The first day of September, 1970, was a great day for Mullingar. Fifty years on, it’s an even better day for Mullingar, for we are still the proud home of one of the best Italian chippers in Ireland – the Roma Café.
Giuseppe, fondly known locally as Joe, from a small village called Colle San Magno near Monte Cassino in Italy, served his time in the restaurant trade in Finglas with the late Saverio Macari, known as the famous Sam, from Sam’s takeaway. Sam passed away about two years ago, Joe sadly recalls. Joe says that he had been looking around a few places in Ireland as he wanted to go into business for himself. He saw the property on Mount Street, which was known as the Express Cafe at that time, and was owned by a gentleman named Mick Eivers. He rented the building, bought it out in full in about half the time he expected, and opened The Roma Café in 1970, along with his brother Tony, his sister Donata, his late brother Pompeo and his late sister, Stella.
Costanza, Joe’s lovely wife, who hails from his own village in Italy, came to Dublin after the war, when things were not so great in Europe. She met Joe in Dublin in 1971 and they married in 1973. They raised all their children in the Mount Street property and worked hard to make the business a success. The Roma café continues to be a family affair, with their son Giovanni taking over the business when Giuseppe and Costanza return to Italy, at least once every year. Giovanni’s wife Francesca also works in the business as does his sister Caterina.
The Roma Café on Mount Street confirms they have no other branches in any other place in Ireland. They are a registered member of the ITICA (Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association).
Remembering the 1970s, Joe tells ‘Topic’ that “In those days, people kept their doors open all the time. There was no such thing as locking the doors. We could call in to anyone’s house without an appointment, Mount Street, Joe recalls days when the open markets would be held in the Market Square and laughs at the memory of cabbages rolling down Mount Street!
Similarly at Christmas time, the annual Turkey Market saw hundreds of turkeys in the market square and up Mount Street. “Those were such great days” he recalls. Our most popular dishes in those days were our grills – bacon and sausage, egg and chips, were everyone’s favourites. There was initially no take away; everyone sat down inside and had their meal. Joe laughs that it was “strange if someone asked you to take away their food in those days – everyone always made time to sit down and eat”. Take-away food only started in the late 1970s.
The Roma Café introduced pizza to their menu about 30 years ago and their pizza remains a favourite for all, to this day. Joe points out that the majority of their items on the menu are all made in-house, including their famous Roma chips and their light and crispy batter.
The café has been re-vamped 3 times in the last 50 years, with the decor being regularly updated and kept fresh. However little has changed on the menu and the Roma café continue to serve all the favourites to this day.
Giovanni highlighted that they would like to thank all the staff and family members for their dedication and great work throughout the years, with a special mention to Rita, who worked in the Roma for over 30 years. He would also like to thank the public for their constant support through the last 50 years, and looks forward to the next 50!
The Roma café value all their customers and apart from enjoying the regular custom of local celebrities, they recall a few other well known ‘celeb’ customers who came to the café through the years – Bressie, Joe Dolan, Dickie Rock, Daniel O’Donnell, Richie Kavanag and Linda Martin and Chips (no pun intended) visited, and the late Big Tom came in a few times, Joe recalls with a smile.
The Roma Café was closed for ten days during the recent lockdown, the first time in fifty years the café was ever closed for a pandemic. They are now open again, currently from Tuesday to Sunday, from 12.00 noon to 10.00pm, and closed on Mondays. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for regular, up to date information.
Meanwhile, re-live the good old days and treat yourself and your family to a sit-down meal in the wonderful Roma Café today where you can enjoy the best chips in Ireland.