Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1897-1929 - Strand (Covent Garden)

Restaurateur, theatre owner, and Conservative politician John Maria Gatti was born Giovanni Maria Emilio Gatti on 13 August 1872 in Dongio, in the Italian speaking Swiss canton of Ticino. His father Agostino owned the Royal Adelaide Gallery, just off the Strand, which was regarded as the greatest restaurant of its day, employing more than two hundred (!) Ticinese cooks and waiters.

The Gatti family were involved in London social life as owners of a string of cafés, theatres (the Adelphi and Vaudeville). They also ran Strand Electricity Supply Corporation Ltd, which supplied power to most of London’s West End. Young John was educated at Stonyhurst (Catholic) College and studied law at St John’s College, Oxford.

When his father died in 1897, he took over the family businesses along with his younger brother Rocco. His father and uncle had been active in Swiss politics, but John embarked on a career in local politics in 1903. He was a councillor from 1906 and elected Mayor of Westminster for 1911/2 and remained active in local politics throughout the rest of his life. He was a founding member of the Society of West End Theatre Managers in 1908, acting as its Chair in 1919/20. Knighted in 1928, he died in September 1929 whilst playing golf. The British Museum holds an 1890 print of the interior of Gatti’s restaurant (formerly Adelaide Gallery) at no. 436 Strand.

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