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Pasta masters call it a day
OXFORD will lose a slice of its history when one of its last remaining traditional Italian restaurants closes.
When Luna Caprese first opened in 1962, olive oil was only available from chemists and pasta was rarely seen.
But 51 years on and a food revolution later, the restaurant in North Parade off Banbury Road will be shutting in January.
The two men who run the restaurant have said they will be closing rather than taking up their landlord’s offer of another lease for 10 years.
Luis Castro, 69, who runs the restaurant’s front of house, said: “I am nearly 70 years old. It is too late for us to get the lease for another 10 years.
“I am very sad to be closing down, but we cannot continue for another decade. When we opened people didn’t know what pasta was and the supply of food has greatly improved over the years. We used to come back from Spain and Italy with supplies, but now that isn’t necessary.”
Luna Caprese was opened in 1962 by Giorgio Iacono. He died in 2011, aged 74, having retired nearly a decade before. Since then the restaurant has been run by Mr Castro and his business partner and chef Giovanni Ventriglia.
The eatery has gone down a treat with famous visitors, including Prime Minister David Cameron who went to the restaurant in his student days at Balliol College with fellow Bullingdon Club members – a fact proudly commemorated by a newspaper cutting inside.
Michael and Jenny Coates, from Cunliffe Close, North Oxford, first visited the restaurant on Easter Monday, 1962, and have been eating there regularly ever since.
Mr Coates, 83, said: “We are very sorry to see it close.
“The restaurant hasn’t changed much in terms of physical appearance over the past 50 years.
“Primary we liked the quality of the food but the atmosphere was also good.”
Mr Castro said: “Luna Caprese is part of Oxford’s history. “We are among the last of the traditional Italian restaurants in Oxford. This restaurant is a way of life. I have known people come through the doors here for 20 or 30 years.
“Today, there are lots of chains and there are very few family-run restaurants.”
He and Mr Ventriglia will be leaving North Parade on January 4, but have taken up an offer from the owner of the King’s Head in Woodstock to run the pub’s restaurant.
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