The story of Pantrini’s begins at the turn of the 20th century in La Pieve Di Gravago Bardi, Parma, Italy, when Giuseppe Pantrini married Maria Bertorelli and had 2 children, Attilio and Angelina. Back then times in Northern Italy were hard so, with little chance of prosperity, Giuseppe and Maria decided to send their little boy Attilio, aged only 12, overseas to England. He was to work with his cousins Pete, Louis and Lina Bertorelli, whilst the rest of his family remained in Italy.
Although unable to speak a word of English, Attilio took to his new surroundings like a duck to water. He flitted between his cousins’ ice cream factories in Newbiggin (the café still stands there today) and Whitley bay, regularly going out with their trusty horse, Jack, and the ice cream cart to sell ice cream. Over this time Attilio fell in love with the north east coastline and the ice cream business, learning the old fashioned art of ice cream making.
In 1926 aged 17, Atillio returned to Italy to see his family, who were in the process of emigrating to Argentina. They begged Attilio to go with them, but Attilio decided his future lay in Whitley Bay.
At the same time the Bertorellis moved their ice cream factory from Station Road in Whitley bay to open up 3 shops on Whitley Bay sea front: the Big Shop, the Lido and the Empress Stairs Shop. Attilio became heavily involved in the actual making of the ice cream, a job he would continue to do for the next 50 years, working tirelessly and always ensuring that the Bertorelli’s shops were well supplied. On bank holidays Attilio was well known for working through the night!
Whilst working for the Bertorellis at this time, a young lady applied for a job to work weekends at the Lido, next to the well known picture house. Her name was Barbara Anne Cook, her father Robert owned a newsagents in New York, fought in WWI and was known locally as a successful cyclist, who won many medals.
Attilio took a shine to Barbara and they began courting and decided to wed in 1934 at St Joseph’s church, Whitley Bay. Not even his wedding could get in the way of Attilio’s work, so they had to marry on one of only 2 days a year when Attilio was able……Boxing Day!
1935 was a busy year for the Pantrini family; Barbara gave birth to their one and only daughter Barbara (Babs), a future owner of Pantrini’s. Whilst still working for Bertorelli’s, producing ice cream for their 3 shops, Attilio saved up every one of his spare pennies and bought 2 ice cream vans, serving ice cream in the Whitley Bay and Cullercoats community. They also moved to New York and the Pantrinis lived with Granny Cook in the house next to the family newsagents.
In 1939 war broke out and, although now an English citizen, Attilio was interned, picked up from his house and taken to the Isle of Man, where he stayed with other Italian immigrants. Although a depressing time for the Pantrinis, Attilio spent time with some rather colourful chefs who had worked for King Edward VIII (who later abdicated). To cheer one another up, they would tell tales of the King’s flamboyant ways and how he would regularly have people leave by the back door as well as the front!
On Attilio’s return from the Isle of Man, they sold the newsagents and in 1945 bought the Lido on Whitley Bay sea front. True to the Bertorellis, and being a man of integrity, Attilio continued to make their ice cream!
The whole of the Pantrini family worked in the shop, including young Babs who worked weekends when not at school. It was at this time that a young lad called Ronald Landreth (“Ronnie” to his friends) from Shiremoor, was hired by Goftons the builders in Monkseaton. Ronnie’s first job for Goftons was cycling around to buy cigarettes for the builders, and one of the shops he visited was the Lido, where he set eyes upon Babs.
Ronnie, a “teddy boy”, was always smartly dressed and regularly visited Jacksons the Tailors to ensure his jackets were made just how he liked them. Ronnie and Babs started spending time together around 1950 when Babs left school and worked full time at the Lido. They would hang around the Spanish city and make regular visits to the Playhouse, once or twice to their surprise they found Attilio sitting in the row behind them, something that made sure Ronald was always on his best behaviour! Young Barbara and Ronald courted for another 4 years and then in 1954 when Babs was 18 and Ronald 20 they married at the same church as Attilio and Barbara (St. Joseph’s) and later that year they gave birth to their first daughter, Carole.
In 1955, Attilio decided to expand his business and bought the Wonder Bar at 9 Marine Avenue from Armando “Jack” Torre who drove a very hard bargain! Attilio paid £4,500, which doesn’t sound much nowadays but would have bought 3 semi-detached houses at the time! Attilio opened the ice cream parlour at the front of the shop and an ice cream factory at the back, ceasing to work for the Bertorellis after 34 years.
Attilio would now establish his three simple principles to ensure his business prospered: 1) Provide value for money 2) Look after the customers and 3) Insist on quality ingredients.
From 1955 onwards the 2 Barbaras assisted Attilio in running the Wonder bar, serving what was known locally as the best ice cream on the seafront. Ronald went away to sea where he learned his trade as a carpenter but, though he loved the ships and the way of life, he was never happier than when he was at home. In 1959, Carole was joined in the Landreth family by a sister, Susan.
In 1972, following 17 years at sea, Ronnie decided that the lure of home was too much and so he returned. He and Barbara decided to purchase an ice cream van, following in Attilio’s footsteps to serve ice cream to North Tyneside, as well as outside events such as the jazz band festivals. Attilio passed his years of ice cream making knowledge on to Ronnie, and in 1975 Attilio felt Ronnie knew more than enough to take over the ice cream making himself. Attilio duly retired from working full time as Ronnie and Barbara took over the running of the Wonder Bar.
Ronnie’s first move was to give legacy to the family name and so he renamed the Wonder Bar “Pantrini’s”. In 1976, the opportunity arose to purchase a fish and chip shop on Wallsend Road, North Shields and, never one to be put off by a challenge, Ronnie decided to try his hand at the fish and chip trade whilst the rest of the family, including now his 2 daughters, ran the Wonder Bar.
Ronnie made sure he learned from each mistake, there’s not a better example of this than when he quizzed a pie man who had worked in the trade for a long time: “Why won’t the batter stick to the fish?” asked Ronnie. “That’s because you’ve got to flour it first, Ron!” came the reply.
The Wallsend Road shop built up a strong reputation and was constantly frequented by the kids from Norham high school and the workers from the Tyne Tunnel Industrial estate, where chips and cod bites where a firm favourite. Another frequent visitor was Tynemouth MP, Neville Trotter.
Four years after buying the Wallsend Road shop, Ronnie decided to run the 2 businesses was a little too much and so the fish and chip shop was sold in 1980. Now, coupled with modern equipment, Ronnie used the knowledge and experience passed on by Attilio, and moved into wholesaling ice cream from the factory at the back of Pantrini’s, installing two 100 gallon ice cream vats and a 100 gallon boiler. Word got around the ice cream van traders, and in no time at all Pantrini’s was supplying more than 32 vans, as well as establishments including The Rendezvous Café, Spanish City, and the Newburn and Sunderland ice cream parlours. The ice cream was made to such a high standard that Ronnie and Babs picked up 2 Bronze awards from the Ice Cream Alliance.
In 1989, the fish and chip shop next door to Pantrini’s, Torres, became available and Ronnie seized the opportunity to join the fish and chip trade once again. Just as ten years earlier when running the ice cream parlour and a fish shop, Ronnie and Babs decided to concentrate their time on just one trade, this time bucking the trend and concentrating their time on the fish and chip shop, continuing with the family name Pantrini’s!
Pantrini’s quickly established itself as one of the top fish and chip shops on the Coast. In 1997 they decided to expand, acquiring Tim’s (the fish and chip shop next door) and turning it into the structure it is today, from two shops into one, with 2 frying ranges and the capability of seating 127 people.
In 1999 the business was recognised for its food and service and was voted “Take Away of The Year” by the readers of the Herald and Postnewspaper.
Pantrini’s remains a family business in the true sense of the word and since 1997 has had 4 generations working there at the same time. From Barbara Pantrini washing the dishes down to Sarah Jane serving the chips!
In 2007, after 6 years away from the area, Lee Taylor, the grandson of Babs and Ronnie, returned home to Whitley Bay and took over running the business, promising his grandparents that he would stick to the 3 basic principles outlined by his great grandfather all those years ago and to continue proudly with the family name.
We’d like to think that today Pantrini’s carries the experience, tradition and knowledge laid out by previous owners and family members; one thing is certain: the most important group of people in the history of the Pantrini’s business? You the customers…… Bon appetito!