Donatello – Family Business at the Heart of The Lanes
Sue Addis is one lady who knows the Lanes and Brighton very well. She has run Donatello restaurant since she moved down to the coast, with her husband and restauranteur Pietro – the founder of Donatello – some 27 years ago. However, their history goes back further and is a rather lovely story.
“I was 17 years old when I met Pietro. At the time I was studying dance at the Ballet Rambert school in Notting Hill Gate. I had to leave home as my parents were moving from the East End of London to the coast. As it happened, Pietro had placed an advert in a local shop window for a small room, a very small room, which was available to let. It wasn’t too far to travel to my dance classes and so I moved in.
Pietro was working for the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade and dealt with the promotion of Italian wines so he spent a great deal of time in the ‘fashionable’ London restaurants of that time. I was only 17 then and very green about food and wine. My diet, like that of my fellow dancers, was largely sated by Wimpy’s and cigarettes! It was Pietro who introduced me to the wonderful London food scene.”
So what was it that brought you to Brighton?
“Our friend Dino, who worked with Pietro at the Italian Institute, moved to Brighton and opened Al Forno. He suggested we should come to Brighton and open our own restaurant too, as it was brilliant place and the people loved Italian food! So that is exactly what we did. First Pietro opened The Market Wine House in Market Street, just along the road from Donatello. It soon became a very popular wine bar with live music and the place to be before heading off to The Kings Club for the night, followed by the Greasy Spoon for breakfast. He then added an off-licence and, a few years later, he opened another restaurant ‘Peters’, again in Market Street. The rest, as they say, is history – in our case, a long relationship and three sons who work for the family business.”
Market Wine Bar and off-licence in 1983 – with Pietro and our sons
As with most towns there have been many changes to the area during the years, how do you feel about that?
“Change is good. It keeps things fresh. I am sure the work being carried out at Hanningtons Estate will reinvigorate the area and be great for local businesses. A new entrance to The Lanes is desperately needed and it will be great to see improvements along North Street too. This will encourage people in from both sides. The addition of new retailers will ensure that The Lanes, once more, becomes a major destination for shopping and eating. It will enhance the overall experience for the Brighton visitor. We have so much to offer already and it is great to see this area receiving some care and attention. The Lanes offers so much history with its labyrinth of alleys that housed the fishermen and protected them from the sea winds. And now, with the reveal of Puget’s Cottage, another piece of history is added”.
So what does the future hold for you and Donatello?
“Pietro has now retired and so myself and our three sons, Leo, Stefano and Mikele, run Donatello, Pinocchio and Street Thai in Brighton Square. We take such pride in The Lanes and, over all these years spending every day here, it has become our home from home. Our businesses are now feeding the children of our original customers and that is such a wonderful thing. We hope to be here for many years to come. I now have my grandchildren working during holiday time and we have staff who have worked for us for over 20 years. To know we are responsible for employing those people and they are still here all that time later makes me very proud.
Donatello has just undergone a major refurbishment, so, in keeping with what is going on at Hanningtons Estate, we are doing our bit to refresh and improve the area. Catering is very hard, but also wonderfully fulfilling. I have met people from all walks of life and it is great to be involved with the City and all it has to offer. I very much look forward to the future and our place in it.”
Palms is the original Donatello!!
Sue, Pietro, Leo, Stefano, Mikele and staff