WILTON WAY DELI & CAFE
COMMUNITY DELI IN HACKNEY
COMMUNITY DELI IN HACKNEY
As 2022 draws to a close, we took some time out of the studio and spent the morning with the guys from Wilton Way Deli. It was below freezing outside but the winter sunshine and the warmth and community spirit that resonates from Fran and Anson made us want to stay the whole day! This Community Deli really feels like the beating heart of the Wilton Way Riviera.
The brainchild of Francesca D'Agostino, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the food and drink industry, she started working at Pret around 27 years ago. Back then she was learning how to make coffee, and as they say the rest is history, with long tenures at Pret, Itsu, Ottolenghi and a 3 year stint in New York, she realised that owning her own place was the only way to go. She learnt the business from the ground up and has become an exemplary model for all business owners.
Fran is originally from Bologna in Italy, one of the world's top food cities, it's no suprise that she is passionate about high quality produce served with a welcome chat and a real family feel. When given the opportunity to take over the cafe, she wanted to create a little piece of her Italian heritage. She says "When you live in Italy, it's so normal to go to the square by yourself, get a coffee, have a chat with other customers and staff, meet your friends and stay out until late". She was pasionate about creating a space where people can come by themselves and not feel uncomfortable, people can just hang out and enjoy the atmosphere.
Fran describes how she decided to take on the business adventure. "We were in the pub with a few neighbours and we heard the news that the cafe was closing, so after a few pints it was decided that I would take it on. We couldn't let anyone else take it". It seemed the obvious choice. As locals it was really important to keep the cafe for the community. She took a huge leap of faith, leaving Ottolenghi at the time to become her own boss and fulfil one of her dreams.
The hospitality industry has gone through such a hard time over the last few years, the deli was a lifeline for a lot of the locals. Wilton Way Deli stayed open throughout the pandemic, obviously following all of the correct protocols, but it became a haven for the local residents who may not have seen or spoken to anyone in days. The outdoor seating areas and hatch service giving people a link to normality and the community.
Fran speaks passionately about the friends that she has made while owning the Deli, "The people I care most about are the older people, everyone talks about inclusivity a lot but no one mentions older people, they are forgotten about. Especially in London, older people become invisible. Covid really highlighted this and amplified the issue of loneliness across generations" Now Fran has an early morning stream of characters that start their day at 8am with a coffee and a chat. Fran gives them loads of attention, it may be the only opportunity that they get to get out. Fran says it's the reason why she works 7 days a week "It's so important to talk and give peole some of your energy".
Fran opened up the Deli side of the business in May 2022, just a few doors down from the cafe. They held a massive street party for the Platinum Jubilee and the Deli was opened!
Her philosophy with the Deli is exactly the same as the Cafe, the produce that she sells means something to her, she wants to give the community something different and not mass produced. She stocks locally sourced produce, some made just round the corner. Supporting local businesses as well as stocking a lot of italian produce from her network of friends back home is incredibly important. She firmly believes in 'we are what we eat' so the Deli is a curration of things that she likes. All of the wine that she stocks is either natural, organic or biodynamic. How things are produced is key, quality over quantity any day. Fran uses ingredients she has available in the Deli for the food in the Cafe. Every morning there is a fresh soup and sandwich of the day posted onto their instagram stories (it definitely gets the mouth watering). We also highly recommend the home-made lasagna!
The Wilton Way Deli is a social hot-spot throughout the day; morning coffees, breakfast, lunch and aperitivo in the evening. At this time of the year as Christmas comes closer, these little hidden gems that really care about the community are so important. If you're ever in the area we recommend you pop by, the welcome is always warm and you'll be part of the family in no time.
2023 looks like it's going to be a busy year for the guys, so follow them on instagram @wiltonwaydeli to keep up to date with everything they have planned.