Alberto Bertorelli


Alberto was born in 1903 in the little village of Gravago, Bardi, in Italy to a poor family who lived off their smallholding. In 1921, at the age of 17, he left Italy and went to Merthyr Tydfil to work for an Italian family. After some years learning the trade, Alberto planned to buy a horse and cart to start on his own, selling ice-cream; but his cousin Severo Resteghini in Burnham-on-Sea, became very ill and asked Alberto to give him hand.
So in 1934/35 he moved to Burnham-on-Sea. Although cousin Severo was married, his wife was unable to take care of the business. Severo did not improve and returned to Italy where he died. His wife returned to their village in Italy for the funeral, where she too died. 
Alberto felt obliged to continue with the ice-cream business, to be able to pay off bills that had accumulated He built up a very good name for himself, and his home made ice cream, and trade grew.

In 1936 he married Luisa, also from Italy, at the old Convent Chapel. The couple celebrated, by having a meal in the city of Bristol and then returned home. In 1937 their first son Giuseppe was born, followed by a daughter Maria in 1939.

In August 1940, all Italians were taken from their family homes, including Alberto and his friend friend Bernie, from Weston-S-Mare. Both of them were meant to be put on the ship “Andorra Star” which was heading for Canada. However, there was no room for Alberto, who was sent to an internment camp on the theIsle of Man. Tragically the Andorra Star was torpedoed.
Luisa with two small children, and in the early stages of her third pregnancy was taken to Wincanton, living conditions were very tough and the food very poor. The third child, Francesco, was born there. It was about 6 months before the couple could communicate to each other by post.

Alberto was released after two years and sent to work on a farm, 6 ½ miles from Wincanton. The family lived in a tied cottage; to supplement Alberto’s meagre wage Luisa cleaned for the farmer. . Alberto learnt the art of building and thatching hayricks, besides the milking of cows. While there, their fourth child Anthony John Vincent was born.

In November of 1947 Alberto and his family were at last able to return to Burnham.. He found he had to carry many repairs to their home and to the factory where the ice-cream was made. Soon he obtained his licence to manufacture his ice-cream again, which he did in a small way, by hand, until he could replace all the machinery.

News soon spread that he was back in the business and he started to sell ice-cream from home, and around the countryside on a tricycle. Trade grew, and they rented a place on the beach selling ice-cream from a cart. Soon he was able to purchase a second hand van, which was adapted to sell ice-cream.

He then purchased a large van and sold fish and chips in the winter. In 1953, Alberto and Luisa bought a little fish and chip shop in Abingdon Street giving up the ice cream business. He gradually changed and updated the neglected property to accommodate his family, and built up a good business, especially with local people.

When Alberto was in his early 70s he semi-retired, and the business was passed onto his two younger sons Francesco and Anthony. They expanded, buying new premises at the top of Abingdon Street, and refurbished, modernised and refitted the new building. Alberto continued to help his sons part time for a few years more before having to retire altogether.

Alberto suffered a stroke and died in 1989, aged 85.


Thanks to Pat Nicholls for research.

As a child ,when our grandparents visited, we would visit Alberto’s and have fish & chips with bread and butter. I can remember being served by him and his sons. Later my brother and I would buy chips and ask for a bag of scratchings. The family always had time for a chat and a smile. His first shop was opposite Lynton Road and his advert was shown at the Ritz cinema at the interval. I often wonder what happened to those early film adverts. I remember Alberto was quite plump with dark hair and a moustache. One son took after him and the other very thin. They were always very polite.

Happy Times.


6 thoughts on “Alberto Bertorelli”

  1. I remember Alberto, and indeed the entire Bertorelli family, very well. I was in the same class as Tony Bertorelli in St. Joseph’s Primary School, and later at Dr Morgan’s. My parents were Catholics, which meant we ate fish on Fridays, but much to our disappointment we didn’t get them at the Bertorelli’s fish and chip restaurant with the exception of Good Friday, when the long church service would mean there would be no time to cook anything. My sister and I really looked forward to Good Friday simply because of the cod and chips from Bertorelli’s. They originally had a much smaller shop, takeaway only, in Abingdon Street, closer to Oxford Street, but later were able to open the Premier Restaurant opposite the old railway station, which had seating and was a proper restaurant.

    1. Another very interesting memory Tony. Thanks for posting, such personal recollections make great additions to the site.

  2. If my memory has not deserted me altogether, the eldest son, Giuseppe (named Jo by all of us kids), went to Dr. Morgans grammar school in Bridgwater in the 1950’s, which is how I got to know him. I was two or three classes below him so we had little or no contact (apart from the daily singalong on the school bus).

    I left Burnham in 1957 to join the RAF and only came home at weekends. To cut a long story short, when my German wife and I got married, we needed a translator as my good lady spoke very little English and my German was somewhat limited. Someone mentioned that Jo had a German-speaking wife (or was she Austian?) so I asked if she would translate at Weston registrar’s office. She agreed and the wedding went off smoothly. Unfortunately we never met again as our little family moved abroad permanently after I left the RAF. I wonder if they are still around after all these years.

    By the way, I stumbled across this site quite by accident just a few weeks ago while searching for something else. It’s brilliant! Keep up the good work!

    Anthony (Tony) Hitchcock

    1. Hello Tony and thank you for sharing your memories and your kind words about this
      website. We would love to hear more about your memories of your childhood in Burnham.

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