The Story

Have you met the Baffito Family?

This Frank fellow — who was he? Who was his sweet Alessia? And why Baffito’s? The answers are the stuff of legend: a mixture of the real and the magical. A bit like great cooking.

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The story we know is that Frank was a soldier in the Second World War. A tall infantryman, we imagine, with clear, sparkling blue eyes. A jaw you could hammer nails with. A rich, lustrous moustache. That sort of chap.

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Anyway, in 1943 Frank landed at the Italian port of Salerno, leading his brigade fearlessly into the teeth of the 16th Panzer division.

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But before he could dispatch his fourth or fifth Nazi tank, Frank was injured and had to get himself clear. He took refuge in a nearby barn, and might have perished there in the hay were it not for the slender, raven-haired farm girl who found him there: Alessia.

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As tough as she was beautiful, Alessia had managed the family farm single-handed since her father died.

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After each long day herding buffalo, as you do, Alessia indulged her true passion: cooking. She made the finest pizza around, using her own buffalo mozzarella (a healthier, tastier alternative to cow’s cheese), and her family’s special tomato sauce.

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She may have been tough on the outside, but Alessia’s heart was tender. The sight of the wounded Englishman stirred a hunger in her that she had long suppressed. And it was not the sort of hunger you can quell with mozzarella.

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After all, what red-blooded girl could ignore that magnificent black moustache? The sight of it worked a mysterious magic over Alessia, and she immediately named her guest Il Baffuto Inglese — ‘The Mustachioed Englishman.’

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Neither spoke the other’s language,so when Frank tried to repeat this in the inimitable style of an Englishman attempting a foreign language it came out Baffito. Alessia giggled, he didn’t know why — but her laughter warmed his heart and from then the name stuck, to her he would always be Frank Baffito —but who needs words when the eyes say it all? Plus, they discovered a shared passion for food. Did Frank fall for Alessia first, or her pizza? He was never sure. Who cares? Love is love. And Frank had it. In big, hot, cheesy slices. Even so, duty came first. And so, after a final embrace and a promise to return once the war was won, Frank was gone. The war was won, of course. (That bit’s definitely true.) And Frank rushed straight back to the little farmhouse in the hills. But it was deserted. Alessia had fallen on hard times, he was told, and now worked at a pizzeria in a nearby town. Where? Nobody knew.

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Life without Alessia was a Quattro Formaggi without the formaggi. Frank had to find her. But in town after town, restaurant after restaurant, people shrugged and shook their heads, serving him dull, dry, non-Alessia pizza. Determined to carry on, but penniless, Frank took a job tending the bar in a fancy hotel. It was there that he discovered a talent for mixing and inventing cocktails, and the bar quickly became one of the most popular in town. But his heart still ached for his lost love.

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One evening, he heard two guests at the bar discussing the hotel’s new chef. ‘Whoever he he is,’ said one, ‘he makes uno pizza incredibile!’ Could it be? Telling his startled assistant he’d be back shortly, Frank almost ran through the hotel to the restaurant. And as soon as he saw the pizzas, and smelled the aroma in the air, he darted between the tables and went crashing through the kitchen doors.

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‘Alessia!’ Frank cried, and there she was: flour on her face and hands, cheeks flushed from the heat of the ovens, eyes instantly bright with tears.

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‘Frank Baffito!’ No one else had ever called him that. But they would. For Frank and Alessia were soon married, and resolved to create their own pizzeria, using Alessia’s wonderful recipes.

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Not in Italy, though: there was nothing there for Alessia now, and Frank yearned for home. So they came to Britain, and people were soon travelling many miles for a taste of Alessia’s miraculous cooking. Today, her recipes live on, in the pizza we create every day at the restaurants that bear the name Baffito’s.

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At least, that’s the story Frank tells behind the bar, and Alessia, well she will be forever grateful for his mis-pronunciation, after all what lady would want to be known as moustachioed.