ONE of Lyme Regis’ longest-running and most-loved family businesses, Antonio’s Trattoria, has closed doors as the owners take retirement.
Antonio and Julie Gravili have run the popular Church Street restaurant for 27 years, but have now decided to retire and split their time between Lyme Regis and the north east, to be closer to their daughter.
The Gravilis came to Lyme Regis by complete chance back in 1994. They had been looking to buy a restaurant in the South Somerset area, but between viewings decided to take their children to the seaside for a few hours and fell in love with Lyme Regis as soon as they arrived.
They had initially hoped to take on what was then Stan Williams’ restaurant The Beachcomber in Coombe Street, now the Blue Lias Gallery, but later settled on their historic property just around the corner in Church Street – a former vicarage with original beams, stone walls and a fireplace which added to the cosy atmosphere at the restaurant.
Before Antonio’s Trattoria there wasn’t much in the way of foreign food available in Lyme Regis, with only a handful of restaurants to choose from – a far cry from the foodie paradise it has become today.
The restaurant quickly established an excellent reputation for traditional Italian cuisine and, tucked away from the town centre, has relied almost entirely on word of mouth and good recommendations for the past 27 years.
Antonio and Julie have served four generations of families over almost three decades. In fact, the restaurant has remained such a firm favourite that one customer from their opening night in 1994 – Lyme Regis resident Joe Tresoire – also dined with them on their final night earlier this month.
The restaurant was filled with regulars for Antonio and Julie’s swan song, with Julie commenting: “It was just like having a party with all our friends, but a very bittersweet moment after all these years. There were even a few tears.”
She added: “We were very lucky to have found Lyme Regis. The town has been very kind to us and we have been supported by so many locals and visitors who return every year.”
Antonio added that Lyme Regis had been a wonderful place to raise their family, with excellent schools.
The couple have employed countless local youngsters over the years, some of whom now return with their own children, and have supported local causes including both the organ and tower appeals at the neighbouring St Michael’s Parish Church.
They plan to keep their family home in Church Street and lease the restaurant below, with Antonio hoping that it will remain a traditional trattoria with focus on home-cooking.
The couple now hope to spend more time with family, including son Alberto and daughter Gabrielle, as well as make the most of their time in Lyme Regis.
In their 27 years in the town Julie said they had never even seen the annual carnival procession as they have always been too busy in the kitchen.
“Now I will get to experience Lyme a bit more!” she added.