Image: Alfonso, Pepe, and Lena Credit: The Italian Way

Loyal customers ‘devastated’ after beloved Italian restaurant owner’s sudden passing

Pepe Ranalli, owner of long-standing Cardiff restaurant The Italian Way, has died at the age of 74

THE sudden death of Pepe Ranalli, much-loved owner of The Italian Way, has left his family and their loyal customers “heartbroken”.

“He was a man of few words, but he was kind and generous and well respected and he will be greatly missed,” said his daughter Lena Ranalli.

Giuseppe Ranalli, known to everyone as Pepe, suddenly passed away at the age of 74 on February 20. 

The funeral will take place on March 18 and a wake will be held at The Italian Way where an accordionist will perform classic Italian songs.

The family restaurant has remained open and is being run by his son Alfonso, 52, and daughter Lena, 48. 

“Our work family and customers have kept us going through this – it has helped being with people who loved him as much as us,” said Lena.

Tributes from the customers and the community

The family have received 180 messages of condolence on social media. 

“I’ve read every single message of condolence. I was bawling my eyes out. It was lovely to read them,” said Lena.

Image: A few of the cards sent to the family at the restaurant. Credit: Elen Johnston. 

Giovanni Malacrino, 56, worked with Pepe when they were younger and floor staff together. 

“He was an amazing guy with a great sense of humour. He worked so hard, made so many people smile and produced such beautiful food,” he said.

“It is tough, you cannot put a price on life or know the day it is going to end. We hope he goes up to heaven and plays the accordion for the rest of time.”

Video: Pepe playing the accordion in the restaurant. Credit: The Italian Way.

The Italian Way, which was established in 1985, has loyal customers who have been regulars for well over thirty years.

“It’s a nice community really, we’ve got great loyal customers who come in week in and week out and that’s fantastic,” said Alfonso.

Annamarie Winks, 53, of Pentrych first met Pepe 30 years ago when she worked for Peter Mulcahy Estate agents and would spend her lunch at the café.

“Pepe would make me a lovely tea and toast which was probably all I could afford at the time. He always had time to chat, he was such a lovely man,” she said. 

“He was such a lovely gentleman. I will miss our little chats and laughs,” said Ms Carolyn Bury, 60, of Pontcanna. 

The man who brought authentic Italian food and spirit to Canton

Image: Pepe raising a glass Credit: Lena Ranalli
Image: young Pepe playing the accordian Credit: Lena Ranalli

Pepe began his 50 years in the catering business, moving at the young age of 13 to work as a kitchen porter in a hotel in Rome.

He travelled and worked in restaurants and hotels in Venice, Lake Maggiore, Switzerland and Jersey where he met his wife Ann.

They went on to have their son Alfonso, and daughter Lena who now run the restaurant.

“He lived for the family, he always put family first. He worked day and night. When you are kids, you don’t see it but looking back you can see how hard he worked to provide for us,” said Lena.

“I adored him, he was my mentor, he taught me everything. I was his little girl and always will be.”

He moved to Cardiff where his uncle lived and got a job at The Angel Hotel back in the 1970s.

He worked in many restaurants and hotels around the city including at Jackson’s Wine Bar, Positano, and Fontana Di Trevi and became the manager at the Zio Pin restaurant.

The Italian Way

It was in 1985 when he started the family business and brought his love for traditional Italian food to Canton.

Image: The Italian Way. Credit: Lena

The Italian Way is thriving today but experienced many ups and downs over the years.

In 1990, Pepe had to sell the next-door unit to keep the current one open.

Image: At the time it was a delicatessen. Credit: Lena

It was a café serving breakfast for three years “just to make ends meet”, then it transitioned into a café in the day and Italian bistro by night.

“We worked all day opening in the early morning until late at night. I don’t know how we did that if I’m honest, but we did,” said Alfonso.

In later years it became the pizza and pasta house it is renowned as today.

The family-run business will continue to be run by Lena and Alfonso.

“He will be missed, we are gutted, but hopefully we can continue making him proud and keep it going, keep it a success,” said Alfonso.