Restaurant manager Loreto Ottavio Santarelli was born in December 1885 in Amatrice, a small town on the Via Salaria, where his father was a wine merchant. At the age of ten, Loreto was enrolled in a seminary to be trained for the priesthood, but he rebelled. Having left home, he travelled to Rome and found a kitchen job at César Ritz’s Grand Hotel (opened in 1894). In 1909 he moved to England.
After the war he joined the Savoy and made his way up in the hierarchy. By September 1926 he was appointed restaurant manager and became a familiar figure. Novelist Arnold Bennett used Santarelli in his novel Imperial Palace (1930) as a model for Mr Cappone, the restaurant manager; film maker Alexander Korda employed him as technical advisor on the set of Service for Ladies (1932); and newspaper columnists relied upon him for gossip stories. At the time of his naturalisation on 30 June 1932, he and his family were living at no. 2 Woodfield Avenue, Streatham.
Santarelli may have become British, but from December 1935 he was kept under observation by the security services. MI5 suspected him (apparently on poor intelligence) of being in charge of a Fascist cell in London. He was arrested in June and locked up in Brixton Prison (other Italian employees at the Savoy were arrested at the same time, including Ettore Zavattoni, banquet manager, and his assistant Fortunato Picchi). They were all interned as enemy aliens. Santarelli was eventually released on medical grounds, a broken man. He returned to his job, but was no longer able to perform his duties. He died in October 1944 at the Savoy - where else?