo’s in Weybridge.

Nino opened his first restaurant in Guildford with his brother Salvatore. It was the first of the Amalfi restaurants and after many years of success with this venture, he established eight other restaurants and three coffee shops.

One of these restaurants was the very successful and well known Nino’s which opened in Knaphill in 2005. Soon afterwards, Nino opened Amalfi’s in Hindhead and then the site that had been Froggies wine bar in Knaphill became available and Nino took over the site for La Bella Amalfi in 2014.

Nino was passionate about food and wanted customers to experience very traditional Italian dining. On the walls of the restaurant among the photos of Italian film stars you might have caught a glimpse of Nino himself in his younger days.

Following on from his Generation Game fame, Nino was brought into a restaurant in Camberley in 1984 to run the pizza section.

Nino was very proud of his family and loved spending time with them. He and his family have raised a great deal of money and awareness for The Cystic Fybrosis Trust as Nino’s daughter Veronica was born with the debilitating disease. Their fund raising activities have included music nights at the restaurants where all of the takings were donated to the charity. Nino’s friends former professional golfer Peter Alliss and his wife Jackie have also been involved with raising funds for The CF Trust over many years.

Photo courtesy of Woking News & Mail
This image, taken at the opening of La Bella Amalfi in 2014 shows Veronica Lanzetta (right) with dad Nino.
Also in the picture are mum Antonietta, and uncle Salvatori, plus special guests Mayor Tony Branagan and
Mayoress Mary and former pro golfer commentator Peter Alliss and his wife Jackie.
 
 

The Knaphillian asked Nino to tell us a little more about his life in and out of the restaurant business.

The Knaphillian (TK): So, Nino – what did you want to be when you were at school?
Nino:
I wanted to be a racing driver, but now I only watch it on TV. I was also interested in studying law to become a solicitor, but I didn’t do that either!

TK: What other jobs did you have before you started in this business?
Nino:
My family owned a farm in southern Italy so I grew up working on the farm, growing vegetables and making and selling food. We made pizza and olive bread.

TK: What do you like about being in Knaphill?
Nino:
My first restaurant in Knaphill was Nino’s and we started here in 2005. I like this village very much. It has good people and there is everything you need here.

TK: What’s the strangest job you have ever had, or the most unusual thing you have been asked to do or provide?
Nino: 
We were once asked to lay on a private function for a couple who were getting engaged and they hired the whole restaurant. We had flowers spread out either side of the walkway to the table and the food was all fish and lobster, beautiful food. The evening was a great success for the couple – she proposed and he accepted. But it was strange, because there was only the two of them here!

TK: What is the best decision you ever made and why?
Nino:
My best decision was coming back to England. I really love it here.

TK: Are there people in the restaurant business who inspire you?
Nino:
Not really, I feel it’s all my responsibility – good or bad!

TK: Do you have any hobbies?
Nino:
I like cycling and watching sport. And I used to play football. I played for my village team.

TK: If you could give any advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Nino:
Just to spend time doing the things you want to do. I wanted to learn to play guitar.

TK: What has been your best moment so far in your business?
Nino:
Every day is a good day. When you open the door, it’s exciting as you get new people in.

TK: What are your hopes for the future?
Nino:
Just to keep going and do well, which I wish for everybody. And to have as many friends as possible.

At this very sad time, Annie and Steve at The Knaphillian would like to extend their sincere condolences to Nino’s family and the staff of La Bella Amalfi who told us they also feel like family.

Nino was well-known and well-loved in this town and we are going to miss him very much.

If you would like to make a donation to The Cystic Fybrosis Trust in Nino’s memory, or get involved in any fund-raising activities, please visit: www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk

8 COMMENTS

  1. Nino was a gentle giant who loved what he did.. I’m certainly going to miss him as I’ll miss our chats.
    Knaphill is not the same without nino
    RIP NINO
    much love and thoughts to his wife and children ?

  2. You are right about that Emma – he did love what he did. I thought the loveliest comment he made was when I asked; ‘What has been your best moment so far in your business?’ And he just shrugged and said; ‘But every day is a good day. When you open the door, it’s always exciting as you get new people in.’

    He just loved meeting people and seeing his regulars. It’s so sad.

  3. My husband and I knew Nino when he had Nino’s Restaurant and we went every Friday to have our Pizza there and to chat with him and were delighted when he returned to Knaphill to open La Bella Amalfi. We took our friends to his Restaurant and spent wonderful hours there.
    We are very sad and will miss him and our thoughts are with his family and staff . R.I.P. Nino

  4. A lovely man, and a lovely restaurant too (we had a great meal on Friday evening just gone – I noted his absence)

    RIP Nino

  5. So sad to hear the news. Bella Amalfi has been our family place ever since it opened. My late mother was a very big fan of the place, the food and the people. Nino is going to be sorely missed and I hope his family will take comfort from how many people will miss him too.

  6. I’m so shocked! I have only just found out about this tragic news. My deepest heartfelt condolences are sent to all of the family. I have personally known Nino for years and years, alongside his brother Salvatore. They say bad news travels fast, well not in this case! I am so saddened by this shocking news. I use to visit his Restaurant in Hind-head with friends and when he came back to Knaphill it was great to see his happy face and cheerful smile. A great friend. Thursday Lunch times we often visited the Bella Amalfi for Lunch, I’d take my dear Mother and often my Niece would meet us there, engage in conversation with the Chef and Nino of course. This very sad news is going to be so hard to sink in? It doesn’t seem possible.
    You will be truly missed Nino. With love, Wendy and Family. (Tamburrino).

  7. From franco Thailand condoglianze to all the family I use to work with Nino we use to make wine together and picking mushroom RIP good memorys ciao

  8. As a child, I used to go to Sinuessa in Woking frequently, my parents lived in Italy for a while and my brother was born there and my mother later lived there for many years.

    I have never again tasted such mouth-wateringly amazing pizzas in my life as I had back then (even in Italy!) and the wonder of watching the pizzaiolos throwing the dough to one another remains one of the fondest memories of my childhood.

    Thank you Nino for the happy memories and my condolences to your family x ciao

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