A CHERISHED Italian restaurant in Christchurch has closed its doors after trading for a “memory filled” 47 years.

La Mamma in Bridge Street opened in 1974 and has survived recessions, a fire and the recent pandemic. Despite being as busy as ever, the restaurant announced last month that it would close for the final time on Sunday, October 31.

Owner John Mirco joined the restaurant in late 1974, soon after it was opened by his father. Reflecting on the “difficult decision” to close, a proud John told the Daily Echo that he has been touched by the support shown by customers.

He said: “I’ve now reached that age where the time is right to lay down my tools so to speak. I have devoted my life to this place but now is the time to say goodbye.

Bournemouth Echo: La Mamma in Christchurch closes after 47 yearsLa Mamma in Christchurch closes after 47 years

“The response has been so touching as people have raced to book a table for the rekindling of memories for a final time.

“Likewise, I will carry so many fond memories with me.

He added: “I would like to pay tribute to the staff who have been just brilliant over the years. My late father worked so hard in those early years  to try and please everyone that came through the door. I think that is what I’ll miss most, the challenge of trying to please all.

“That was my only goal throughout and I think, maybe, we have pleased the majority of them.”

One customer commented: “If you have lived in Christchurch, La Mamma has been part of lots of people's lives, great party place and will be missed greatly. Thanks for some great memories.”

John’s eldest granddaughter worked her first shift at the restaurant on Friday night, which John described as “tremendous to see”.

As for what John has planned for retirement, he said: “I will be spending a lot of time in Italy and Spain as I have family scattered around.

“I’m hoping to make up for some lost years with my family. I have a son, daughter and three granddaughters who I want to thank for standing by and putting up with me for all these years. I’m going to make up for family events that I’ve missed in the past with running the restaurant.”

Finally, while admitting that surviving in the hospitality industry was not easy, John offered one last piece of advice for budding restaurateurs. He said: “Dedication, that’s it. You have to be absolutely dedicated to what you’re doing. Dedication, it is essential.”